Media’s role in mediating our ‘different psychic landscapes’

A set of current and former journalists shared their experiences and thoughts on the role of media and social debate across the island of Ireland. Hosted by the Irish Association, the event “Journalism without borders” attracted several dozen, including other journalists and commentators. The discussion explored what we think the public knows about society on both sides of the border, and why or why not that is the case. Indeed, Stephen Douds (president of the Irish Association) explained in his introduction a motivation …

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‘Just drawing support’ — Bill Rolston’s latest catch of mural hunting

Bill Rolston published the first volume of Drawing Support in 1992, which contained images of 100 murals from the previous decade. Thirty years later, the fifth volume has just been published, and at a Feile an Phobail event Rolston spoke about his never-ending “mural hunting”, accompanied by recollections of muralist Danny Devenny. Claire Hackett welcomed and informed the audience that in addition to the latest and previous volumes of Drawing Support available for sale here, Rolson, with Robbie McVeigh, are …

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‘The South is not ready for unification’: Andy Pollak

The theme for the 35th John Hewitt International Summer School was “Finding the national: redefining home and country for a shared future”, which asked how much “home”, “country”, “identity”, and “nation” matter, or should matter in a shared future, and the experience of those who feel excluded from existing political structures. Speaking at the Market Place Theatre and Arts Centre in Armagh, journalist and civil activist Andy Pollak presented an appropriate talk, “The South is not ready for unification”. He …

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#AE22 Photo Gallery

I’m making the most of my media pass taking photos at the election count at the Titanic Exhibition Centre, for my own endeavours. But sharing them here out of interest. I’ll add more later tonight, but the rumour is that they’ll call time here at 10.00pm. Some fresh images from today’s continuation of the count at the Titanic Exhibition Centre: Final shots: Allan LEONARD (Mr Ulster) Peacebuilding a shared Northern Irish society • Editor @SharedFuture • Treasurer @NUJBelfast • Mastodon …

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Sinn Féin’s historical revisionism has nowhere to hide

Trying to rewrite history is never a good idea. So when Sinn Féin’s official social media account claimed at the weekend that “On this day in 1905 Sinn Féin was founded” and proceeded to say that on that day “we outlined our position”, it naturally raised a few eyebrows within the historian community. The thing is with historians, they are fact-based people, so if you lie about something in history they will ruthlessly expose you for it. The backlash to …

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In the absence of real deterrents, you’ll catch more students with honey than with vinegar

It would be difficult to look at the scenes from the Holylands of Belfast in the last number of days and not be very concerned. Scores of students partying until the early hours of the morning caused understandable frustration and fury among residents and a media furore. Either the young people in question do not fully understand the risk to themselves and others around them, or, the public awareness campaign is not persuading them sufficiently, or, they both understand and …

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Happy Birthday Emmanuel Goldstein

Scapegoating is always so helpful in politics, is it not?  It’s so cost-effective, and saves so much trouble.  Rather than admit to your audience that there are no easy solutions to the problems facing your people, and that things are a lot more complicated than was previously thought, all you need to do is affect some fake moral outrage and point the finger at [insert identifiable target here].  The practice has been used as long as politics has existed, of …

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A passion for social justice: Tribute to Anne MOORE

Anne Moore will be remembered for her passion for social justice. I met Anne during my employment as a policy officer for the Alliance Party as I sought out the views of a valued stakeholder, NICVA, where she served as public affairs officer. Anne and I had plenty of enjoyable conversations and discussions on official as well as unofficial business matters—we would frequently diverge to global and philosophical perspectives. I regret that we didn’t continue such conversations as our careers …

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The new normal is an opportunity for Northern Ireland’s centre ground

The centre ground in Northern Ireland has been a tough road for the last fifteen years. Rightly or wrongly, the truth is that our own version of it has been a somewhat half-hearted attempt to be brave enough to say that elections, as opposed to a border poll if and when there is one, need not necessarily be about securing the most nationalist or unionist votes.  Recently, Irish economist David McWilliams when describing how Churchill had won the war but …

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Asking the right questions for a better-informed public

Asking the right questions for a better-informed public by Allan LEONARD 28 January 2020 Representing FactCheckNI and as part of a four-person panel, I was invited to give evidence to the UK House of Lords Select Committee on Democracy and Digital Technologies. Fellow witnesses were Ed Humpherson (Director General for Regulation, Office for Statistics Regulation (OSR)), Will Moy (Chief Executive, Full Fact), and Jenni Sargent (Managing Director, First Draft). This was an extension of the committee’s previous call for written …

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Lies and democracy: Who are the truth tellers?

