Caring for Carers? – 4 Corners, Cliftonville Football Club, and Rethinking Public Policy

The value of carers’ contributions to Northern Ireland is similar to that of the entire 2016/17 Stormont health budget – but is our Government investing in improving their circumstances? This year’s 4 Corners Festival (3-12 February) is highlighting carers’ contributions to our society through a banquet at City Hall for people who provide full time care for friends or relatives. Last week Cliftonville Football Club pitched in with a £1,000 contribution to the banquet. A meal at City Hall is … Read more

Catholic Ireland’s Confession Box – Irish Times Initiative

Yesterday I posted a blog that asked the question: ‘Is the Catholic Church Losing the Irish People?’ Coincidentally, yesterday’s Irish Times ran a lengthy and soul-searching reflection by Derek Scally on a similar topic. Scally, it seems, has concluded that yes, the Catholic Church already has lost the Irish people. But he argues that it is dishonest to simply blame the ‘institutional church,’ concluding his article with a call for people to submit ‘confessions’ to an online ‘confession box’, via … 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

Launch of 4 Corners Festival – Our Wounded & Wonderful City, 3-12 February

The fifth annual 4 Corners Festival was launched this morning at a prayer breakfast at St John’s Presbyterian Church, Newtownbreda. This year’s theme is “Our Wounded and Wonderful City.” The Festival runs from Friday 3 February until Sunday 12 February with events designed to celebrate Belfast and ask how we might find healing for our wounds. All events are free and accessible to all. The programme includes a concert with Grammy nominated singer songwriter Iain Archer. It also features artist … Read more

CRC Award for Fr Gary Donegan; & Reconciliation Reframed by Rev Norman Hamilton

Fr Gary Donegan, a Passionist priest who served 15 years at Holy Cross Church in Ardoyne in North Belfast, was today honoured with the Community Relations Council (CRC) Award for Exceptional Achievement. Rev Norman Hamilton presented the award after delivering the annual David Stevens Memorial Lecture on “Reconciliation Reframed.” The event was held in the new Houben Centre in the grounds of Holy Cross Church. You can read the lecture in full here: Stevens Lecture 13 Jan 2017 FNL Pub Donegan was … Read more

Book Review of Rev Ken Newell’s Captured by a Vision: An Enthralling Human Story

Rev Ken Newell, a former minister at Fitzroy Presbyterian in Belfast, is best-known for his ecumenical peacemaking during the Troubles. Newell partnered with his friend the late Fr Gerry Reynolds of Clonard Monastery, and a group of committed laity from their congregations, to develop the Clonard-Fitzroy Fellowship. This small group, rooted in joint spiritual practices and a commitment to listening to people with different points of view, became an inspiration for inter-church activism on this island and around the world. … Read more

‘We need to encourage young people that this is a place they can build their future’: Report on ‘Let Them Speak’

Back in February, 90 Sixth Form Pupils from 25 schools across Belfast gathered at Ulster University to discuss the city’s future. The event was part of the 4 Corners Festival, and was featured on Slugger at the time. The 4 Corners Festival have now produced a booklet that collates some of the students’ comments, grouped around the thematic areas of education, diversity, our political system, transport, regeneration and investment, health care, and hopes for the future. The pupils generated those … Read more

CRC Award for Civic Leadership for Fr Martin Magill and Rev Steve Stockman – Relationships as the Foundation for Reconciliation

The Community Relations Council (CRC) this week presented its annual award for Civic Leadership to Fr Martin Magill of Sacred Heart in North Belfast and Rev Steve Stockman of Fitzroy Presbyterian in South Belfast. Magill and Stockman are outspoken advocates of Christian peacebuilding, regularly making the case in their writing and broadcasting that part of being a Christian on this island is seeking reconciliation among our divided communities. The CRC has created a short video profiling their work, where they … Read more

Bertie Ahern’s Reflections on Peace in a Changed Ireland – Paisley, Blair, Craig and Brexit

Former Taoiseach Bertie Ahern praised the contributions of the Rev Ian Paisley and Tony Blair to the Northern Ireland peace process, drew inspiration from the life of the first Prime Minister of Northern Ireland, James Craig, and argued energetically that Britain should remain in the European Union in a lecture on ‘Reflections on Peace in a Changed Ireland’, yesterday at Queen’s University Belfast. Ahern’s lecture was the closing event of the Institute for the Study of Conflict Transformation and Social … Read more

Arlene Foster on Women, Leadership and Peacebuilding

First Minister Arlene Foster delivered the fourth Harri Holkeri Lecture yesterday evening on ‘Women, Leadership and Peacebuilding’ at the Institute for the Study of Conflict Transformation and Social Justice’s Spring Festival at Queen’s. Holkeri was a Prime Minister of Finland and took part in the Good Friday Agreement negotiations. The lecture was co-sponsored by the Finnish Embassy. The Festival continues this week, concluding with a lecture by former Taoiseach Bertie Ahern on ‘Reflections on Peace in a Changed Ireland’ on … Read more

Democracy without Politicians: Could it Work in Northern Ireland? More Events at QUB’s Spring Festival

