06/16/2013 04:37 pm ET Updated Dec 06, 2017

Watch: Ulster in Media Spotlight Again -- Now Peace Not Conflict

Looking ahead, even by just a few days, can be a media opportunity to look back substantially and usefully.

It was no surprise to see this week that the New York Times prefigured next Tuesday's summit meeting of the G8 countries' top leaders. It's the United Kingdom's turn to host the event, and that government has made a noteworthy choice for its venue -- a small Northern Irish town in County Fermanagh with the redolent name of Enniskillen.

All too predictably, though, the Times delivered one of those pieces whose headlined angle (and much of its content) focused on the town's energetic effort to spruce up its looks for the occasion ... as in power-washing its buildings and even adding fake storefronts to its shuttered business-premises.

It's the kind of story that can be filed from just about any town or city that's going to host an international event, and the piece altogether felt disappointing... padded out as it was with a few desultory remarks about all the sizable security measures. Again, that's nothing new -- it's almost needless reporting, given the well-covered British record of both riot-control and anti-terrorism in Northern Ireland.

No, Enniskillen's elevation to suddenly being a destination for the globally powerful is a good story, but for deep historic, not superficial reasons. And I've had my own chance in recent weeks to walk back down that media memory lane.

For PBS' weekend network show Religion and Ethics Newsweekly I've been reporting on the town's special place in the violent "Troubles" of the past few decades, and in the story of Ulster's peacemaking process that has now largely displaced that violence. The broadcast will be aired at varied times in different U.S. markets this Friday, Saturday and Sunday.

Watch the video:

Watch Irish Reconciliation on PBS. See more from Religion & Ethics NewsWeekly.

I carry strong personal recollections of the salient events. In 1987 Enniskillen was the target for a terrible bomb planted by the IRA -- which that predominantly Roman Catholic and militantly nationalist organization confessed almost immediately afterward was a mistake... and many years later formally apologized for.


The bomb killed 11 civilians, who were all Protestants and largely elderly couples, as well as one student nurse, 20-year-old Marie Wilson.

Her death in particular led to a most extraordinary shift in the town's identification with sectarian division. Marie's father, Gordon Wilson, already prominent as a town-center store-owner, went on local television the day after the bombing, though injured himself, and told of his daughter's dying words as he held her amongst the rubble. He also spoke -- astonishingly to many in his audience -- of the need for the IRA bombers to be forgiven. His words have been carved into Northern Ireland legend: "I bear no ill-will... I prayed for them last night, sincerely. And I hope I get the grace to continue to do so."


Wilson went on to form a foundation called "The Spirit of Enniskillen," with the role of bringing together previously alienated Protestants and Catholics. Its work was emulated by many other voluntary groups, including the Ulster Project, which has outlived "The Spirit" and features in the film I made. The storekeeper himself is now dead, but not before performing great outreach work (including toward IRA members) and being given a seat in the Irish Republic's Senate.

It was, I'd say, a very sharp PR idea from whoever in Britain's corridors of power it was who first offered up Enniskillen as a potential summit site for the G8. The town -- and its most notable modern citizen -- well deserve global attention. Community worker James McLoughlin of the Ulster Project told me during the taping of our broadcast: "Enniskillen was very lucky to have a man like Gordon Wilson. Without him and others who stepped up across Northern Ireland, we wouldn't be as far along as we are today".

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Read more of David Tereshchuk's media industry insights at his regular column, The Media Beat, with accompanying video and audio. Listen also to The Media Beat podcasts on demand from Connecticut's NPR station WHDD, and at iTunes.