Lyra’s Walk for Peace: Challenging sectarianism through movement

Lubit, A. (Participant)

Activity: Talk or presentation typesOral presentation

Description

In April 2019 dissident paramilitaries inadvertently killed journalist Lyra McKee. Her death served as a catalyst for a social movement led by family and friends demanding to “re-boot” the 1998 peace agreement. Lyra’s Walk for Peace engaged individuals from across communities in a 3-day 68 mile protest walk across Northern Ireland. Its purpose was to acknowledge shared memories of loss and suffering and to protest the injustices associated with continued sectarianism in politics and public life. “Lyra’s death reminded all of us of the loss, suffering and tragedy of our shared past… By walking for Lyra we protest against the use of violence and the return of killing to our streets” (@lyraswalk, 2019).

Starting in the city of Belfast, over one-hundred ordinary people (myself included) walked for three days across Northern Ireland to the city of Derry, where Lyra McKee was killed. By engaging in walking ethnography, I was able to research protest in motion and examine the role of movement in challenging divisive understandings of the past. This allowed me to collect stories and impressions from other walkers while engaging with the changing landscape, the physicality of endurance walking, and the sensory experiences of walking with others. As protesters walked together and shared their stories with one another and the media, they re-engaged with existing and historical social tensions and gave voice to a collective intergenerational trauma. By walking across Northern Ireland, they made their perspective visible, marking the terrain as belonging to neither side of the conflict. This act of place-making also allowed for the creation of a new collective memory and narrative that demanded a place for non-sectarian perspectives in Northern Ireland society and politics.
PeriodMay 2020
Event titleSensing Divisions: Exploring Affective Dynamics across Disciplines
Event typeConference
LocationBelfast, United Kingdom

Keywords

  • Protest
  • Sectarianism
  • Northern Ireland
  • Memory
  • Walking Ethnography
  • Sensory Ethnography