An original commemoration of the Fallen of World War One

You might have missed the centenary of the Day the Guns Fell Silent on 11th November, as commemorated  with terrific originality in the Pages of the Sea project devised by the film director Danny Boyle. Ireland was well represented by three very different people in three spectacular beach locations. Boyle’s brilliant Olympic 2012 opening ceremony in London displayed the British gift for creating new traditions without irritating venerable traditionalists with dogmatic lessons about the iniquities of war and the  British … Read more

The Downside of Success – Coping with our increasing tourist numbers…

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Over the past number of years, Northern Ireland’s tourism industry has maintained a steady growth and our visitor attractions have continued to become more popular than ever. These high levels of tourism are a relatively new phenomenon for the region and perhaps not one we have yet learnt how to deal with properly. In 2017 there were an estimated 4.9 million overnight trips in Northern Ireland, the highest estimates on record. Many of our most popular visitor attractions are purpose-built … Read more

New course at Stranmillis University College. Key players from October 1968 discuss the events of half a century ago…

Stranmillis University College’s Lifelong Learning team are launching a major Living History project next month to mark the half century of the civil rights march in Londonderry on 5 October 1968 which will include live interviews with key people who were involved at the time. Among those who have agreed to take part are  Bernadette McAliskey, Brid Rodgers, May Blood, Eileen Paisley, Austin Currie, John Kilclooney, Stratton Mills, Kenneth Bloomfield, Danny Morrison and Billy Hutchinson.  Shirley Williams, appointed by Harold Wilson to be the first … Read more

I Preferred Groucho…

I know visitors to Slugger tend to shy away from articles with deliberately provocative opening statements, but I’m going to do it anyway: Marx Was Right! Well, how could he not be? Especially when you can see for yourself the evident reasonableness in his best-known pronouncements: From the moment I picked your book up until I laid it down I was convulsed with laughter. Someday I intend on reading it. I don’t have a photograph. I’d give you my footprints, … Read more

Ireland and slavery, then and now, free event…

We know that Ireland like most countries in Western Europe got caught up in the 18th-century slave trade and Irish merchants could benefit from the produce of the West Indies. Belfast was not exempt. The wealthy businessman Waddell Cunningham had a plantation in the Caribbean (called Belfast !) to take just one example. However there was a formidable opposition to slavery among the citizens of the growing late-18th century town, often involving radically-minded women – and a welcome was given … Read more

On Prague and its Windows

To read about the history of any great city is to behold a window (of sorts) into the past, but that of the Czech Republic’s capital has boasted arguably more spectacular views than many others. An important political and cultural fulcrum of Central Europe since the Middle Ages, the city certainly has a chequered and eventful heritage, and one that continues to provide drama and incident. Among other developments, Brexiteers on both sides of the Irish Sea are looking to … Read more

The need for an agreed history…

“History, Stephen said, is a nightmare from which I am trying to awake”. Oh Mr. Daedalus, if only you had been in Northern Ireland in 2018. History is everywhere in our political reality, and also somehow nowhere. It is slippery and vague, not unlike the content of a nightmare the moment the dreamer jolts awake. I turned 18 a few weeks before I voted for the first time, and that vote was on the Belfast Agreement. It was, to me, … Read more

Exhibition launch: “We Lived It: The Social Impact of the Troubles” @TheLinenHall

Exhibition launch: “We Lived It: The Social Impact of the Troubles” @TheLinenHall
by Allan LEONARD @SharedFuture
2 August 2017

The Linen Hall Library has presented the first of two exhibitions of its Divided Society digitisation and outreach project. “We Lived It: The Social Impact of the Troubles” contains artwork, imagery, ephemera, and oral history extracts from firsthand accounts of individual experiences.

Read moreExhibition launch: “We Lived It: The Social Impact of the Troubles” @TheLinenHall

I am a peace journalist, because I believe in transforming conflict-driven narratives. I am editor of Shared Future News, which reports on peacebuilding in Northern Ireland. I am a co-founder and editor of FactCheckNI, Northern Ireland’s first fact-checking service, which works improve civic discourse. I also support the conflict resolution work of the Forum for Cities in Transition in Belfast.

My interests include Northern Ireland, peacebuilding, photography, and politics. You can also read my work at Northern Slant and Slugger O’Toole and learn more about me at Mr Ulster.

Fresh evidence from the archives: When did Martin McGuinness actually leave the PIRA?

