A range of cross community groups, including former IRA and loyalist activists, met Taoiseach Leo Varadkar at the Jethro Centre on Monday.
In an hour long visit the Taoiseach listened to the myriad of projects undertaken at the centre, many of which focus on reaching across the political and religious divide.
Mr Varadkar heard about the work of the Jethro Centre, managed by the Shankill Parish Caring Association (SPCA) which aims to bring people across Lurgan together to promote and facilitate understanding, reconciliation and compassion.
One of the projects which was part funded by the IrishDepartment of Foreign Affairs was a collaborative book entitled ‘Our Shadowed Past’ by various people affected by the Troubles.
North Lurgan community worker Dee McKerr said: “It involves contributions from myself, Paddy McMenamin as an ex-IRA volunteer growing up in Derry, another friend who was an ex British soldier and another man who was involved in the UDA. We have all made contributions to this book, hence the title.
“Our recollections of growing up when things were very difficult in this part of the country at the height of the Troubles. We all reflect on the very positive changes that the peace process has brought about and the building of the peace through individuals like ourselves, organisations who work with young people to try and tackle sectarianism and prejudice. It will give you an insight into what Lurgan was like in the very darkest days of the Troubles and hopefully it will give you an insight into the very positive changes that have came about over the past 20 years.
“It would be a lesson to young people who have no recollection of the Troubles not to make the mistakes we made,” he said.
Mr Varadkar met pupils from St Ronan’s College and Lurgan College who are taking part in Shared Education programmes at the Jethro Centre.
Some of the students spoke of their collaboration on Christmas carols posted on the PSNI Craigavon Facebook page about tackling crime in the area. A PSNI officer told the Taoiseach over 12 days the posts had over a third of a million hits. The Taoiseach said he had never gone to a police Facebook page but said he would check out the PSNI Craigavon site.
The Taoiseach listened intently as various groups from Cafe Incredable to directors of the Jethro Centre explained the variety of groups who use the centre and the work that is carried out there.