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The British Council commissioned a number of writers to explore the relationship between Britain and Ireland. A selection of these articles have been republished in openDemocracy. Links to the full British Council volumes are below:
This project is an editorial partnership with the British Council. Read more about openDemocracy's editorial partnerships programme.
I first came across the Lives Entwined project when I was based in Baghdad in 2006: I was reopening our operation there after the war. On arriving in Iraq I had been struck immediately by the resonances with Northern Ireland in the 1970s. It’s too simple to say – for Protestant/Catholic read Sunni/Shia. But there were echoes: not least the same depressing facility of mankind to find and home in on deep malevolent feelings of resentment and mistrust, and their close cousin, violence...
Essentially, what struck me then, and stays with me still, is the profound human need for dialogue – to test and share beliefs – and the consequences of ignoring that need – conflict, hatred and violence. That dialogue, and the consequent building of trust and engagement, is what the British Council means by cultural relations and it underpins everything we do.
Reading Lives Entwined back in 2006 – in a sense it seemed the opposite of conflict. There were contrary views, of course, but the project was underpinned by the worth of dialogue, of views expressed and listening done. When I returned to Northern Ireland last year to take up my current job, one of the first things I did was to reread Lives Entwined I, II, and III. That was when I started thinking about a Lives Entwined IV. My initial question was how have our expectations, hopes and fears changed in the years since the last volume in 2008?
… Are our lives still so entwined? Do we still define ourselves through our historic relationship or have the tectonic plates shifted? Where does the relationship go from here in the context of the pressures outlined above? And what of the future? The writers were given a brief and the freedom to write in their own authentic personal voice. The outcome, we hope, is a new definition of the relationship between the United Kingdom and Ireland brought right up to date for 2012.
David Alderdice, Director, British Council Northern Ireland, from the Welcome to the fourth edition of Britain and Ireland: Lives Entwined. October, 2012.