A community seminar examining post conflict life, the Stormont House Agreement and enabling grassroots community processes took place at Belfast Castle.

The ‘Grassroots: Building Justice’ seminar with Ulster University’s Dr Avila Kilmurray as guest speaker, is jointly organised by Ashton Community Trust through its Bridge of Hope department and Ulster University’s Transitional Justice Institute (TJI).

The seminar aims to foster and enable critical conversations about dealing with the past processes amongst community, academic, NGO and government/statutory sectors.

The seminar will also highlight the achievements of the Transitional Justice Grassroots Toolkit which is partnership programme between Ashton’s Bridge of Hope department and TJI at Ulster University. A Trainer’s Manual that supports the delivery of the Toolkit work is endorsed by the Vice President of the International Centre for Transitional Justice in New York Paul Seils and the Victims & Survivors Service (VSS).

Alongside Ulster University’s TJI lecturer Eilish Rooney and Visiting Professor Dr Avila Kilmurray, Ulster University’s Director of TJI Professor Rory O’Connell will address the seminar as well as Ashton’s Head of Victims & Mental Health Services Irene Sherry. Certificates to women from West Belfast who have just completed a Grassroots Toolkit Programme will also be presented at the seminar.

Speaking about the event Irene Sherry said: “Recent events have changed the local landscape and there are clearly lots of challenges ahead for everyone. This week in particular is really quite significant for politics locally and those outcomes concern everyone.

“During this seminar we wanted to enable conversations about all of these issues but also to shine a light on the Grassroots Toolkit programme we have developed in partnership with TJI. This programme we believe represents an empowering way for grassroots communities to speak about and frame their lived experiences of conflict. It also helps to explore what transition means for local men and women in hard hit communities that are struggling to come to terms with the impact of conflict in their lives and that of their families. Importantly the Toolkit helps individuals to assess what remains to be done in the journey of dealing with the past, building justice and reconciliation.”

Ulster University TJI Director Professor Rory O’Connell said: “The Grassroots Toolkit programme is an imaginative and thoughtful example of collaboration between academics and practitioners. It helps provide a platform to enable difficult conversations to take place; incorporating universal values and comparative references, its focus is firmly on how people can understand their past and build their futures. At a time when elite discussions of these challenges are experiencing blockages, it is all the more important for communities to pursue these discussions.”