The autobiography of of a long-time activist in working-class Catholic/Nationalist areas of West Belfast
Fr. Des Wilson lived and worked in West Belfast since 1966. In 1975 he went to Ballymurphy, one of the most impoverished and demonized areas of the city. For forty years he drew inspiration from the community around him. In turn he inspired and supported many people to develop their own responses to the many social, economic and political crises confronting the community. As he wrote in The Way I See It , “one way to understand what happened in the north of Ireland is to think of a constant creation of alternative education, alternative welfare, alternative theatre, broadcasting, theological and political discussion, public inquiries and much else. They also created at various times alternative police and alternative armies. The authorities who had power over these in the past were and still are engaged in an equally constant struggle to regain total control of them. With only limited success, fortunately.”
He died in November 2019.
Below is the obituary published by the Irish Times.
Peacemaking Belfast priest Fr Des Wilson dies aged 94
Sinn Féin’s Gerry Adams has said there ‘would be no peace process’ without his work
Belfast priest Fr Des Wilson, who acted as a mediator between rival Republican factions as well as between republicans and loyalists during the Troubles, died aged 94 on Tuesday.
Fr Wilson is credited with having played a key role in Northern Ireland and the west Belfast community for decades.
Relatives for Justice, a support group for relatives of people bereaved, injured or affected by the Troubles, said it was “bereft” following his death.
“He was always on the side of the marginalised, the silenced and the oppressed,” it said. “His support for the families we work with was unwavering. We are diminished without him but remain all the better for having had him.”
Former Sinn Féin president Gerry Adams said there “would be no peace process” without the work of Fr Wilson and Fr Alex Reid, who was also involved in reaching out to unionists.
“The two priests also embarked on an outreach programme,” he said. “They spoke to unionist paramilitaries and facilitated meetings between republicans and loyalists.
“They met officials from the British and Irish governments, and indeed anyone who would listen to them, in the hope that through dialogue they could assist the work of peace building. They pioneered this work.
“They never gave up despite setbacks and serial refusals to talk by the great and the good. Without Fr Des and Fr Alex there would be no peace process.”