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.
Between 12 and 18 March, Imagine! Belfast Festival of Ideas & Politics will host 80 free events in over 30 venues across the city to encourage people to engage with the big issues of our times, whether that be Brexit, poverty, (in)equality, gender or fake news. There’ll be talks, workshops, theatre, comedy, music, film, tours, exhibitions, dance, poetry and a video competition.
Sinn Féin’s new party president, Uachtarán Shinn Féin, Mary Lou McDonald paid tribute to her friend and mentor Gerry Adams and spoke of a desire to double the size of the party while changing how it operates. She also spoke about looking forward to working with the DUP and promised that there would be no return to the status quo at Stormont.
In her acceptance speech as the incoming vice president of Sinn Féin – Leas Uachtarán Shinn Féin – Michelle O’Neill anticipated that the “[Stprmont] talks will conclude next week” and “the issues which caused the collapse of Stormont can be resolved with political will and mutual respect”. Later she called for “cohesion” in the expanding party.
The parallels with 2018 are immense. The on-screen battle between politicians and the fourth estate may remind local audiences of politicians boycotting interviews with certain mainstream news outlets and harassed questioning the veracity and reporting of stories which are embarrassing. After nearly two hours, I also learnt that if you’re ever near the NY Times office, be careful crossing the road: nearly everyone in this film narrowly escapes being run over!
A slim green file AG/15/60A (selective scans) released under the 20 Year Rule and available to peruse at the Public Records Office deals with the vexed issue in 1986 of milk being illegally imported across the border from the Republic of Ireland and sold in Northern Ireland shops. Buttermilk wasn’t covered by the same import ban!
While there was a flurry of activity to plan for the unlikely event of a Russian satellite crash-landed on Northern Ireland soil in 1988, the alerting procedures failed and the NI emergency planning heard the ‘all clear’ on the midnight radio news when London colleagues failed to notify them that the satellite had missed the UK and they could stand their staff down.