Lies and democracy: Who are the truth tellers? by Allan LEONARD 6 December 2019 As part of the annual general meeting of NICVA, the umbrella body of the voluntary and community sector in Northern Ireland, there was a panel discussion on the topics of truth, trust, and how everyone engages with a bombardment of information. Entitled, “Lies and Democracy: The Fight for the Truth”, BBC Radio Ulster presenter, Seamus McKee, moderated the discussion with panellists Amanda Ferguson, John Barry, and …

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The polite rebel: Sheelagh Murnaghan

The polite rebel: Sheelagh Murnaghan by Allan LEONARD 3 October 2019 Sheelagh Murnaghan was the only Liberal Party MP (1961-69) in the Northern Ireland Parliament, representing the constituency of Queen’s University Belfast, which was the venue for a launch event of a new biography about her remarkable life. There were many Murnaghan family members in the audience of a few dozen attending. The book, Sheelagh Murnaghan, was commissioned by the Albert McElroy Memorial Fund, which was established to commemorate the …

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For Northern Ireland: Parity of esteem and reconciliation

For Northern Ireland: Parity of esteem and reconciliation by Allan LEONARD 1 August 2019 As part of the 31st annual Féile festival, Jim Gibney (a member of the Féile Debates and Discussions Committee) welcomed the audience of a couple dozen attendees of a panel discussion on what parity of esteem, reconciliation, and mutual respect means from those who are pro-Union. The panellists were Professor Peter Shirlow (Institute of Irish Studies, University of Liverpool), Dr James Wilson (Initiative for Civic Space), …

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Country before Party? A UUP book launch discussion

Image source: (c) Allan LEONARD @MrUlster

At the launch event for “The Ulster Unionist Party: Country before Party?” there was a roundtable discussion former-leader Mike Nesbitt, press officer Lauren Kerr and Alex Kane (its former director of communications). They discussed the party‘s performance, policies and appeal as well as its future role in Northern Ireland politics. Read about what was said and watch back the conversation.

Is it possible to be friends with someone who has opposing political views?

I have watched John McDonnell’s interview on Newsnight and the question of being friends with a member of the Conservative Party. Now it’s important to point out this exists across politics and not just here. Surveys in the United States have shown some people who are Republicans wouldn’t marry a Democrat and vice versa. In the age of politics becoming more polarised between differing factions it’s disheartening to see such tribalism. Why, I hear you ask? Because in the same …

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Why do we need a government anyway?

In 7 days we will overtake Belguim for the record of longest time without a government. Now putting aside the whole debate of do we have a government or regional assembly the big issue is no one seems to care. People are not exactly taking to the streets demanding the restoration of Stormont, so it is fair to conclude the general population could not give a monkies if it ever comes back. There is the wedeservebetter campaign but really what is …

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“To change the riverflow of history”: Constitutional pasts and futures @UCDdublin #GFA20

“To change the riverflow of history”: Constitutional pasts and futures @UCDdublin #GFA20
by Allan LEONARD for Shared Future News
8 May 2018

Political and legal scholars, peacemakers and peacebuilders convened at the Royal Irish Academy to review and discuss potential constitutional relationships between Ireland and the United Kingdom, especially vis-a-vis Northern Ireland and the Belfast/Good Friday Agreement and the import of Brexit.

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Engage with the Power of Reason

Peter O’Neill is the director and founder of the Imagine Festival of Politics and Ideas. Politics in Northern Ireland has had a tough year. With no Executive since January 2017, an election that changed little just over a year ago and the prospect of our departure from the EU firmly on the horizon, you could be forgiven for thinking that ideas on how to overcome these challenges are in short supply. One of the victims of the political impasse has …

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Engage with the Power of Reason – #imaginebelfast festival (12-18 March)

Between 12 and 18 March, Imagine! Belfast Festival of Ideas & Politics will host 80 free events in over 30 venues across the city to encourage people to engage with the big issues of our times, whether that be Brexit, poverty, (in)equality, gender or fake news. There’ll be talks, workshops, theatre, comedy, music, film, tours, exhibitions, dance, poetry and a video competition.

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.

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