During nearly 60 years in the Little Company of Mary, Kathleen Keane has traveled extensively, initially as a missionary nurse in southern Africa. She holds a bachelor’s degree in English and psychology and a master’s degree in women’s studies. While living on a peace line in Northern Ireland she studied bioethical aspects of healthcare and gained a master of philosophy degree from Queen’s University, Belfast. Now retired, she lives in a large Dublin community.
Almost 40 years of conflict in the province, with an even longer historical build-up, could be expected to have marked people and communities deeply. A research question had been circulated before our meeting: Were women torn between the expectations of their local churches and those of the paramilitaries within their own communities?
Many different kinds of peace lines still crisscross Belfast city and suburbs. Even now, 15 years into the Northern Ireland peace process, these walls show little sign of coming down. While politicians occasionally raise the question of removing them, dialogue at the local level has not succeeded in promoting the mutual trust necessary to overcome cross-community nervousness. A whole generation of people born and raised practically next door to each other have never met or socialized together. And so many still have misgivings about dismantling the trappings of deadly past hostility. Living on such an interface continues to be challenging.