Did Religious Leaders Contribute to Conflict Transformation in Northern Ireland? Review of Nukhet Sandal’s New Book

Did religious leaders contribute to conflict transformation in Northern Ireland? It’s a question posed in a new book by Nukhet Sandal, assistant professor of political science at Ohio University, USA – and answered with a resounding ‘yes.’ In Religious Leaders and Conflict Transformation: Northern Ireland and Beyond (Cambridge University Press, 2017), Sandal paints an overwhelmingly positive picture of religious leaders’ efforts to contribute to peacebuilding during the Troubles and after the Good Friday Agreement. Sandal argues that religious leaders articulated … Read more

Courage of Kingsmills Victims Defied Sectarian Divide

Reconciliation statue Photo by Amanda Slater

Much ink has been spilled about the sorry Barry McElduff/Kingsmills loaf saga. Susan McKay’s analysis in Tuesday’s Irish Times is one of the most insightful, but bleak, contributions. It’s worth reading her full text, which brings her to this conclusion: The absence of reconciliation has never been more starkly apparent, and as usual, those most hurt in the past are hurt again. One paragraph in McKay’s article jumped out for me, because though tragic, it demonstrated for me that there … Read more

New Books for the New Year from Ó Tuama; Deeds and McManus

With a New Year comes new beginnings – or so the tyranny of the New Year’s Resolutions industry would have us believe. Resolutions can be a source of frustration rather than liberation, but there are few among us who do not give at least some pause for thought on how we might live better in the year ahead. Two new books by some of our most gifted local Christian writers provide tools for living better in the New Year: Daily … Read more

In the Name of the Son. A book review of the new Gerry Conlon biography by Richard O’Rawe…

Gerry Conlon, arguably the most well-known of the Guildford Four, published his autobiography ‘Proved Innocent’ in 1990. It made an enormous impression on me in my early twenties, so it didn’t take much to get me to Merrion Press’s launch of Richard O’Rawe’s ‘In the Name of the Son’ in Belfast at the start of October. The forward by Johnny Depp might raise a few eyebrows, and does indicate the kind of circles Conlon moved in after his release from … Read more

Beyond the Abuse Scandals? Review of Maher and O’Brien’s ‘Tracing the Cultural Legacy of Irish Catholicism’

There is much insightful reading in a new collection of essays edited by Eamon Maher and Eugene O’Brien, Tracing the Cultural Legacy of Irish Catholicism: From Galway to Cloyne and Beyond (Manchester University Press, 2017). Maher, who lectures in Humanities at the Institute of Technology, Tallaght, has co-edited a number of collections on Irish Catholicism in recent years – all of which have made a valuable contribution in conversations about the future of the Church. Titles such as Contemporary Catholicism … Read more

‘Victims of the Peace’ – Lessons from David Bolton’s ‘Conflict, Peace and Mental Health’

If there is one book that should be required reading for our MLAs, it is David Bolton’s Conflict, Peace and Mental Health: Addressing the Consequences of Conflict and Trauma in Northern Ireland, published this year by Manchester University Press. The book is a timely reminder that while the Assembly remains suspended and political progress remains stalled, victims and survivors of violence continue to live with the consequences of the past.  Bolton eloquently describes their plight (p. 3): In Ireland, whilst … Read more

Jonathan Powell on Ending Conflicts – Insights on Leadership

Jonathan Powell, the British Government’s chief negotiator on Northern Ireland under Prime Minister Tony Blair (1997-2007), joined Prof Richard English Monday for a conversation on ‘Ending Conflicts’ at the Senator George J Mitchell Institute for Global Peace, Security and Justice at Queen’s. Powell is now director of Inter/Mediate, a charity he founded in 2011 to work on conflict resolution around the world, and an Honorary Professor in the Mitchell Institute. Inter/Mediate is currently helping to facilitate negotiations in ten locations. … Read more

Mount Stewart Conversations are back on shores of Strangford Lough on 14 & 15 October

NATIONAL TRUST’S Mount Stewart Conversations are back on 14 and 15 October with a range of speakers, music, performers and activities on the lough shore site. Figures like Ian Hislop, Rosie Boycott, Rachel Johnson and Fintan O’Toole will be talking about historic and contemporary issues. Standing alongside the world-renowned gardens, the country house was the scene of many political and diplomatic talks in past ages.

