Unfinished business – West Belfast Talked Back and I listened…

There was a time, not very long ago when the only reason people from unionist areas would have gone to West Belfast would have been to pick up their car after it had been stolen and abandoned. These days West Belfast is a far less frightening place which welcomes visitors, particularly those who would have formerly shunned it. Féile an Phobail has played an enormous part in changing the reputation of that part of the city and opening it up … Read more

Cloughjordan Ecovillage – Another World is Possible for Belfast

Lessons for Belfast Urban Regeneration at Féile an Phobail 2017 By Peadar Kirby & Peter Doran While Ireland was living through the most severe economic collapse of its history since independence, a group of pioneering people were sowing the seeds of a new society through founding the ecovillage of Cloughjordan in County Tipperary. Seeking to model sustainable living for the 21st century, the ecovillagers conceived their project during the boom years of Ireland’s Celtic Tiger in the late 1990s and … Read more

Féile an Phobail this week – RHI, Harold Good, unity, unionism, and drama #feile17

UNITY & UNIONISM are just two of the many, many topics being tackled at Féile an Phobail this week. David McCann will chair a discussion about RHI and media, Rev Harold Good will reflect on peace processes around the world, party leaders will discuss a ‘New Ireland’, and another panel will dissect the shrinking unionist vote. And then there’s the annual West Belfast Talks Back ding dong … #feile17

Breaking the logjam on legacy issues – Discussion this Friday as part of Feile an Phobail…

Dealing with our past, never mind healing its wounds, has been an ongoing challenge since the signing of the Good Friday/Belfast Agreement nearly twenty years ago.  So far our politicians have not been able to form a consensus on how best to address the past. In the absence of any formal political agreement, it’s crucial to keep the conversation going and to provide platforms for people from different backgrounds to offer their perspectives on the issues, and to challenge existing … Read more

Some highlights of this years 2016 Féile an Phobail, the West Belfast Festival…

Féile an Phobail, the West Belfast Festival will shortly kick off with this year’s selection of debates, music, discussion, cultural events and comedy to mention some of the key elements within it. It runs from 3rd August – 14th August though the programme gives details of some events outside these dates. Féile began in 1988 as a way of showcasing the positive side of the west of Belfast city and to channel energy into creative expression. That time of the … Read more

Building trust and policing for the present – Martin McGuinness and George Hamilton at #feile15

Around 400 people filled the assembly hall of St Mary’s University College to hear deputy First Minster Martin McGuinness and PSNI Chief Constable George Hamilton discuss the challenges of dealing with the past under the eye of chair Brian Rowan. Another 100 or more stood along the pavement outside St Mary’s protesting at the presence of the Chief Constable in West Belfast and calling for an end to “British internment in Ireland”. A tannoy blasted music over the railing towards … Read more

Austerity – is there a credible left-wing alternative? (Answer = not yet, but Sinn Féin are up for civic protest) #feile15

Against a backdrop of “working people facing an onslaught of right wing policies in Ireland and across Britain”, the panel chair explained that this Féile an Phobail event was the “first time we’ve had these progressive organisations come together and share a stage”. Twenty five plus years on since the community festival’s inception – and I understand some of the history and purpose of its creation – it’s remarkable that the organisers have allowed the programming to remain so tightly … Read more

West Belfast Talks Back #feile15 – O Broin, Robinson, Corbyn & McKeever

Long before the annual West Belfast Talks Back event had begun, spare chairs had been carried in and occupied, and the walls were lined with people keen to hear the debate. Labour leadership candidate Jeremy Corbyn raised an arm as he walked up to the stage to a roar of applause – perhaps his only Blairite gesture of the evening. The first questioner asked what hope the panel could bring to people in Palestine? East Belfast MP Gavin Robinson pointed … Read more

The Proclamation for Prods: what the 1916 centenary might say to non-republicans #feile15

We are richer as people when we not only know a view point but can appreciate it. Dave Thompson is a teacher, runner, Presbyterian elder and SDLP member (who self-identifies as not being very nationalist). He delivered an hour long lecture that unpicked various perspectives on the 1916 Proclamation. The universal republican ideals – equality, liberty, fraternity – those are things we still care about in the 21st century, and things we’ll still be doing in the 22nd century. So … Read more

