The legacy of the past can still be felt in today’s political relationships, warns O’Neill

Legacy is being discussed at length at present, following the British government’s proposals to abandon prosecutions and investigations related to Troubles’ events. But there is another toxic legacy – the impact of past events on current political relationships. That aspect of legacy is discussed with Sinn Féin Vice President and Deputy First Minister Michelle O’Neill in the latest Holywell Trust Forward Together podcast.  Michelle argues that political leaders must work hard to build trust, to enable the political system here to …

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More truth and honesty needed in government, and in dealing with legacy, says Colum Eastwood

Truth and honesty must be at the heart of how we deal with the legacy of the past and in how politicians in Northern Ireland govern today, says Colum Eastwood, leader of the SDLP and MP for the Foyle constituency. He was speaking in the latest Holywell Trust Forward Together podcast and is the third political leader to be interviewed in the series, discussing how to make progress in Northern Ireland.  Victims have been badly treated, stresses Colum, and they …

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Let’s put our values into practice in how we govern, argues Naomi Long

If we are to make progress in Northern Ireland’s society, we need to reflect carefully on our core values and ensure that these are reflected in the way government works. This is the message put forward by Naomi Long – leader of the Alliance Party and justice minister – in the second of the Holywell Trust’s Forward Together podcast interviews of Northern Ireland’s political leaders.  Among the points stressed by Naomi is that violence is not acceptable as a means …

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The Ulster Unionist Party reflects on the future of Northern Ireland

The third series of Holywell Trust’s Forward Together podcasts has heard from experts in a range of areas – including the economy, skills, education, young people’s experience, housing – and also considered best practice elsewhere. As it moves towards a close, it puts the arguments for major change in the governance of Northern Ireland to our political leaders.  In the first of this closing series of podcasts, we spoke to Steve Aiken – who at the time was still leader of the …

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Italy’s social co-ops – a model for Northern Ireland to copy?

Social care provision is in crisis across much of the world. How can the quality of care be maintained or improved? How can it be made available to those who need it? And how can social care be carried out in an affordable way without underpaying or exploiting its workers? These questions are being asked in many countries and regions. Italy has come up with its own answer – social co-operatives – and its model is being copied across much …

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Housing policy faces challenges from many directions

For all the focus on integrated education, if communities continue to live separately then little progress will be made towards integrating our society. So developing more areas of shared housing is essential if we are to make progress.  But the lack of genuinely shared communities is only one of the housing challenges facing Northern Ireland today. There is more generally a shortage of social housing, compared with demand, leading to increasing waiting lists.  This is not simply a matter of demography. It …

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Community Wealth Building

Concentration of the retail and consumer services sectors in the hands of a limited number of multinational corporations sucks wealth out of local communities and into the hands of shareholders based elsewhere. So should the response be to build the local economy by supporting independent businesses based in those localities, while maximising the spend of public and other anchor institutions in their local communities? That is the approach adopted through ‘community wealth building’, often termed ‘the Preston model’. Preston is …

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Treating children fairly

While it is frequently claimed that Northern Ireland has an excellent schools system, it is clear that it is also a divided system. That division is not based only on religion, but also according to whether a pupil attends a grammar or a non-selective school, which is in turn related to the wealth of the parents. The system clearly separates children, despite the need of our society to come together to heal division. This week’s Holywell Trust Forward Together podcast …

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Education is the key to progress

Education is the key to moving our society forward, says Tony Gallagher in the latest Forward Together podcast interview. But that has to mean much more than encouraging as many students as possible to go to university and obtain a degree. Our society has become fixated with university education, at the expense of school pupils who do not aspire to higher education. More has to be done to support children from deprived families, to encourage them through careers guidance and …

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The GFA brought peace – but paramilitaries haven’t gone away

The Good Friday Agreement ended the bitter conflict, but failed to eliminate the poison of paramilitarism. In the latest Forward Together podcast interview recorded before the loyalist street riots protesting against the Brexit Protocol and the latest paramilitary shootings in Derry, Duncan Morrow considers the limitations of the GFA. Northern Ireland remains overshadowed by paramilitaries that claim a political motivation, yet are engaged in criminal enterprises that include the drug trade, protection rackets and loan sharking. Can the GFA now …

