Oisín fronts Trócaire Christmas Appeal
By Diarmúid Pepper
Trócaire has launched its Christmas Appeal with an urgent call for people to support innocent families who are caught up in wars and conflicts around the world.
As part of this appeal, Armagh and Crossmaglen Rangers legend Oisín McConville travelled to Palestine to see the projects which Trócaire is leading in the region.
McConville spoke to the paper after his journey to Palestine and he explained how the partnership came about: “I have always been interested in Palestine and the humanitarian issues over there. Trócaire approached me and asked would I like to visit the region as an ambassador on their behalf.”
There is much support amongst the Nationalist community in the north towards the people of Palestine, something which isn’t lost on McConville.
“People may think I am exaggerating,” he said, “but there is a little bit of correlation between what went on here and what is going on over there. Nationalists would see the oppression and intimidation that occurs in Palestine and that is what we would have often seen in nationalist areas.
“Normally when someone talks about Palestine in this area, it is construed as being political, but my interests weren’t political. It is very difficult to avoid the political side when you are over there, but my primary objective was to see what was going on with the people out there and to say that that was harrowing is an understatement.”
McConville explained some of those harrowing conditions that the Palestinian people are living under:
“It starts with the security; it is so difficult to get in and out of Gaza. It’s only an hour or so from Israel’s Tel Aviv but the difference is so stark. You have a good road system and nice buildings and ‘Western Society” basically in Tel Aviv.
“And then you go into Gaza; people often describe it as a “walled prison” and that is exactly what it is. Conditions are really poor, but I was struck by the resilience of people and how they just seem to get on with their everyday lives.
“All the kids go around with a smile on their faces because they don’t know any different. That is what I say about lads who grew up in Cross; we knew nothing but the Troubles and we thought it was normal. It was only when we travelled outside Cross that we realise not everyone was living like this.”
The children are resilient but McConville says that there are scant playing areas for them. In the region, there are two million people inside an area that is smaller than County Louth and intimidation can be a daily occurrence.
He told The Examiner: “We went to visit a family as part of a project that Trócaire sponsored; the family had managed to get their land back after 18 years in the West Bank. They were showing us where the land was and we weren’t even there two minutes when a drone was overhead and then police arrived.
“We had a lawyer with us who headed the campaign, but had she not been there, I can only imagine what that family would have gone through. They were lucky we were there and that is the intimidation they are under day in, day out.”
Trócaire’s Christmas campaign is well under way, and McConville spoke about some of the invaluable work the charity does in the region.
“Trócaire is carrying out a lot of youth projects in the area. So I got an opportunity to meet some of the teenagers and play some football with them.
“The conditions they live under, with constant bombardment, threats, tear gas, rubber bullets; but one of the things that Trócaire is trying to promote is for these people to be as self-sufficient as possible. So there was a young guy who had a little shop and he was selling things that he had made from the remains of rubber bullets and shrapnel from bombs, which shows how resourceful they are.
“Another one of the projects in Gaza is a mental health project, which you can imagine is a major issue over there and one that is close to my heart. I was very impressed to hear about the work supporting the mental health of people who have been absolutely devastated by war and hopefully I was able to offer some good advice in this area.”
You can make an appeal to Trócaire’s campaign by visiting: www.trocaire.org/donate.