Co-operation North was founded in 1979 to improve the links between the Republic and Northern Ireland.
In 1986 it introduced a youth and schools programme to fund cross-border exchanges between youth clubs. Lisacul was matched with Ballywalter in Co. Down and, in summer 1988, the young people of Ballywalter, came to visit us, followed by a return visit to Co. Down by our Foroige group. The exchange went on to win Co-operation North’s national Youthlinks overall award for that year, and the following year an exchange involving both youth and adults from the two villages also won a national award. The links continued between the two groups with annual visits across the border by both groups.
In 2005, we invited Colin Dempster to support us in our Pride of Place application and he made the following speech.
“Ladies and Gentlemen, Honourable Judges, it’s a great privilege for me to be here to speak on behalf of the people of Lisacul. I first came here during the turbulent years of the eighties. I brought a group of young people down here and there were concerns and fear among these young people. We didn’t know what we were coming to; we didn’t know who we were coming to. But when we came to Lisacul it wasn’t what we expected, what we found, other than a little crossroad and a church, was an extended family. They opened their doors to us, they opened their homes to us, but more importantly they genuinely opened their hearts to us.
The second year we came down here we brought a group of adults down with us, parents, relatives and other residents form the village of Ballywalter. Included in that number was a District Master of the Orange Order in Co. Down. We went to a church service in your local church and during that service he made a little speech, which sticks in my mind. He said that we might pray differently, we might have a different heritage, we might have different cultures, but under the eyes of God we are all brothers in sisters. What I have found in the people of Lisacul is that they reflect that ethos, that we are all brothers and sisters and I have certainly been treated like a brother any time I came to Lisacul. Anytime I come to Lisacul I feel at home and it’s because of the genuine love of Lisacul people for visitors and strangers.
That extended family I talked about embraced more communities than Ballywalter. I once brought a group of young Danish people to this village and they were treated with the same welcome and respect. It also extended to the far reaches of Lithuania, when Ballywalter youth club took school supplies to seventeen different schools in Lithuania. This could not have been dune without the support and generosity of the people of Lisacul who once again showed their love for others. I speak from my heart when I say this isn’t just an extended community, it’s a family and I feel part of it.