The last of six posts shared by the organisers of a symposium exploring the “Northern Ireland Culture Wars” on Friday 22 November at the University of Ulster, Belfast.
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The symposium was brought to a close with a lively and passionate plenary provided by some of the leading actors shaping debates about culture and identity in Northern Ireland.
The session was chaired by Dr. Cathy Gormley-Heenan, Director of the Institute for Research in Social Sciences at the University of Ulster and Chair of the Political Studies Association Specialist Groups.
Speakers on the panel included Lisa McElherron (Northern Ireland Council for Voluntary Action), Helena Macormac (Northern Ireland Council for Ethnic Minorities), Sean Keenan (Northern Ireland Arts Council), Neil Symington (Northern Ireland Youth Forum), and Paul Nolan (Community Relations Council and author of the NI Peace Monitoring Report).
The role of civil society in Northern Ireland in addressing sectarianism, racism, and other forms of intolerance has been widely acknowledged. For example, Ambassador Richard N. Haass recently noted the need to reach out to civil society groups to maintain the momentum of the peace process is crucial. With this in mind, the panel explored how civil society groups have led and shaped debates in Northern Ireland and helped to realise the potential for building inter- and intra-community understanding and cohesion. Particular emphasis was given to discussing the contribution of young people and minority groups in developing a more representative civil society.