Only united challenges from civil society to government and grass roots campaigns will bring about a shared future

It’s amazing isn’t it, how all the parties are now singing the praise of sharing, integration and Mammy and apple pie? And yet when it comes to agreeing what that might actually mean they stay stuck in deadlock, their real comfort zone. “A shared future”  risks  becoming debased as a piece of Orwellian double think, our equivalent of the  old Communist dictatorships’ “People’s Democracy.”  Apart from wringing our hands and scratching our heads, what can we do about it? I’m sorry, … Read more

Theresa Villiers: “our economic package will be closely linked to, and conditional on real progress by the executive…”

The Northern Ireland Secretary of State, Theresa Villiers, was in west Belfast today on the 15th anniversary of the Belfast Agreement.  Here’s a couple of lines from her press statement The Agreement called for ‘reconciliation, tolerance, and mutual trust’ and as I’ve travelled around Northern Ireland, I’ve seen many fantastic initiatives that are bringing different parts of the community together. Forthspring Inter Community Group and the Argyle Business Centre are two great examples of the courage, leadership and tenacity that local … Read more

“Leaders welcomed the opportunity to meet and engage in a discussion…”

According to the BBC report, after a “meeting at Stormont Castle, which began at 0930 GMT and lasted almost eight hours, [and] was supposed to take place last week but was cancelled after some parties refused to attend”, “The leaders of Northern Ireland’s five main parties have reaffirmed their commitment to the rule of law”. Phew.  That’s a relief… Although, it’s not entirely clear from the reports which “leaders” they mean exactly.  [Was Gerry there? – Ed] The UTV report has some … Read more

Masterplan for Girdwood: “back to the sectarian drawing board…”

The Northern Ireland First and deputy First Minsters recently announced the second round of funding, £1.5million, available from the Executive and Atlantic Philanthropies’ ‘Contested Spaces’ Programme, although I’m still not entirely clear where the other £2.5million went… The announcement, in the absence of a “Cohesion, Sharing and Integration” strategy, rebranded, and “watered down” to the “lowest commmon denominator“, or otherwise, coincides with the reveal of a new contested space the masterplan for the regeneration of the Girdwood Park former military base.  [And the Crumlin … Read more

“I do apologise for anyone who misunderstood the way I was using the metaphor…”

Two days after the DUP’s Jonathan Bell’s rapid apology for the Northern Ireland Junior Minsters’ two-handed assault on golf clubs. …speaking at the Community Relations Week conference, Mr Bell said: “Many communities may not paint their kerb stones or put out flags, but scratch the surface and you find the prejudice and the hate whispered behind closed doors or joked about in golf clubs or over dinner parties.” However, speaking later on BBC NI ‘s Stormont Today, he said it … Read more

Political Progress and Educational Sectarianism

Northern Ireland’s past echoes with the haunted politics of division, its communities littered with the graves of over 3,000 victims of shameful brutality. When Peter Robinson spat that, ‘the only input that Unionists want into the Anglo-Irish Conference is a stick of gelignite’, not even the most ardent optimist would have predicted that he would one day attend a GAA match as the honoured guest of Martin McGuinness.

 But the progress is real and it is, I daresay, sincere. In … Read more

CSI: Are the people running ahead of the policy makers and politicians?

There was a point in a recent discussion on Slugger at which the acronym PUL (Protestant, Unionist and Loyalist) was invoked to described to describe an apparent group behaviour. But what is PUL  in this day and age? Who who is a loyalist is not also a Unionist? And for that matter what is the CNR (Catholic, Nationalist and Republican) community, who who is a nationalist is also not a Republican? These terms once delineated a real and substantive difference, and the line of … Read more

2009/10 “good relations indicators”

An iol report picks out some statistics of interest from a Northern Ireland Office of the First and deputy First Minister’s report on “good relation indicators” for 2009/10.  The report is only available as an Excel document.  From the iol report The OFMDFM report said in the 2009/10 financial year homelessness due to intimidation was up to 774 cases compared to 580. Casualties because of paramilitary-style shootings and attacks have more than doubled, 122 in the 2009 calendar year compared to … Read more

OFMDFM’s aspiration for the future – “why bother?”

In the Belfast Telegraph, Eamonn McCann picks up on the Joseph Rowntree Charitable Trust’s criticism of the “simplistic view” of culture and identity evident in the OFMDFM’s Cohesion, Sharing and Integration proposals. [added link] From the Belfast Telegraph article Policy could be aimed at bringing reality into alignment with existing aspirations, imagining what might be and asking: why not? The CSI document seems designed to bring aspirations down to the mundane here-and-now, asking: why bother? Conventional politics are constructed around a communal … Read more

“this may suit political parties with a deeply rooted sense of conflicting priorities based on ethnic division”

The BBC reports criticism of the DUP/Sinn Féin drafted Programme for Cohesion, Sharing and Integration, all ‘motherhood and apple pie’, by the Joseph Rowntree Charitable Trust.  The Trust’s report is available here [pdf file].  And from the Trust’s press release [pdf file] The study, carried out by the Institute for British Irish Studies at UCD, Dublin, identifies three key areas of concern. Celia McKeon of the Joseph Rowntree Charitable Trust discusses: “Firstly, the research has indicated that the new policy framework … Read more