Category Archives: cross-community

IAUC covers new ground in cross-community dialogue at 2007 convention

groupboston.jpgIrish American Unity Conference (IAUC) President John Fogarty hailed the success of this year’s national convention in Boston, calling it a ground-breaking effort on behalf of Irish America in the encouragement and facilitation of cross-community dialogue in the north of Ireland. This year’s convention brought together members of both the unionist and nationalist communities, including academics, community workers, politicians and political ex-prisoners. Speakers included Dr. Pete Shirlow, Raymond Stewart, Terry Kirby, Bobby Lavery, Matt Morrison, Paul Harkin, Gerry McHugh, Roy Garland, Máirtín Ó Muilleoir, Raymond McCord, Nuala O’Loan and Father Aiden Troy. Participants took part in public and private discourse throughout the weekend, speaking forthrightly and respectfully without diluting their beliefs or holding back their opinions in order to be polite.

Speaking at the close of the convention, President Fogarty said, “In order to move forward and come together, we need to recognize each other’s positions and allow time for understanding, even if we do not agree. Through dialogue we might develop the level of understanding necessary to produce genuine visions of a common future in the north of Ireland that is both inclusive and just. As witnessed in Boston this weekend, the Irish peace process does not simply belong to the political parties, it belongs to the people.”

Though political parties are at the center of representative democracy, it is the belief of the IAUC that political agendas very often slow down or even halt the process of engagement. The honest discourse which was witnessed and participated in at this year’s convention reinforced the notion that ordinary people, motivated by the desire to secure a safe and egalitarian future for all our people, can create a parallel avenue for advancement; can create a situation atmospherically which supports and facilitates the ability of the political parties to interface to the benefit of all.

President Fogarty went on to say, “The IAUC appreciates the difficult and often painful work necessary to bring about true and lasting political change, and we will continue to use our resources to encourage such discussion in the future. Irish America has played such an integral role in the Irish peace process, and we should continue to be used as a tool to lay the groundwork for political and socioeconomic change in Ireland in any way that we can.”


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Filed under cross-community, human rights, IAUC, ireland, Irish peace process

Unionists spark heated debate at IAUC convention


Unionists spark heated debate at IAUC convention
By Irish Echo Staff

(Pictured from the left are: republican ex-prisoner Terry Kirby, IAUC President John Fogarty, IAUC Treasurer Gretchen Bales, and IAUC Chairman of the Board Dr. Robert C. Linnon)


Unionist voices at the Irish American Unity Conference annual convention in Boston last weekend brought a new dimension to the annual gathering of the pro-United Ireland activists.

The most heated exchanges of the day followed repeated assertions by Raymond McCord that the IRA ex-prisoners present were “terrorists”.

McCord, whose son Raymond was murdered by a loyalist gang leader who was a police agent, rebutted claims by former republican prisoner Gabriel Megahey that the IRA had acted in defense of embattled nationalist communities in 1969.

“I have acted in defense of my family,” said McCord. “I have beaten up loyalist paramilitaries who threatened my family but when did the IRA’s defense become putting bombs in pubs in the middle of Belfast?”

On several occasions, McCord challenged his audience to tell him how his three grandchildren would be better off in a united Ireland.

“Convince me they’ll be better off and I’ll vote for a united Ireland,” he said.

However, McCord remained unimpressed by the answers he received.

“No one here has answered my question satisfactorily,” he told Saturday’s closing session of the convention.

Ulster Unionist Roy Garland said dialogue was the cornerstone of continuing reconciliation in Northern Ireland. He had harsh condemnation for Dr. Ian Paisley’s DUP, recalling that Ian Paisley Jr., now a minister in the Northern Ireland Executive, had demanded Garland be drummed out of the UUP for being pictured with Gerry Adams and Albert Reynolds.

Fr. Aidan Troy, the North Belfast priest who famously defended schoolchildren who were the focus of angry loyalist pickets outside Holy Cross school told the convention that education was crucial to the future of Northern Ireland.

“The key to carrying the process forward is education,” he said.

Responding to questions about the need to encourage integrated education, Troy defended the right of parents to chose a Catholic education for their children.

“But I would like to see the Catholic hierarchy come forward and to say, what contribution can we make to integrated education. However, we can’t expect the children at integrated schools to carry the burden of integrating their communities if at home their parents and grandparents are carrying a contrary message,” he said.

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Filed under cross-community, human rights, IAUC, ireland, Irish Echo, Irish peace process, Raymond McCord

Let’s not gloss over the facts

From David McKittrick’s article in today’s Independent, “Staying on one side or the other makes life less complicated”:

Their widely differing takes on the Troubles were starkly illustrated by a poll that showed 86 per cent of Protestants approved of the police using plastic bullets while 87 per cent of Catholics disapproved.

The gulf in these mindsets is so wide that, apart from television and radio debates, it is extremely rare for committed unionists and committed nationalists to debate such things.

McKittrick doesn’t provide any explanation or attempt at a reason to explain this “gulf in mindsets”–and I’m already bored thinking about the reasoning behind this–but the facts are out there, and it bothers me to see an issue like this laid out there in the “we just see things differently” sort of way.

