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Nigel Miller, 15, wants to canoe in Utah's white water rivers, and Aureole Crawford, 14, wants to hike in Utah's mountains and swim. Both of them want to see and feel the Great Salt Lake.

Back in their homelands, Nigel and Aureole probably would not have become friends. Instead, they would likely be on opposite sides of the often bitter conflict that rages in Northern Ireland.But for the next month, they and 10 other Irish youths will forget political labels while they participate in the Ulster Project, an ecumenical peace effort that is funded by Northern Ireland and by numerous church groups in Salt Lake City.

The youths, who arrived in Salt Lake City Wednesday, range in age from 14 to 16. They are the third group from Ulster, or Northern Ireland, to visit Utah in as many years and, like their predecessors, they will stay with counterparts in Salt Lake City.

The Ulster Project started in the United States in 1974 and has brought more than 2,000 youths to America for visits.

Thursday morning, the youths met with Salt Lake Mayor Palmer DePaulis at City Hall and were each given pens with the name Salt Lake City on them. The mayor, in turn, received a tie and a head scarf, both decorated with the seal of the city of Omagh, the youths' home.

A variety of activities and sightseeing trips are scheduled for the group until they leave Utah July 29. The youths will even participate in some service projects. They are to visit with leaders of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints at the church's headquarters July 21.

Wherever they go, they will be teamed with 12 other youths of the same age from Salt Lake City. Each is staying with one of the Salt Lake teenagers.

The Ulster group is evenly divided between Catholics and Protestants and boys and girls, as are their Utah counterparts.

Charles Jahne, Salt Lake City, president of the Hibernian Society of Utah, a group that fosters and studies Irish history, culture and literature, said the purpose of the Ulster Project is to break down the barriers between Northern Ireland's Catholics and Protestants.

He said there has been conflict between the two groups in Ireland for 400 years.

"Most of the island of Ireland is independent. Twenty-six counties of Ireland formed the Irish Free State after World War I, and in about 1940 it became the independent Republic of Ireland. Six counties in the northeast portion of the island, called Northern Ireland or Ulster, remain under the control of Great Britain."

Jahne said about two-thirds of Ulster's or Northern Ireland's population - about 600,000 people - are Protestants and are in favor of remaining under British rule.

"The other one-third - about 300,000 or more people - are Catholic and want to be independent. That is what all the fighting is about over there. That, and distrust, fear, arguments and feuds that have been simmering and boiling over for 400 years."

He said militant extremist groups from both camps are the ones responsible for most of the fighting, bombings and assassinations in Northern Ireland - "the Irish Republican Army, the IRA, from the Catholic side and the Ulster Paramilitary from the Protestant side."

Jahne said he expects the British will leave Northern Ireland someday, fed up with all the trouble their rule is causing them. "But that may only pave the way for worse bloodshed as the two opposing factions in the country fight for political dominance."

Bryan Eldredge, Salt Lake City, president of the Ulster Project, and Gerald McDonough, Salt Lake City, a member of the board of the Ulster Project, said they hope the youths from Northern Ireland visiting Salt Lake City will not only form friendships among the Utahns but will form bonds among themselves.

"We pray that they will learn to know each other as people and not just as religious or political factions," Eldredge said. "We believe that to solve the problems of Northern Ireland, we must begin with the children and teach them to be friends."

McDonough said the Ulster Project was founded by the Rev. Canon Kerry Waterstone, a well-known peace advocate and Anglican Church leader from the Republic of Ireland.

Nigel Miller is a Catholic whose hobbies include underwater diving and Irish football. His favorite subjects in school are art and P.E. He is also an accomplished tin flute player. He said he has two brothers and a sister and his father is an engineer and his mother is a homemaker.

"I want to be a marine biologist when I grow up," he said.

Aureole Crawford is a Protestant whose father is a maintenance fitter in a mill in Omagh and whose mother works as a cook in a school lunch program. She has three brothers and a sister, loves to swim, play grass hockey and read. Her favorite subjects in school are French and home economics.

"Someday, I want to own a food service business and be a caterer," she said.