The ten years, Kathleen spent as a teacher in the primary school in North Queen Street, brought home to her the poverty in which the children she taught, lived.
Originally from east Belfast, where her father was a publican, a business he subsequently lost due to the Troubles, she was asked to become secretary of a relief committee in the late sixties to help people who had been burnt out of their homes in Belfast and were fleeing to safety. ‘I had never been secretary, I remember actually looking it up to see what my role was!’
It was a phone call that was destined to change the course of her life.
The Community Relations Commission was looking for vacant land to build a children’s playground and Kathleen knew exactly where such a place was.
“Across the road from me there was this huge expanse of land which was called The Barracks, due to the fact that the British Army were ensconced there, so I rang the Commission and told them about the land”
It was this phone call that would lead Kathleen working for The Community Relations Commission, “We were one of the first to look at the whole Community Development Program within an urban area”
The Commission and later the Belfast Action Teams, launched as part of a series of Government initiatives to help regenerate Belfast in which she also worked with community activists such as Frank Cahill, ‘encouraged civil servants…’ she explains ‘I saw how a lot of them changed their own views, you could see them becoming more aware of the needs, and that’s where you begin, if you want to create a society in which people feel equal and also feel they are respected’.
In the late 1970s and early 1980s, Kathleen worked for the Department of Health and Social Services and became involved with the Womens Information Group, to provide quality information to women who live and work in socially disadvantaged areas building self confidence and empowering them to undertake their role within the community in a positive and informed manner “The Womens Information Group created strong bonds between women from different areas”