|Michael Doherty, Peace and Reconciliation Group|
At the age of 13, Michael Doherty left school and joined the family business in one of the world"s oldest professions. Michael became a barber. He learned his trade along side of his father and carried on the family tradition. The family barbershop was a place where everyone was welcome and it is was an important part of the community. This was especially true on October 5th, 1968. This was the day of the Civil Rights Riot which traveled right past the front door of his family's shop The injured sought and found a place of refuge where they could have their wounds tended and find safety if only for a few moments. Ironically the barbers of ancient Greece and Rome were also looked to as surgeons and healers. It was in this moment that Michael too began his journey towards becoming a healer. Not just the healing of wounds of the flesh, but the healing of hearts and souls and the healing of a community and a nation.
|Peace and Reconciliation Group, founded in 1990|
After graduation, he found himself back among the people, working as the very first Community Relations Officer. Doherty recalls, "no one had a clue what I was supposed to be doing". Michael persevered and began to work with people in the community to develop opportunities and resources to begin conversations and teach communication skills.
|Another Lifeline, By Michael Doherty|
In 1997 he served on the Parades Commission. This organization grants or denies parade permits to all of the various organizations. This is a position that is highly sought after and extremely demanding and stressful. He ultimately resigned when he was accused by one ot the organizations of denying them a permit for reasons of bias.
|Mural depicting Nobel Peace Prize Winners|
When I asked Michael what comes next for him on this challenging and unexpected journey. He acknowledged that he would not be in this role forever, and one of his responsibilities is to help train the next generation of leaders and peace builders.
Doherty has no illusions about the fragility of the peace process and knows that there is much more work to be done. While the future will likely not be free of violence, he believes that what will be different is how the community responds and that they will not tolerate a return to the past. So, as the people of Northern Ireland pursue their march towards peace, it clear that Michael Doherty remans at the head of that parade.