Community Action in a Contested Society published

kilmurray-cover« As you read this book, you will discover how a peace process can be built from the bottom up. If you want to find out how Northern Ireland coped with its long-running nightmare of recurring violence, you will see here how community activists responded with courage, resilience and amazing leadership – unsung heroes and heroines who played a key role in conflict resolution and community development within, and across, the sectarian divide. » (Professor Monica McWilliams)

Much has been written about the history of the Troubles in Northern Ireland, but one story remains untold: that of the grassroots activism that maintained local communities in the face of violence. This book speaks through the voices of the activists themselves, drawn from both sides of a divided society. It records their memories of community organising and work on social issues, as well as their insights into surviving the politics of the period and contributing to peacebuilding. Providing a vivid account of how politics touched people’s lives, the book celebrates the energy, imagination and determination of community activism. It also examines the challenges faced by policymakers struggling to make sense of conflicting community narratives and official government positions.

There are vital lessons here for organisers, activists and policymakers working in any contested society, particularly those operating at the interface between social need and peacebuilding. Informed by an oral history approach, this book argues that conflict transformation is possible and that community activism has a major contribution to make in creating alternatives to violence.

Available for purchase here.

Avila Kilmurray is Visiting Professor in the Transitional Justice Institute at Ulster University and works as a consultant with the Social Change Initiative (Northern Ireland). She has worked extensively in the community and voluntary sectors and was Director of the Community Foundation for Northern Ireland for twenty years. She was also a founder member of the Northern Ireland Women’s Coalition and a member of its negotiating team during the 1996–1998 peace talks.


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