Glenarm and Carnlough brought closer by European trip

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A group of 16 people from Glenarm and Carnlough have travelled to France and Belgium as part of an international study visit.

The trip was organised by the Larne Community Cohesion Project - a joint initiative between the neighbouring coastal villages and which is delivered by Larne Council.

It is funded through the European Union’s PEACE III programme and is managed for the Special EU Programmes Body by the North East Peace III.

The participants, accompanied by Mary O’Boyle, community cohesion officer, travelled to Europe on a four-day visit to learn more about the sacrifice made by the many thousands of soldiers from the island of Ireland and elsewhere during the First World War. This programme was designed to develop their understanding of the consequences of conflict and war.

They visited the Somme in France and Messines in Belgium, where they learnt about how soldiers from Ulster unionist and an Irish nationalist backgrounds fought side by side.

The group also visited significant memorial sites including the Ulster Tower, Thiepval Memorial to the Missing, the 16th Irish Division Cross at Guillemont, the Island of Ireland Peace Park and Tower and the Execution Cells at Poperinge.

The programme was rounded off by four participants laying a wreath in remembrance during the ‘Last Post’ ceremony at the Menin Gate in Ypres on the final evening.

The ‘Last Post’ ceremony has taken place each evening at 8pm since 1927. Buglers from the local fire brigade close the road which passes under the memorial and sound the Last Post.

The Larne Community Cohesion Project aims to exploit the potential for mutual understanding, respect for differences and reconciliation through remembering.

This programme allowed the participants to develop a deeper understanding of the causes, consequences and horrors of war and the devastation this brings to families and entire communities.

Participant Norah Glanville said: “This was a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to learn first hand about war and its horrible consequences.”

Another participant, Agnes McGill added: “This has been a truly life changing experience and I shall wear my poppy with pride knowing the huge sacrifice that these men made.”

Meanwhile, community cohesion officer Mary O’Boyle said the programme “surpassed” all her expectations.

“It was incredible to witness the momentous shift in attitude within the group,” she concluded.

The Larne Community Cohesion Project, which is scheduled to run until December 2013, has a range of activities and events planned to help link the two villages together.