Irish Times Article
Counsellor draws on experience
Extracts from interview with journalist Fiona Tyrrell as published in the Irish Times health supplement.
A New Life:
Declan Tarpey tells Fiona Tyrrell he had to learn how to make peace with the inner terrorist before working as a counsellor.
…During his studies Declan Tarpey attended a workshop given by a woman whose father, a Conservative MP, was killed during the Brighton bomb. Her advice to "make peace with the inner terrorist before trying to fix others up" made a big impact on Tarpey and put him on the path to Glencree Reconciliation Centre in Co Wicklow.
"If you can't make peace with yourself and others in your own life, how can you ask politicians in the North to do it?" he says.
He eventually became a facilitator on a victim support programme at Glencree. He also facilitates an ex-combatants programme at the centre as well as working on a political programme involving representatives from all the major political parties on the island.
The work is rewarding, but difficult. Earlier this month he facilitated a two-day hill walk with ex-British soldiers through south Armagh to revisit the area "where they shot and were shot at".
The event had many extraordinary moments, according to Tarpey, including a morning tea send-off hosted by a Sinn Féin mayor and an unscheduled drinking session with some local republicans ending in a siege of Ennis dancing lesson. There were of course difficulties in some of the talk and at times "the anger in the room was furious", Tarpey says. "But we got through it."
Tarpey's work is not all about ground-breaking peace and reconciliation. His work also involves dealing with people with less dramatic stories of loss and hurt, but are just as rewarding. He works with Addiction Response in Crumlin, the Living Light Centre in Dún Laoghaire, Ballinteer Community School, and with HIV patients in Open Heart House in Dublin.
He cites the story of one client, a young former heroin addict, who never got the chance to finish school and is now fulfilling his dream to study horticulture.
"From heroin to horticulture. It's a fantastic journey. For me it's lovely to be a witness to that transformation and to be a facilitator to it. To see him come out from such a lost place is inspirational."
Tarpey's advice to anyone considering a big change is avoid advice at all costs.
"The only one who can give you advice is yourself. Give yourself the space and time to figure it out - you are worth that time.
"You may need someone to listen to you but the advice is inside you. It would be a pity to look back on your life and not have gone for your dreams, it's even worse not to have figured out what your dreams are at all."