In 2000, Fionnuala Ní Aoláin, now Director of the Tranisitional Justice Program at the University of Ulster, published a study called the Politics of Force: Conflict Management and State Violence in Northern Ireland  that I am reading as background for my thesis.   Her study shows notable patterns in the use of state force and the typology of victims–namely that an overwhelming number of victims (85%) of state violence were from the minority (Catholic) community, as opposed to 11% from the Protestant community (with 4% “other”).  Kind of puts the poll in a different perspective now, doesn’t it?

“If we acknowledge that lethal force has, in fact, been a prevalent and widespread component of the minority community’s experience within the state,” writes Ní Aoláin, “then this acknowledgement, in turn, must validate and reinforce the minority’s perception of the states and its agents.”

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Filed under belfast, British army, British government, cross-community, human rights, ireland, Irish peace process, policing

The Liverpool Mural Project

murallogo.jpgThanks to Peter for tipping me off to all the hard work going on at the Liverpool Mural Project, which Belfast mural artists Danny Devenny and Mark Ervine plan to participate in soon.  The project will create a series of murals for the 2008 European Capital of Culture Celebrations in an effort not only to showcase local talent and celebrate the culture of the Liverpool community (think Beatles, for example) but to encourage economic regeneration and community participation:

The Liverpool Mural Project is a unique project which is aiming to bring the skills and experience of mural artists from all communities of Belfast, working together and with community groups in Liverpool. Our objective is to create distinctive non-political murals for Liverpool’s 2008 European Capital of Culture year, celebrating Liverpool’s proud history and culture.

They are bringing together both republican and loyalist (nationalist/unionist?) mural artists to collaborate with local artists in Liverpool on these murals, yet the Liverpool Culture Company (kind of an odd name, don’t you think?  a culture “company”) refused the project funding because they do not consider it to be “edgy enough.”  Ahem.  All very interesting given the fact that the Liverpool ’08 site describes their “Creative Communities” program as providing a spaces for unheard voices to have their say.  “The Art of Inclusion” indeed–though not if you are from Belfast.  I’d hazard a guess to say that though the Liverpool murals will not be political, perhaps it is the cross-community nature of the collaboration that scared them off.  Shakespeare? Now that’s daringly innovative!

The following is an article by Lesley-Anne Henry from the 8 June edition of the Belfast Telegraph that explains more about the Liverpool Mural Project and includes interviews with artists Devenny and Ervine:

All you need is art: Loyalist and republican to paint Beatles murals

Mural painters from across Ulster’s political divide are planning to take their talents to Liverpool.

Loyalist Mark Ervine, son of the late PUP leader David Ervine, and republican ex-prisoner Danny Devenny are hoping to paint 12 Beatles murals in working class areas of Liverpool to mark the city’s European Capital of Culture status next year.

It will be the first time that loyalist and republican muralists have collaborated.

The duo are part of the Liverpool Mural Project which plans to copy Beatles album covers such as Sgt Pepper, Revolver and Yellow Submarine onto the gable walls of run down houses in the Edge Lane area of Liverpool.

Danny Devenny, who served time in Long Kesh, is famed for painting republican murals across north and west Belfast. Among his most famous is the Falls Road Bobby Sands work.

The lifelong Beatles fan said: “Now at the age of 53 I am getting a chance to paint my real heroes.

“This is positive imagery and it’s about bringing a smile to people’s faces. If you turned a corner and saw, for example, a portrait of John Lennon on a wall, it would definitely make you smile.

“The murals have brought thousands of tourists to Belfast. There is no reason why they can’t do the same for Liverpool.”

Mark Ervine, who recently painted the ‘New Dawn’ PUP mural in east Belfast said: “For us it would be an absolute privilege, it would be a big, big honour to paint them.

“This is the chance of a lifetime – it could become an international tourist attraction.”

The Liverpool Mural Project is also hoping to recruit artists from Northern Ireland and England and to involve schoolchildren and community groups.

“We hope that by involving others, that would give the people of a particular area ownership of the mural,” Mark added.

The idea came about after Liverpudlians Gregory Brennan and Peter Morrison took a black taxi tour of Belfast’s murals.

Peter told the Belfast Telegraph: “We were over in Belfast to see a band and were looking for something to do during the day ahead of the concert, so we took a taxi tour of the murals.

“That’s where the idea was born. We just thought, ‘wouldn’t it be great if Liverpool could have murals, non-political, non-religious, just something to mark its European City of Culture status. Something for the people of Liverpool’?

“We thought it would be great to get artists from both sides to come over and work together but never thought it could happen.

“We have never done anything like this before.”

The project applied for culture funding from the Liverpool Culture Company but was rejected because it was not thought “edgy enough”.

Despite the rejection, Mark, Danny and the project organisers in England are confident their plans, which have been backed by politicians in Ulster and Liverpool, will receive funding from elsewhere.

They have written to former Beatle Paul McCartney and John Lennon’s widow Yoko Ono asking them to pledge their support.

A spokesperson for the Liverpool Culture Company said that it would be contacting the artists to advise them on other avenues to pursue.

Mark and Danny hope this Liverpool Mural Project will be a stepping stone to creating an art exchange between Belfast and Liverpool.

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Filed under belfast, cross-community, ireland, loyalist, murals, republican