Monica McWilliams – What difference does conflict or peace make for women? #feile15

Power works through dominion, but it also works through dependence … [yet] power can be changed. Wearing DDP Barra McGrory’s glasses until her own were located, Prof Monica McWilliams delivered a lecture this evening in St Mary’s University College on Conflict or Peace: What difference does it make for women? as part of Féile an Phobail. The academic and former Human Rights Commissioner highlighted instances of violence and discrimination against women in conflicts around the world, including Northern Ireland. The … Read more

An uncomfortable conversation* at #Feile15 [*in the sense that a lack of hope leads optimism to wither]

Pulling names out of a hat to decide the order of speaking, Presbyterian Minister and deputy Equality Commissioner Rev Lesley Carroll began by looking through “a dark lens” and delivered a downbeat assessment of the present state of reconciliation in Northern Ireland – we need to “change our tune, change our dance steps, or we’ll burrow a hole in the ground and fall into it”. She was followed by CRC chair Peter Osborne who spoke about continued segregation, relative funding … Read more

Féile an Phobail – Jeremy Corbyn, Mairia Cahill … and the 1916 Proclamation for Prods

Left-wing Labour leadership candidate Jeremy Corbyn joins the West Belfast Talks Back panel for the annual political knockabout in St Louise’s Comprehensive College. Noel Thompson will keep the peace and chair the panel that includes Sinn Féin South Dublin councillor Eoin Ó Broin, PUP councillor Julie-Anne Corr Johnston and DUP MP Gavin Robinson. Wednesday 5 August at 7pm. This year’s Féile an Phobail runs from Thursday 30 July until Sunday 9 August. While the programme includes hundreds of events, listed … Read more

Listen back to West Belfast Talks Back – Gaza, LGBT rights, lights out, #indyref & Haass #wbtalksback

Noel Thompson swapped the comfy chair in the Good Morning Ulster studio to be ringmaster at West Belfast Talks Back this evening with Danny Kennedy (UUP, Minister of Regional Development), Fr Tim Bartlett (Catholic Church), Rev Dr Leslie Carroll (Presbyterian) and John O’Down (Sinn Féin, Minister of Education) in front of an audience of three hundred. You can listen back to debate in two halves [two MP3s]. listen to ‘1/2 West Belfast Talks Back at @feilebelfast’ on Audioboo With no … Read more

West Belfast Youth Talks Back … but mostly to itself #openuptheconversation #youthtalksback

Yvette Shapiro introduced this year’s panel to an audience of 30 or so youth and another 30 less youthful in Whiterock Leisure Centre: Cllr Steven Corr (SF), Julie-Anne Corr (PUP), Anna Lo MLA (Alliance) and Sean Connolly (applied psychologist). She reminded the audience that the young people from West Belfast’s Upper Springfield Development Trust Participation Group had identified education, racism and apathy as local concerns. The sound in the hall was variable and the recordings are hissy (despite my attempts … Read more

1994 Ceasefire declaration recollections at Féile … perhaps next year will answer “Why did the IRA call the ceasefire?”

Twenty years on the from the IRA and loyalist ceasefires, three journalists came together to reflect on the lead up to the summer of 1994 and the following 18 months. Brian Rowan, Eamonn Mallie and Charlie Bird (RTE’s contact with the IRA) recounted their memories of the emerging and fragile peace in an event organised as part of Féile an Phobail. “Sometimes when you’re living through history you don’t see it.” (Charlie Bird) It was a great opportunity for notes … Read more

Iain Overton: human rights and hubris #feile2014 @amnestyni

Iain Overton delivered this year’s annual investigative journalism and human rights lecture at lunchtime today as part of Féile an Phobail. It may also have been the first [Ed – and last?] annual honest-about-hubris lecture. But more about that later. In a change of format away from Amnesty’s previous panels of local journalists, Iain began his solo lecture [MP3] by outlining his circuitous route through two degrees and a spell in British Airways before entering into journalism. Exposing corruption and … Read more