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Celebrating 30 years of WAVE Trauma Centre – 23 June 2022

24th June 2022

While the 30th anniversary of WAVE’s founding occurred in 2021, it was not until last night that the organisation had the opportunity to celebrate this, due to the pandemic. We were kindly hosted by the Irish Joint Secretary, Mr Laurence Simms, at the residence of the Irish Secretariat in Belfast, on what turned out to be a lovely midsummer evening. Laurence opened the proceedings by welcoming WAVE staff, board members, loyal supporters and patrons, and WAVE members to their spacious gardens. He was proud of the partnership that successive Irish government administrations have fostered with WAVE over the decades and hoped that this would continue into the future.

Laurence then welcomed WAVE CEO Sandra Peake to the lectern who introduced longstanding WAVE patron Jimmy Nesbitt to speak to the audience. In typical style, Jimmy spoke about how he first came within the “irresistible, gravitational pull of WAVE” over 20 years ago. To cement this bond with WAVE, he was then introduced to “the force of nature” Mags McKinney and Michael McConville and that was it. He has yet to break free. He “is proud to be a Patron ever since”.

Jimmy went on to speak about the wonderful work that WAVE has done for so many over the years, for example, with the Families of the Disappeared. It was his privilege to know them and to be part of their longstanding and continuing campaign. He hopes that the remaining bodies of Joe Lynskey, Columba McVeigh, Seamus Maguire, Robert Nairac, and Lisa Dorrian will one day be returned for their rightful Christian burials.

He then remembered working alongside the WAVE Injured Group in their Campaign for Recognition when he spoke at an event they organised in Westminster in 2020. He will never forget the line of wheelchairs filing into Parliament to meet the MPs and Peers, who would eventually bring through a pension for the injured. Jimmy recognised that their magnificent persistence won the day and was delighted to hear that payments are at last beginning to come through after a long and arduous campaign.

Jimmy paid special attention to his friend Joe Griffin who recently passed away. Jimmy played Joe in the BBC drama “Five Minutes of Heaven”. Learning about Joe’s life through that script gave Jimmy a new understanding of the lifetime effect of trauma. Paying tribute to Joe, Jimmy spoke about his invaluable contribution to the frontline workers of tomorrow as a Citizen Educator. Joe, like many of our Citizen Education team, has touched the lives of thousands of students during the 30 years of WAVE. We are all proud of their work: a success story within WAVE.

Jimmy finished with a warning to the British Government on their scandalous proposals to deal with the past. The Government’s assertion that “the past is over, that we should all move on, and that a final line should be drawn” is futile. “I have news for them: it doesn’t work like that!” Regardless of these proposals, WAVE will be there to care for those affected by the violence and trauma. They have done this for 30 years and will continue to do so.

Following on, Sandra delivered a speech with set out the journey of WAVE Trauma Centre. Having started in 1991, it was not until 1995 that Sandra arrived, leaving a career in frontline nursing behind. Yet it was her experiences in dealing with those most affected by the Troubles in hospital, which formed the basis for her commitment to dealing with the long term aftermath of trauma. It set her on a path to helping the thousands of people who would eventually come through the doors of a variety of WAVE centres in the intervening years.

Encapsulating what summed up WAVE over the 30 years, Sandra highlighted five main achievements. First, the delivery of a truly holistic service to thousands of our members across these islands and beyond is testament to the dedication of our staff teams over three decades. Second, putting the issue of the Disappeared directly into the Oval Office and with the President of the United States, Bill Clinton, was an achievement, which set in motion the retrieval of many of those who had been missing for so long. He lost his heart that day to Margaret (Mags) McKinney. Third, the proliferation of Trauma Education set in motion by WAVE has brought so much knowledge to so many across this region and beyond. Starting with short courses and workshops, WAVE in collaboration with a range of universities, including Queen’s and UCC, delivers an undergraduate degree and a postgraduate diploma; with a Master’s to follow soon. Furthermore, the Citizen Education programme, which has equipped thousands of frontline workers with trauma informed skills is unique and revolutionary. Fourth, the successful outcome of the Campaign for Recognition in delivering a pension for the injured is testament to the dignity and sheer perseverance of the members of the WAVE Injured Group and those who facilitated it. Special thanks goes to Alan McBride and Dennis Godfrey for their leadership and influence. Finally, WAVE has contributed to changing the narrative around victims and survivors in the area of policy and in the public arena. No longer can victims’ issues be ignored. WAVE along with so many others have placed the needs of victims and trauma informed care onto many statutory agencies’ agendas.

Sandra then introduced another patron of WAVE, Colin Davidson. Colin’s contribution was focused on his friendship with WAVE member, Thomas O’Brien. On the way to the event, Colin learned that Thomas had died suddenly. They had first met when Thomas was chosen to become one of Colin’s subjects for the excellent Silent Testimony exhibition in 2014. Colin recalled when he was drawing Thomas in his Dublin home, how inconsolable he was about the loss of his brother, sister-in-law and two nieces in a bomb in Parnell Street in 1974. All Colin could do, in his small way, was to listen. To acknowledge his loss and to be there for him. Having met Thomas at a number of events in the years after, Colin remembered how Thomas always thanked him for the painting, but more so that he recognised him, his family, and the loss that they felt. This is the essence of what we do at WAVE.

WAVE Chair, Marianne Moutray was called to finish the proceedings. She was thankful to our principal funders, The Victims and Survivors Service, and particularly Margaret Bateson and Andrew Walker, who were both present. Marianne then rounded off the celebrations by recognising the glue that has held WAVE together for most of its existence, Sandra Peake. Without the constant presence, the total commitment, the time and energy given by our CEO, there would not be a WAVE Trauma Centre. Who could argue with that?

We wish to thank everyone who has been involved with, supported, or availed of services over the past 30 years. You are all part of the WAVE family and we send our love to you all.