Highlights from some of the northern speakers on Friday night at Sinn Féin’s ard fheis being held in the Belfast Waterfront. Northern leader Michelle O’Neill called for reconciliation to heal pain, build bridges and rid society of sectarianism and blamed the DUP/Tory pact for the lack of an Executive.
The 2018 Global Peace Index (launched tonight at QUB’s Leadership Institute) suggests that delivering prosperity needs to go hand in hand with a reduction in deprivation and social inequality, improvement in good relations, and a well-functioning government. Is Northern Ireland running in the wrong direction?
Hear My Voice is a cinematic companion piece to Colin Davidson’s Silent Testimony, a 2015 exhibition of 18 portraits of people who suffered loss during the local conflict, developed in conjunction with the WAVE Trauma Centre. The paintings are back in the Ulster Museum until Sunday 22 April and the exhibition is well worth a visit.
Political leaders of old and today gathered at Queen’s University, Belfast for a day of events focussed on the 20th anniversary of the Good Friday Agreement. Former UK Prime Minister Tony Blair said that people “should realise that this agreement was never going to support all the problems of Northern Ireland” while former US President Bill Clinton had a triptych of advice for NI: “Keep the cranes up. Keep the voices free. Keep the votes fair. You’ll figure it out.”
Gender based violence, impediments to women’s participation in peace-building, a study on whether abortion was a workplace issue, FGM in NI and the LGBT community’s journey to equality in the wake of the Good Friday Agreement were all discussed in a panel at Saturday’s #Agreement20 conference in Manchester.
A nuanced and at times moving medley of spoken word and song remembrance of past times, incidents and ways of living during the Troubles, gradually working up to the negotiations and the 1998 Agreement. Not so balanced to become boring, but carefully seeded with surprise and honesty in the many perspectives it opened up.
At the #Agreement20 conference, Professor Thomas Hennessey explains why he thinks there was a political deal in 1998 and looks at the bottom lines of the different parties and governments involved in the negotiations leading up to the Belfast Agreement, and delves into the significance of the three-stranded approach.
Speaking at QUB this evening, Sinn Féin President Mary Lou McDonald once again dismissed the idea of a transitional Assembly during the ongoing political stalemate, saying that it would give “a veneer of accountability to direct rule”. Instead, she said the British Irish Intergovernmental Conference should be convened to “produce … a pathway to bring forward the legislation and resources to secure these rights and implement the agreements”.
THE ALLIANCE PARTY CONFERENCE was a low key event compared with last year when the party was buoyant after good results in the 2017 NI Assembly election and members were still unaware of the surprise General Election that was just weeks away from being announced. Without an election campaign and without a functioning Assembly with plenary sessions and committee hearings to create stories, Alliance’s impact in political discussions is muted, and their ability to build political capital constrained. Challenges to improve the accountability of local councils are worthwhile, but don’t excite their support-base or keep the party in the headlines.