A previously unseen archival document compiled on behalf of the Conservative Party Northern Ireland Committee, dated 3 July 1975, and located in the Julian Amery Papers, Churchill Archives Centre, University of Cambridge, reveals that despite Martin McGuinness’s repeated assurances that he left the Provisional Irish Republican Army (PIRA) in 1974, senior members of the British Conservative Party and British Army believed that McGuinness was still a prominent ‘I. R. A. leader’ in Derry by the summer of 1975, to quote … Read more

Now the turn of Seamus Mallon at 80. Why he and Trimble were unable to unite over arms decommissioning remains unexplained

Following the tributes to John Hume on his 80th   birthday, the venerable SDLP deputy leader and  the initial deputy first minster Seamus Mallon has given a fascinating interview to the Irish News  for his own  80th. In passing I can’t help noticing the comparisons and contrasts with Sinn Fein. What are yours? On working with David Trimble, Ulster unionist leader and the first FM Mallon says his permanent secretary, civil servant Billy Gamble – “an absolute gem” – regularly had … Read more

John Hume, a thumbnail sketch of achievement and failure

I’ve never been quite sure if we can call John Hume an unvarnished nationalist, but if we do, he was a great example of a leading nationalist who wanted to reach agreement more than attain  the goal of  Irish unity, as expressed in  his  wonderful oxymoron, “ an agreed Ireland.” While he enjoyed his hard- won international contacts, he remained unassuming, friendly and well grounded. Like many accomplished politicians he was less well regarded in some places where it mattered. … Read more

Without fear or favour: 30 years of Troubled Images

Without fear or favour: 30 years of Troubled Images
by Allan LEONARD for Northern Ireland Foundation
28 November 2016

The latest incarnation of the Troubled Images project — the launch of a free downloadable iBook  — was cause for a reunion of sorts at the Linen Hall Library for the original team that compiled and published its original CD-ROM 15 years ago.

Read moreWithout fear or favour: 30 years of Troubled Images

I am a peace journalist, because I believe in transforming conflict-driven narratives. I am editor of Shared Future News, which reports on peacebuilding in Northern Ireland. I am a co-founder and editor of FactCheckNI, Northern Ireland’s first fact-checking service, which works improve civic discourse. I also support the conflict resolution work of the Forum for Cities in Transition in Belfast.

My interests include Northern Ireland, peacebuilding, photography, and politics. You can also read my work at Northern Slant and Slugger O’Toole and learn more about me at Mr Ulster.

Digitising the peace process

Digitising the peace process by Allan LEONARD for Northern Ireland Foundation 1 September 2016 “You have to go to the archives!” an academic supervisor once advised me. At the time, this meant physically traveling to where the precious documents were stored, with your official letter requesting access permission, and spending hours transcribing (sometimes with only a pencil allowed). You were thankful if the items were available on microfilm or microfiche, because it took less time to review more material. And … Read more

SAS commander Blair Mayne’s reputation reviewed in an authorised history

Well whaddya know! The last shreds of mystery have been torn away, as the UK government has authorised “Rogue Heroes,  an authorised History of the SAS” by Ben McIntyre. The Times (£) has been extracting from it as he is an assistant editor. The history is limited to the WW2 and the immediate post war period. It doesn’t take in more recent SAS activity like the “war on terror” in Iraq and even Syria and long days spent on surveillance … Read more

Robin Chichester Clarke was the last of the gentry that treated government as part of the family business.

Robin Chichester -Clarke, the last of the old unionist gentry to hold office in either Stormont or Westminster,  died a fortnight ago at home in Norfolk at the age of 88.  His elder brother Jimmy, later Lord Moyola, (familiarly known as  “Chi-Chi,” after a notably  infertile panda) was Northern Ireland’s penultimate  prime minister in the darkening years of  1969 to 1971. Their family home was the handsome Moyola Park outside Castledawson, now a golf club. They belonged to a small elite … Read more

British Irishman, not a Black and Tan

In the Ireland of 2016 the British community (Protestant and unionists) still carry the curse of plantation, Cromwell, the famine, the Black and Tans and one-party rule Stormont. (Read ‘Being a planter‘ here.) The Protestant and unionists are the villains, by birth levied and vilified with historical wrong. Catholic is Erin and virtue, Protestant is Saxon and guilt. When Americans think of Britain they think of Monty Python or Downton Abbey. When the French think of Britain they think of … Read more

Time cannot silence the Voices of the Somme

At the start of July I posted on Slugger O’Toole to introduce Somme Voices, a month-long series of daily tweets in remembrance of that dreadful World War One battle. I’m returning to Slugger to bring the Somme Voices project to a close with a final poem. The reason is that I’d like to quote this one in its entirety and Twitter is a less-than-perfect medium for something of considerable length. It does, however, give me the chance to make a … Read more

Why we need more sixth century historians

“All this has happened before, and all of it will happen again.”  – Battlestar Galactica Vice-Chancellor of Queen’s University, Patrick Johnston, caused a furore this week with his comments claiming that “society does not need a 21-year-old that’s a sixth century historian”. Instead, he opined that “It needs a 21-year-old who really understands how to analyse things, understands the tenets of leadership and contributing to society, who is a thinker and someone who has the potential to help society drive … Read more

David Beresford hunger strike journalist and historian, RIP

The best journalists are often oddballs. They can win close access to power, regardless of whether power is of the state or anti -state variety. They   lack – and often spurn – status. They tend to walk alone and barely recognise dress codes. Perhaps their greatest quality is persistence against the odds, in which courage and ego play equal parts.   If they have to, they skirt round or quietly ignore the rules of the institutions they work for and … Read more