Review of One Man, One God: The Peace Ministry of Fr Alec Reid

For many years the labours that constituted Fr Alec Reid’s (1931-2013) life work remained behind closed doors. It had to be that way: what he was doing was much too sensitive to be public knowledge. We have known for some time that Reid instigated secret talks that helped kick-start the Northern Ireland peace process. He also had a hand in drafting documents that would become a basis for political negotiations and ultimately the Belfast/Good Friday Agreement.   A new book … Read more

Happy Bloomsday, intolerable Joyceans everywhere!

If you don’t know by now, it’s tradition!  [We know… – Ed]. Those of a sensitive disposition are duly warned, once again, that James Joyce enjoys the language in all its fecund nuttiness. And a reminder of a brief history of the day, from the Guardian last year, which includes this great 1924 quote from Joyce on Ulysses – “I have to convince myself that I wrote that book. I used to be able to talk intelligently about it.” In June of … Read more

‘He saw a common well of untapped compassion and forgiveness’ – Mary McAleese at the Launch of One Man, One God: The Peace Ministry of Fr Alec Reid CSsR

One Man, One God: The Peace Ministry of Fr Alec Reid CSsR was launched on Tuesday at Clonard Monastery by former President Mary McAleese. The book chronicles Fr Reid’s incalculable contributions to the peace process on the island of Ireland, and explores how his Christian faith influenced and sustained him in his work. It was written by fellow Redemptorist Martin McKeever, a Belfast native and professor of moral theology in Rome, and published by Redemptorist Communications. In her remarks at … Read more

“at the collective level, something funny is going on in terms of our reality testing…”

Some interesting thoughts [as ever! – Ed] from the writer and novelist Will Self in an interview in the Irish Times today. If Self was concerned about the impact of technology seven years ago, what about now, when the overwhelming impression for many people is that the world is spinning faster and faster? Or is that just another technological illusion? “Oh no, I don’t think it is. It is absolutely not an illusion. Anybody smart – no, let’s not get … Read more

Review of Embodied Peacebuilding by Leah Robinson – A Theology of Reconciliation that is not Practical is not Reconciliation at all

In Northern Ireland, ‘reconciliation’ can be a divisive word – so much so that the very use of the term accomplishes the opposite of its meaning. A prominent study led by Prof John Brewer concluded that ‘reconciliation’ was so contested that the term should be avoided altogether. My own surveys of clergy and churchgoers revealed that almost no one can agree about what reconciliation actually means. Despite this, I still think that the concept of reconciliation can add something of value … Read more

Mitchell Institute Festival Goes Inside the Trump White House & Beyond – First Event Tomorrow on Radicalisation & Religious Freedom

The Senator George J Mitchell Institute for Global Peace, Security and Justice’s annual Spring Festival of Conflict Transformation runs 26 April-11 May at Queen’s University Belfast. It features 11 events, free and open to the public, including discussions, lectures, film and art with topics including the Trump White House, terrorism, borders, radicalisation and genocide. The full programme can be found here (PDF)… | Overview of the events… Among the highlights is Belfast native Niall Stanage, who will go ‘Inside the Trump … Read more

The Legacy of Irish Missionaries Lives On: Book by Matt Moran – The Irish Tradition of ‘Social Justice as Faith’?

There’s been plenty of discussion in recent weeks (and years) about the decline of the Catholic Church in Ireland. The trauma stemming from clerical sexual abuse continues to cast a long shadow over Irish society. Indeed, the Irish Times’ Derek Scally has recently argued that the Catholic Church was as authoritarian and dominant as the communist regime in East Germany. The humanitarian efforts of Ireland’s missionary priests, nuns and laity may have been well-known in the past. They were supported … Read more

Is the Catholic Church Losing the Irish People? Reflections on Tony Flannery & the Church of England

On Sunday, Redemptorist priest Fr Tony Flannery celebrated mass publicly for the first time in five years, defying a Vatican ban on public ministry dating from 2012. Fr Flannery is being disciplined by the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith for expressing views contrary to official church teachings on matters like clerical celibacy and the ordination of women. Fr Flannery insisted the public mass was a one-off event, to celebrate his 70th birthday and the 40th anniversary of his … Read more

Ronan Fanning and the resonances of the history of a century ago

A few years ago at a conference in King’s College London, the Irish historian Ronan Fanning who has just died could still  get hot under collar about  how the British politicians Asquith and Lloyd George exploited Irish Home Rule for their own political ends.  We were about to  enter the decade of commemoration culminating in the centenary of the anniversary of the Easter Rising, when  these tumultuous events were being relived and tested for their relevance to the Troubles and … Read more