Shannon Brown, whom you met on Monday, interviews former PPI-CY Fellow and brand new PPI-NI Fellow Rory O’Neil about what he anticipates from his newest tour of duty with PPI in Belfast.
Rory bonding with the girls of PPI-CY.
Shannon Brown: What are your professional goals for you time in Northern Ireland?
Rory O’Neil: From what I’ve read and what I’ve seen in my first few days, I can tell that PPI-NI is a well-oiled machine. During my time in Cyprus, we were still laying the groundwork for a long-term sustainable program and we spent a lot of time just getting PeacePlayer’s name out there. Here in Belfast, the groundwork is already in place. I’m hoping to fit in with Gareth and his team and do what is asked of me wherever they need me. I’m happy to be a part of the team and am looking forward to building upon the awesome work that’s been done here by everyone from Sean Tuohey and Tim Guinan to Will Maloney and Ellen Cosgrove.
SB: What are your personal goals for your time in Northern Ireland?
RO: One of the reasons that I wanted to work with PPI-NI is because of my previous university education. I studied the Troubles during college and graduate school; since I heard about PPI-NI’s program, I have always wanted to opportunity to be here and to be a part of this organization. I’m also kind of a nerd for history (I come from a distinguished family of nerds) and to be a student of this conflict on the ground here in Belfast is an amazing opportunity.
SB: What are you most looking forward to with PPI-NI?
RO: My language skills are terrible. While in Cyprus, a majority of the kids in the program knew limited English. I spent a lot of time using “alternative” coaching tactics to get my points across. I think there was a practice once where I didn’t say a word during the 90-minute practice, just hand motions – poor kids! Here in Belfast, these kids speak a common language and the possibility for positive interaction and dialogue is really encouraging for me, since I’ve seen what the lack of a common language can do to stifle positive change in conflict situations. [Ed. note: In Cyprus, the two island's two main communities, Greek- and Turkish-Cypriots, speak different languages, Greek and Turkish, respectively.] The children of Northern Ireland have an amazing possibility to really get to know each other and break down barriers and I’m really looking forward to being a part of that interaction.
SB: What’s your favorite color?
RO: Blue and Gold baby! John Carroll Blue Streaks!!!
SB: Can you dunk?
RO: I did identify myself as a nerd right? Nerds can’t dunk, we shoot 15-foot, flat-footed jump shots and three-pointers from WAY BEHIND the 3-point line. I know it’s kind of embarrassing for a guy who is 6’4″ and can’t dunk, but with my lack of flexibility and genes you can’t really expect much in the athleticism department.
Rory on the court during his time in Cyprus (Not pictured: 15-foot, flat-footed jump shot.)
SB: What is the one thing you’d like to accomplish while living in Belfast?
RO: If I could become a trusted and respected person by both the Catholic and Protestant communities here, I’d be a happy camper. I’m really looking forward to becoming known as “neutral” person here in Belfast and trusted by our friends in both communities.
SB: How excited are you to be driving the Charisma on the left side of the road (PPI-NI’s beloved stick-shift automobile)?
RO: Thrilled. We have insurance, right?