The community worker recently subjected to a pipe bomb attack on her North Belfast home has been recognised for her tireless work to break down division in Northern Ireland.
Mary Kelly was today presented with the annual Community Relations Award for Exceptional Achievement at a Community Relations Week event in W5 at Belfast’s Odyssey.
She was joined by David Stevens, leader of the Corrymeela Community, the longest established peace and reconciliation organisation in Northern Ireland, as joint recipient of the prestigious Community Relations Council-presented accolade.
The award was made to Mary Kelly and David Stevens during the keynote conference of Community Relations Week, entitled ‘Breaking Barriers Through Youth Work’. (Award presented at 12.30 pm.)
Dr Stevens has been a member and volunteer at Corrymeela since his youth and was General Secretary of the Irish Council of Churches from 1992 until his appointment as Leader of the Corrymeela Community in 2003, in which role he has been both Spiritual Director and Chief Executive.
As leader of Corrymeela he has been instrumental in establishing the partnership of Irish Peace Centres and in the rebuilding of the Corrymeela Residential Centre in Ballycastle.
He has published many papers and books, most recently The Place called Reconciliation (2008) and Land of Unlikeness- exploration into reconciliation (2004).
Michael Wardlow, Chair of Youthnet and a former CRC colleague of David Stevens, said: “For as long as I can remember, David has been a key thinker and worker in community relations work - long before it was fashionable. In his many roles, he has been instrumental in facilitating the development of strategic thinking in the whole area of community relations and prejudice reduction. At Corrymeela, he has been an extremely passionate director and his reputation is significant both as an academic as well as a leader, pioneer and practitioner.”
Mary Kelly is a resident of Glandore in North Belfast where she has lived for the last 34 years, and has been actively involved for many years as an unpaid volunteer in community development and cross-community relations work in the area.
During periods of unrest throughout the Troubles and later, particularly in the summer, she worked with others to develop summer schemes and programmes to keep children off the streets and out of trouble.
She helped maintain the cross community mobile phone network for many years in an attempt to defuse tension and keep contact with neighbours across the interface. She was instrumental in setting up a community house as a meeting place for neighbours from the Catholic Glandore and Protestant Skegoneill areas.
More recently she was at the forefront of the establishment of the IFI-funded Skegoneill Glandore Common Purpose project whose vision is a shared community in Skegoneill and Glandore, working together, embracing difference and creating social and economic benefits for all its residents.
Recently Mary’s house has been the target of a pipe bomb attack, producing outrage from both sides of the community and political divide and strong expressions of cross community solidarity and support for Mary’s courage and commitment.
Commenting on the award to Mary Kelly, Callie Persic, Chair of the Skegoneill Glandore Common Purpose project, says: “Mary’s cross community work stems from her vision to bring back community spirit in the area so that children will thrive and have a better life. This takes years of building up people’s trust and confidence and having the courage to work with other communities. When Mary speaks of community, it is clear that she is not talking about one side or another, but all of us.”
The Community Relations Award for Exceptional Achievement has been given annually since 2006 by the Community Relations Council as a mark of recognition. It consists of a trophy created from bronze and granite by the artist Kate Oram.