The Alternative – where does the power lie, who knows best, will anyone ask let alone listen? (Fishamble’s A Play For Ireland at Lyric Theatre until Sunday 13 October)

Oisín Kearney and Michael Patrick’s playful counterfactual uses referendum concepts and lexicon – familiar from both Scotland’s indyref and the EU vote – to open up a conversation about who knows what is best for the people of Ireland, whether those who represent us actually listen to our views before making decisions, and ultimately where power lies in a society swayed by soundbite.

The Front Runner – Gary Hart’s campaign implosion and the fall out on the women around him – has much changed in 30 years?

When should a politician’s private life impact their public campaign? In this film, while the replay of the 1987 editorial and political conversations around the investigations into Gary Hart’s personal life are interesting, and the mobile phone and early Apple Macintosh props are fun to revisit, it’s the invasion of privacy of young women involved with married politicians and the seeming continued absence of editorial protection that are perhaps most disturbing to watch thirty years later.

Hear My Voice – a cinematic companion piece to Colin Davidson’s Silent Testimony

Hear My Voice is a cinematic companion piece to Colin Davidson’s Silent Testimony, a 2015 exhibition of 18 portraits of people who suffered loss during the local conflict, developed in conjunction with the WAVE Trauma Centre. The paintings are back in the Ulster Museum until Sunday 22 April and the exhibition is well worth a visit.

The Post – surefooted newspaper drama with obvious modern parallels

The parallels with 2018 are immense. The on-screen battle between politicians and the fourth estate may remind local audiences of politicians boycotting interviews with certain mainstream news outlets and harassed questioning the veracity and reporting of stories which are embarrassing. After nearly two hours, I also learnt that if you’re ever near the NY Times office, be careful crossing the road: nearly everyone in this film narrowly escapes being run over!

No Stone Unturned – a film that finally lifts the Loughinisland stones the RUC wouldn’t touch

New documentary examining the Loughinisland massacre goes deeper into the evidence that any existing investigations, naming the chief suspects. An exemplar on how to tell an investigative story in a manner which gives dignity to the victims and their families, No Stone Unturned avoids politicisation and politicians, and exposes the messy ‘dirty war’ that was thoroughly intertwined with the paramilitary action during the Troubles.

Review: Michelle & Arlene – two game politicians flip flop after staying in close contact over summer

What would it take for a Northern Ireland politician to change their mind on one of any number of intractable issues? A satirical play finds out what might happen if Arlene Foster and Michelle O’Neill spent time away together and faced up to some of the policy issues that divide their parties and stall political progress. Accidental Theatre produce Rosemary Jenkinson’s Rapid Response play.

Film review – Bobby Sands: 66 Days

BOBBY SANDS: 66 DAYS is a documentary film that weaves together the story of 1970s and 1980s republicanism with day by day updates on Sands’ condition and diary entries throughout his hunger strike. It’s neither an apologetic nor a rose-tinted documentary. The film sets events firmly in context but the critique of the hunger strike, the decisions of the UK government and the protest’s long term effect is fairly lenient.

Review – The Truth Commissioner – can he deliver truth, healing and closure?

The Truth Commissioner had its world première screening in front of a paying audience in the Queen’s Film Theatre on Monday 1 February as part of their Made in Britain season. The adaptation of David Park’s award winning book (reviewed) examines some of the complexity of the legacy issues Northern Ireland has yet to fully grasp. Henry Stanfield is a serial peace-builder, a career diplomat who flies in to heal wounds and build bridges in conflicted regions of the world. …

Read more…

Eat Your Children: chasing the lost unicorn of Irish citizen protest #bff15

“We’re not Ireland, we will resist” (Greek austerity protest chant) Has Ireland lost its protest mojo? Flatmates Treasa O’Brien and Mary Jane O’Leary bailed out of Ireland to study in London and Barcelona. Partly motivated by the Greek chant and surprised by the contrast behind high profile citizen action in countries like Spain and the lack of news reaching them from Ireland, the friends came back to their homeland and toured around in a white Transit van to make a …

Read more…

Danny Morrison’s “West Belfast”: a coming of age novel set against the backdrop of a city in conflict

I grew up hearing Danny Morrison’s name on the radio at breakfast time as Sinn Féin’s Director of Publicity. More recently I’ve known him as chair of Féile an Phobail and spotted his attendance at many of the festival’s events in St Mary’s and the annual West Belfast Talks Back debate. But I’d never realised he was an author until his book (re)launch earlier this year at the end of January. Spread over a decade, West Belfast is a coming …

Read more…

Donaldson in review

It is a pity that coverage of the Donaldson review has focussed on his comments on the number of hospitals in Northern Ireland relative to its population.  It is true that he remarks on this, but his report is a lot broader than considering whether skills are being spread too thinly across too many hospitals – something korhomme discusses here, and I comment on briefly with regard to locations. What stands out is that Sir Liam considers the Northern Ireland …

Read more…

“We, Too, Sing Belfast” … perhaps subtitled “We, Too, Snap @NewBelfast!”

364 days, an estimated 2,000 engagements, thousands of handshakes, around 25,000 tweets, and goodness knows how many selfies … that was a year in the life of Máirtín Ó Muilleoir as Lord Mayor of Belfast. I’m sure many people rolled their eyes or tutted when they heard that the Lord Mayor had agreed to allow a professional photographer to follow him around. From August 2013 through to June 2014, Donal McCann captured images wherever Máirtín Ó Muilleoir went, including travelling …

Read more…

Review: My Only Crime was Loyalty (Jamie Bryson) – “Compromising isn’t my style”

I am not a diplomat and nor would I want to be. Compromising isn’t my style. When people talk to me about Jamie Bryson there are a number of questions they repeatedly pose. Is he stupid? Has he gone away? How did he end up a flag protest leader? The first two questions can be answered with ‘no’. And along with the third, they’re at least partly explained in Bryson’s latest book My Only Crime Was Loyalty which he has …

Read more…

A is for Activist

From an early age, children are introduced to animals, right and wrong, concepts of fulfilment and disappointment, fear and joy, all through chewed hardback books. Princesses are in need of rescue, dogs misbehave and talk, mice covet strawberries. Wealth is equated with happiness, poverty with sorrow. How do you introduce the concepts of social justice, gender equality, caring for the environment, and the responsibility for citizens to fight for each other’s rights? Innosanto Nagara wrote A is for Activist. Originally …

Read more…

Belfast 400: People, Place and History (Sean Connolly, editor)

Ten days ago I finished reading Belfast 400: People, Place and History, a book published to mark the four hundredth anniversary of the city’s charter. In the light of last week’s reawakened community tensions and violence, it is interesting to look back at the roots of the city and its journey into the twenty first century. Belfast 400’s chapters are written by a series of experts and edited by Prof Sean Connolly from QUB School of History and Anthropology. The …

Read more…

The extraordinarily small gene pool for NI Civil Service reviews

Here’s an interesting snippet. It’s an Assembly Question from Patsy McGlone to Tom Elliott regarding “the independent board of inquiry that was convened to consider the disciplinary charges” against Paul Priestly. It’s interesting for a number of reasons: To ask the First Minister and deputy First Minister, in relation to the independent board of inquiry that was convened to consider the disciplinary charges against a senior civil servant, to detail (i) the terms of reference; (ii) the members on the …

Read more…