The Spring Festival of the Institute for the Study of Conflict Transformation and Social Justice at Queen’s continued yesterday with a discussion on ‘Randomocracy: An Alternative to Elections and Voting,’ led by Prof John Garry. Some Slugger readers may have seen the short video produced as part of Garry’s research project, which summarizes the result of his experiment of asking random citizens to deliberate on the flags issue. Garry showed the video at the event and then provided further information … Read more

Young Life and Times Survey Results – Children and Young People Positive about Shared Education

The results of the 2015 Northern Ireland Young Life and Times (YLT) and Kids Life and Times (KLT) surveys were launched yesterday at Queen’s University Belfast. There were new questions this time about shared education, which revealed broadly positive experiences and expectations. There were questions about participation in sport, which highlighted areas which could be focused on to improve health and well-being; and new questions about child sexual exploitation and children serving as carers. Respondents to the YLT are 16 … Read more

Hunger Striking as Political Resistance, Then & Now: QUB’s Institute for Conflict Transformation Spring Festival

Are hunger strikes effective as a political strategy? This was one of the questions explored yesterday at a day-long conference on ‘Prisoner Hunger Strikers in Northern Ireland and Palestine: Examining the Long Term Effects.’ The event was part of the Spring Festival of Events at Queen’s Institute for the Study of Conflict Transformation and Social Justice, which continues through the end of the month. Republican hunger strikers and ex-prisoners Tommy McKearney and Laurence McKeown were part of a panel for … Read more

Bertie Ahern and Arlene Foster Headline Spring Festival at Queen’s Institute for Conflict Transformation

  Bertie Ahern and Arlene Foster are among the highlights at the Institute for the Study of Conflict Transformation and Social Justice’s Spring Festival of Events at Queen’s. Former Taoiseach Ahern speaks on ‘Reflections on Peace in a Changed Ireland’ on Tuesday 31 May, 5-7 pm; while First Minister Foster delivers the Harri Holkeri Lecture on ‘Women, Leadership, and Peacebuilding’ on Monday 23 May, 5-7 pm. The festival starts tomorrow with a talk by Dr Shelley Deane on ‘Feedback from … Read more

Martin McGuinness Responds to Sixth Form Pupils – Reimagining Reconciliation for the Future

Deputy First Minister Martin McGuinness responded to a panel of sixth form pupils in an event today hosted by the Senator George J Mitchell Institute for Global Peace, Security and Justice at Queen’s University. McGuinness first spoke on ‘Reimaging Reconciliation for the Future’ before six pupils from Methodist College and St Mary’s shared their reflections on his remarks. Pupils from several other Belfast and Bangor schools were also in the audience. In his opening speech, McGuinness spoke of the peace … Read more

When the Saints go Marching – On the Trail of Columbanus by Barry Sloan: Book Review

Last November marked the 1400th anniversary of the death of Saint Columbanus, the Ulster monk whose missions on the continent have made him the patron saint of all those who now seek to build a united Europe. This anniversary was marked in various ways on the island of Ireland and in Europe, including a joint BBC/RTE documentary titled ‘Mary McAleese and the Man who Saved Europe.’ The Mary McAleese documentary gave some flavour of the sights and sounds of the … Read more

Where the River Bends – Considering Forgiveness in the Lives of Prisoners by Michael McRay, Book Review

What do we do with uncomfortable stories? Uncomfortable stories about ourselves? Uncomfortable stories about our ‘enemies’ or rivals? Or uncomfortable stories about people we may never think about at all – like prisoners. In Where the River Bends: Considering Forgiveness in the Lives of Prisoners (Cascade Books, 2016), Michael McRay takes us behind the walls of prisons in Tennessee to hear the uncomfortable stories of the men and women there. These are the uncomfortable stories of what they did to … Read more

Politics for the Next Generation? Pupils’ Visions for Belfast’s Future at the 4 Corners Festival

Are our young people apolitical or de-politicized? What do young people in Belfast think about the city and its future? These were among the questions raised when ninety sixth form pupils from 25 schools across Belfast gathered Friday at Ulster University to discuss the city’s future and to present their ideas to a ‘panel of listeners.’ The event, ‘Let Them Speak,’ was organised by the 4 Corners Festival. The young people spoke about issues near and dear to the hearts of … Read more

Captured by a Vision at the 4 Corners Festival – Rev Ken Newell at St Patrick’s Catholic Church

Rev Ken Newell, former minister at Fitzroy Presbyterian in Belfast, is well-known for both his evangelical and his ecumenical convictions. While some – mainly evangelical Christians – are convinced that a Christian can’t be both evangelical and ecumenical, Newell challenged that conviction over the course of his long ministry at Fitzroy, in part through his deep friendship with the late Fr Gerry Reynolds of Clonard Monastery. Given Newell’s ecumenical convictions, it may be hard for some to imagine his 18-year-old … Read more

Launch of The Art of Listening: What will we hear at the 2016 Four Corners Festival? (28 January-7 February)

A sampling of the musicians, poets and artists who will be participating in the fourth annual 4 Corners Festival took part in its launch today in the newly-opened Girdwood Community Hub in North Belfast. Building on this year’s theme of ‘The Art of Listening,’ the organisers encouraged people to begin reflecting on this idea and to approach the festival with ears and hearts open. This year’s programme includes 15 events, ranging from music, discussions, art, poetry, film, and a churches’ … Read more