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The Forward Together podcasts

Eighteen podcasts and Slugger blogs were produced in the second series of the Holywell Trust’s Forward Together programme. With the completion of that programme, the Holywell Trust held a discussion on the themes considered by the series, which focused on creating a better governed society, with more integration and improved outcomes.  The discussion was held as part of the Northern Ireland’s Good Relations Week, bringing together the chief executive of the Pivotal think-tank, Ann Watt; Northern Ireland’s interim Mental Health …

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‘I’m talking about a culture change in government in Northern Ireland: I mean the civil service and politicians’

Evidence-based policy-making is largely absent from government in Northern Ireland, but the new Pivotal think-tank has been established to correct that, says its director Ann Watt. She was speaking in the last of the second series of Holywell Trust Forward Together podcasts.    The aim of Pivotal “is to help improve public policy in Northern Ireland,” says Ann. “It’s got a strong emphasis on research and evidence and on using evidence better in public policy.” The very first Pivotal report, published in November last year, …

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Integrating society, creating shared spaces, enabling conversations

Integrated education should not be perceived as a threat to anyone’s sense of identity, but the sector needs to consider how it promotes itself across all of the community, says Roisin Marshall, chief executive of the Northern Ireland Council for Integrated Education (NICIE). She was talking in the latest Forward Together podcast from the Holywell Trust. “Integration isn’t about dumbing down anyone’s identity,” she says. “It’s about enabling people to have conversations which are sometimes about not agreeing with each …

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Reconciliation above all

Reconciliation is the primary necessity facing Northern Ireland, believes Peter Osborne. Peter is a former chair of both the Community Relations Council and the Parades Commission. He was talking in the latest Forward Together podcast from the Holywell Trust. “I come from a perspective of looking at what reconciliation is about,” says Peter. He argues that to achieve reconciliation it is essential to correct the structures that create separation. This has led him to strongly argue for the integration of …

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The north’s economic problem – education…

John FitzGerald is one of Ireland’s most respected and influential economists –formerly research professor at the Economic and Social Research Institute and currently chair of the group advising the Irish government on climate policy. He is a strong critic of Northern Ireland’s policies on education and skills training, arguing that these are core factors in the weakness of the northern economy. He is the latest interviewee in the Holywell Trust’s Forward Together podcast series. “In terms of productivity, Northern Ireland …

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Northern Ireland’s mental health crisis

Mental health is a global challenge, but poor mental health is at crisis levels in Northern Ireland. That crisis is in part an ongoing impact from the Troubles, Siobhan O’Neill, professor of mental health science at Ulster University, says in the latest Holywell Trust podcast. “We’re seeing a rise in mental health problems in the Western world,” says Siobhan. “We know that around one in four or one in five people in Europe and the West have a mental health …

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‘Transformative decisions on Northern Ireland have not been taken’, laments Peter Osborne

Northern Ireland is more than 20 years into a 50 year peace process, which is being held back because government here has failed to take the radical transformative steps that are required.  This is the view of Peter Osborne, the former chair of the Community Relations Council, in the latest Forward Together podcast. Peter explains: “We are in a process that will last at least 50 years. Some people thought when the [Good Friday] agreement was signed, we had peace. …

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Fifth NI Peace Monitoring Report shows a Northern Ireland stuck in neutral, sometimes in reverse #NIPMR

A look through the fifth NI Peace Monitoring Report, written by a team of academics at Ulster University and published today by the Community Relations Council. The answers in the 200 page report are not all positive as the team make their assessment of the state of the economy; political progress; the sense of safety; wealth, poverty and inequality; and cohesion and sharing.

Soapbox: The challenge to keep the peace process flowing forward

Peter Osborne is chair of the Community Relations Council and a member of the Peace Monitoring Report advisory group. He can be followed on Twitter at @OsborneTweets. The latest Northern Ireland Peace Monitoring Report [PDF] speaks into a space that hasn’t been as uncertain in a generation. While there were two steps forward and only one step back, a sense of confidence, hope and ambition defined the process; and confidence empowered progress no matter how slow at times. In recent …

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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 …

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