Thursday, 17 September 2009

Another healthy discussion in East Belfast

Once again, sorry for the quality of picture, it was taken on my Sméar Dhubh/Blackberry

Last night I attended the latest in a series of panel discussions, jointly organised by the Short Strand Partnership and the East Belfast Mission.

The first was held in the Mission on the Newtonards Road and was entitled ‘Constitutionally different – politically similar’ and then Sinn Féin Mayor of Belfast Tom Hartley and the PUP’s Dawn Purvis were on the panel, the second discussion was held in the community centre in the strand and was entitled, ‘Civil Rights or Civil Unrest’, this time you had Fergus O’Hare, Francie Molloy, Roy Garland and Paul Bew.

More on that here

Last night the discussion centred on the issue of parading; on the panel this time were to authorities on this matter, Sinn Féin MLA for north Belfast Carál Ní Chuilín and senior Orangeman and member of the Strategic Review on Parading, Mervyn Gibson.

While you could get into the minutia of each discussion I don’t think it serves any great purpose; the discussion are had, they are always courteous, civil, tempered and most importantly, honest.

Each one has given me on a personal basis a tremendous amount of consider and think about, not just as a Republican or a member of the Short Strand community but as an individual.

Much like the previous two, last night could have gone on for hours (although obviously people wanted to catch the end of the soccer matches!!) and I think people leave in the realisation that while these discussion aren’t going to suddenly change the world, they do contribute immensely in our endeavours to understand and respect each other.

I am delighted as an Irish Republican that a bus load of people from the Protestant/Unionist/Loyalist community can freely enter the Short Strand and have these discussion; I am equally humbled that I too can now head up the Newtonards Road and have similar discussions in those areas; in a very small way, but deeply recognised by those who take part, it is an indication of just how far we have moved.

I look forward to the next discussion which no doubt will be yet another worthwhile experience for all involved.

A special word must go to Joe and Gary who put so much into organising and facilitating these events; go raibh maith agaibh.

As I have stated on this blog previously, as an Irish Republican my politics and my ideology compels me to engage with those of opposing political viewpoints, I am committed to doing that, especially in an area like our own in East Belfast.

As Carál rightly said last night I’d sooner take the most die hard and have the conversation with them, because ultimately that is where we need to end up anyway!!

Almost immediately after the violence that flared on our streets at the beginning of the month, I and others from Sinn Féin, were on the Newtonards Road, granted it might have been a slightly more ‘heated’ discussion than last night but not by too much. I think there is realisation, as we continually seek to move out of conflict that we can leave the politicking and the cynical, brass neck media opportunities to others; we’ll get things resolved together, without being ‘wishy washy’ about this, but by talking and getting to know each other as people.

Go n-éirí linn!!


  1. Reposted this on

    Great stuff mo chara.

  2. Go raibh maith agat chara

    Once you reposted this and I read it, I realised how many typo's there are!!!

    Sometimes I type to quickly!!lol