University of Ulster Graduations: Brave Mum's Study of Terrorism Rewarded

Article excerpt

A BALLYMENA mum who gave up nursing to probe the murky world of paramilitary hardmen yesterday picked up the piece of paper that sealed three years of hard slog.

Karen Dick, a native South African who has lived in the Province for almost 30 years, graduated in social policy and administration.

For nine months of her course she examined life on the Shankill, coming face to face with terrorist groups.

She also looked at the community's relationship with the police and restorative justice projects.

She found many ordinary folk felt betrayed by the Government, the police and the paramilitaries.

Karen said: "I have a tremendous sympathy for the people of Northern Ireland and what they had to go through.

"Many people are uncomfortable about the idea of paramilitary involvement in schemes to help tackle issues in the community," she added.

She says while the relationship between local people and the RUC was good, many wished the police were more proactive.

"The police do not always share this interpretation and believe that some of the problems are more social matters than policing issues," she explained.

Karen also met with resentment over community politics and funding.

"There is a feeling that if you are an ex-paramilitary prisoner you get money thrown at you and the projects which concern you but if you are an ordinary law-abiding person you get nothing.

"People there feel let down and betrayed on all fronts. They feel they have no one to turn to and feel afraid."

Meanwhile another graduate, Presbyterian minister Jim Thompson discovered very contrasting attitudues within his church towards peace during the course of his masters degree in social policy and administration.

He based his research on congregations in north Belfast and encountered apathy and hostility towards cross-community projects but also a strong spirit of generosity.

Meanwhile, an 88-year-old pensioner and a man who met Nelson Mandela on the day he was freed from prison were just two of 15 acclaimed students who graduated from the University of Ulster yesterday. …