She knows how to make coffee, boxes, eyeglasses and cigarettes. But most of all, she knows how to make peace.
By Ula Chylaszek
Eileen was born in the front room of her house in Shankill, a protestant area of Belfast, the last of three siblings. It was 14 years before the eruption of the volcano, in which republican grudge had been boiling for centuries. She welcomed adulthood pretty fast; in late 1960, she witnessed Northern Ireland enter a 30-year conflict referred to, by the British government, as The Troubles. The propaganda on both sides encouraged fighting the enemy and defending one’s own people; Protestants from Catholics and the other way round. At the age of 16 she joined the Ulster Defence Association, soon after she smoked her first cigarette ever. She never told her mum--about the cigarette or the UDA. Although she could have; she didn’t carry a gun. Instead, she carried bread and milk. The Troubles expected women to be caretakers or nurses, but seldom soldiers. The city was full of no go areas – cut off from the world by barricades so that neither army nor the police could enter. The milkman couldn't enter either. And the pensioners living in those areas couldn't get to the shops. Eileen was the one making sure that they all got their messages. She was also a bit of a chaperone, pulling girls off the soldiers at the barricades. After all, they were supposed to defend the community, and how would you do that if you have butterflies in your stomach?