3 Time to Think: learning from the past
The Open University’s Time to Think archive captures people’s educational journeys with The Open University in prisons during the years of conflict (1972–2000). Stories were captured over a ten-year period and include contributions from OU tutors and office staff, prison education staff, prison governors and some of the thousands of Republicans, and Loyalists imprisoned as a result of their role in the conflict.
A number of these Open University students played a role in the unfolding peace process during imprisonment and upon release. Some went on to become teachers, academics, architects or artists. Others became community or political leaders including district or city councillors, Members of the European Parliament (MEPs) and Members of the Legislative Assembly (MLAs) in the Northern Ireland Assembly [the devolved legislature for Northern Ireland].
You might like to listen to the following 8 clips from the Time to Think archive. Each reveals different ways in which people have expanded their horizons despite the physical confines they inhabited. (Each clip is only between 40 seconds to 1 minute long.)
Eddie gained an Open University degree in Mathematics in the Loyalist Compounds [the Maze and Long Kesh Prison] in the 1980s. He was later one part of the Loyalist negotiating team for the Good Friday Agreement.
Harry studied for O and A levels in the Official IRA Compounds [the Maze and Long Kesh Prison] in the 1970’s. After his release he studied in the Soviet Union, graduating from the Lenin Institute in Moscow in 1989. Harry works in the community sector on peacebuilding by facilitating new conversations about the construction of modern British and Irish identities.
Jackie gained a Social Sciences degree in the Republican wings of the H Blocks [the Maze and Long Kesh Prison] in the 1980s. He was later Special Advisor for the Minister of Education at the Assembly in Stormont. Jackie works in the community sector.
Robert gained an Open University degree in Mathematics in the Loyalist wings of the H Blocks [the Maze and Long Kesh Prison] in the 1990s. Later he gained a Master’s degree in Numerical Analysis from the University of London. Robert works with Loyalist ex-prisoners in education and peacebuilding.
William studied short courses with The Open University while in the Loyalist Compounds [the Maze and Long Kesh Prison] in the 1970s. On release he gained a degree in Youth and Community Work from the University of Ulster and later, a PhD in Philosophy. William is Project Director for the Action for Community Transformation initiative, a conflict transformation process for Loyalists
Martina studied for a Social Sciences degree with The Open University in Durham Gaol and Maghaberry Prison, graduating in 1997. She was first elected as a Sinn Féin member of the Legislative Assembly (MLA) in 2007, and later as a Member of the European Parliament (MEP) from 2012 to 2020. Martina is a Sinn Féin MLA.
Michael studied Arts with The Open University in the Loyalist wings of the H Blocks [the Maze and Long Kesh Prison] in the 1980s. Later he worked in the community sector and graduated with a degree in Community Development. Michael is retired.
Carál Ní Chuilín
Carál studied Social Sciences with The Open University in Maghaberry Prison in the 1990s and gained a Masters in Management from Queen’s University upon her release. She was first elected as a Sinn Féin Member of the Legislative Assembly (MLA) in 2007 and from 2011 to 2016 was Minister for the Department for Culture, Arts and Leisure. Carál is a Sinn Féin MLA.
Activity 5 Learning from the past
Having listened to these clips, now write down your thoughts on the following questions.
- Did any of these stories echo with your own ways of using your mind?
- Are there ways in which you could apply any of these examples to your own situation?
- What about writing down or recording your own stories of ways you have found to come through this situation?