Oct. 28: Irish activist-turned-peacemaker lectures

By Bev Makhani, Honors College

McCourt-80PULLMAN, Wash. – As a young man in Northern Ireland, Jon McCourt joined the Irish Republican Army (IRA) in 1969, intent on promoting civil rights on his home soil.

On what became known as “Bloody Sunday,” Jan. 30, 1972, in his hometown of Derry/Londonderry, he narrowly escaped death when an armed British soldier stared him down then walked away with a shrug. Nearby more than a dozen young people had been shot to death that violent day.

McCourt left the IRA in the mid-1970s, feeling it had moved too far from its civil rights agenda and was contributing to increased polarization and sectarianism. He is a community peace activist working with victims of violence, youth in criminalized areas and community relations.

He will share his experiences in two free, public events at Washington State University on Tuesday, Oct. 28.

He will discuss “From Bullets to the Peace Process: The Transformation of the IRA” at noon in the Foley Speaker’s Room, Bryan Hall 308, as part of the Thomas S. Foley Institute for Public Policy and Public Service’s “Coffee and Politics” discussion series.

He will present “Bloody Sunday and Beyond: The Troubles in Northern Ireland” at 7 p.m. in the CUB auditorium as the 11th V.N. Bhatia Lecture hosted by the WSU Honors College.

International insights applicable today

“Mr. McCourt’s visit presents a unique opportunity for WSU students, faculty, staff and the community to hear first-hand what is was like to be part of a civil conflict and how that changed his perspective on life,” said M. Grant Norton, dean of the WSU Honors College.

“While his IRA activities took place during complicated times of political and ethnic turbulence in his country, Mr. McCourt learned valuable lessons and developed insights and philosophies that are applicable to any number of national and international clashes taking place today,” he said.

McCourt is a guest lecturer for the WSU Honors College’s Irish study-abroad summer program. Award-winning WSU natural resource sociologist Matt Carroll, who leads the summer study in Ireland, recommended that McCourt present the Bhatia lecture.

About the lectures

The lecture honors the late V.N. “Vic” Bhatia, who led the WSU honors program from the early 1960s to early 1990s and was involved in international education. Previous Bhatia lecturers have included a U.S. ambassador, a Danish foreign minister, a novelist and various alumni.

The Foley Institute provides public affairs programming and fosters scholarly research on public policy and political institution in a nonpartisan setting.

Co-sponsors of his WSU visit are the Honors College, the Foley Institute and the Office of Undergraduate Education. For more information, visit http://Honors.wsu.edu and http://Foley.wsu.edu.


M. Grant Norton, WSU Honors College, 509-335-4505, mg_norton@wsu.edu
Richard Elgar, WSU Thomas S. Foley Institute for Public Policy and Public Service, 509-335-3477, relgar@wsu.edu
Peggy Perkins, WSU Honors College, 509-335-4507, perkins@wsu.edu