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The Power of Words: TRO in The Irish Times

Written by stickyeyes, 24th January 2011

We're very excited to report that over the weekend TRO featured in The Irish Times, in an article written by journalist Ann Marie Hourihane - and we simply had to share it!

Here's an excerpt describing the presence of GIR in Ireland:


In Ireland, GIR has a single pilot project, operating at the Hydebank female prison in east Belfast. Patricia Canning began working there last July. “The women were very receptive to the idea. They are frighteningly honest, refreshingly so.” Each session of the Hydebank reading group lasts about two hours. In its first week the group read Faith and Hope Go Shopping, a Joanne Harris story about two old ladies going on the run from an old people’s home. “There was a bit of a cheer when they escaped,” she says.

She has nothing but praise for the training she received from The Reader Organisation, which has appointed her a GIR project worker for the next three years. Like many of the organisation’s staff, Canning is engaged in academic research, as well as organising a reading group. To go into a women’s prison on a lousy day, she says, and to hear a woman say at the end of a reading session, “I feel I’ve just gone outside for a walk”, is strong testimony indeed. “I’m going to bring a Shakespearean sonnet in in the next few weeks and really blow them away, ” she says


While she was in Liverpool, Ann Marie visited TRO project worker Eleanor McCann's reading group at the Kevin White Detox Unit, and was inspired by what she saw:


The extract being read is from The Catcher in the Rye . There is no shortage of people wanting to read aloud. In the extract, JD Salinger’s hero, Holden Caulfield, had briefly remembered a headmaster he had not liked – Mr Haas – because the man would not talk to the poorer parents of children at the school. It is only a passing reference, not even a paragraph. But it sparked memories from the young men present of how teachers had treated them and their own parents. Then one man goes to his room to get the non-fiction book, D-Day, to read us his favourite reminiscence from it.


At the end of the article,  GIR group member Tony offers an explanation for why GIR works so well:


“Ever since people have been on the earth, for the past two million years, they have sat round the fire and told stories and listened to stories. It sustains people. It’s in the genes, you see. It’s natural. I see these reading groups as an enhanced version of that.”


You can read the full article here.


Don't foget! We'll be holding a Showcase in Northern Ireland on the 22nd February.

2 thoughts on “The Power of Words: TRO in The Irish Times

Flicka Small says:

I read the article in the Irish Times over the weekend, which brought me to your website. I think it is a great project and would love to get involved. I am studying for an MA in Irish Literature at University College Cork and training to be a tutor in adult literacy.

Mark says:


Thanks for your reply. The best way to find out more about our work and discover how you can get involved is to attend one of our Showcases. If you’re able to get to Lisburn, NI, on 22nd February, we’re going to be in the City Library from 2-4pm. You can find more info and a booking form here:


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