Tag Archives: Belfast

Obama in Belfast

He didn’t get a plate of wings at Ryan’s, nor did he join the queue at Boojum. Instead, he simply spoke to a select, invited audience of 2,000 mostly young people, at the Waterfront Hall then left the city again. He spoke of how far Northern Ireland has come in the peace process, how Northern Ireland is the blueprint for peace in other parts of the world currently faced with conflict, and that we have now have “ordinary”, but have a to work to keep at it:

None of that would have been imaginable a generation ago. And Belfast is a different city. Once-abandoned factories are rebuilt. Former industrial sites are reborn. Visitors come from all over to see an exhibit at the MAC, a play at the Lyric, a concert here at Waterfront Hall. Families crowd into pubs in the Cathedral Quarter to hear “trad.” Students lounge at cafés, asking each other, “What’s the craic?” So to paraphrase Seamus Heaney, it’s the manifestation of sheer, bloody genius. This island is now chic.

And these daily moments of life in a bustling city and a changing country, it may seem ordinary to many of you — and that’s what makes it so extraordinary. That’s what your parents and grandparents dreamt for all of you — to travel without the burden of checkpoints, or roadblocks, or seeing soldiers on patrol. To enjoy a sunny day free from the ever-present awareness that violence could blacken it at any moment. To befriend or fall in love with whomever you want. They hoped for a day when the world would think something different when they heard the word “Belfast.” Because of their effort, because of their courage that day has come. Because of their work, those dreams they had for you became the most incredible thing of all — they became a reality.

As I’ve aways said: I’d much rather there was crime here for any reason other than religious, political or tribal divisions.

Barack Obama almost pleaded with the audience, the youth — the people — to remain in peace. Please.

“You need to get this right. You set the example for those who are seeking peace to end conflicts of their own. You are their blueprint to follow. You are the proof of what is possible. Hope is contagious. They are watching to see what you do next.”

The emphasis was certainly on today’s youth, as it generally is, though it is the next generation which will cement the civil liberties being fought across the world today, and for Northern Ireland to remain in peace it will take harnessing of the current youth, to break down the walls and further the idea of a “shared future”.

I don’t just see a bunch of teenagers. I see the people who will be moving our world forward in the years ahead. — Michelle Obama

But they aren’t wrong: there is still a lot to be done!

So while there was a low turn-out for the anti-G8 rally at the weekend, the internet was alight over Obama’s visit and his words, wit and inspiration. It’s evident that as a nation we do care deeply about bettering ourselves and our little backwater and want to bring peace here.

Or maybe we need some perspective…

Read the full transcript and watch the speeches.

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The Waterfront Hall © Phil O’Kane

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Photo of the day: Sammy Wilson and Gerry Adams © Press Eye

Photos: Anti-G8 Parade

Around 1,500 people attended a peaceful protest against the G8 summit today in Belfast — perhaps in part due to the number of extra police brought in from England — much less than the 5,000 expected. Apparently a bit of rain makes people less devoted to a cause. In short, it was a very boring parade. A small group of shouty #fleg protesters gathered at the city hall, though they just caused annoyance.

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#flegs

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Photos: St George’s Market Prep

St George’s Market is one of those few things that really brightens up Belfast.

The atmosphere, the mix of people doing things early on the weekend. Not to mention the locally produced food and crafty stuff: the dedication and love put into the cheeses, cupcakes and spices. Not to mention the ranges of coffees. And local teas, if that’s your thing. But I don’t like tea.

Cheesy? Fuck yeah! But what can I say, I like variety markets.

It’s open Friday, Saturday on Sunday mornings; that’s all well and good, but what about Thursday mornings, when the smell of fresh fish lingers around the block and fruit-sellers set up shop for the next morning.

St George's Market

St George's Market

St Georges Market. Thursday morning.

St George's Market

St George's Market

St George's Market

St Georges Market. Thursday morning.

St Georges Market. Thursday morning.

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St George's Market

St George's Market

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Belfast Peace Gathering

Another protest in Belfast — how very Northern Irish. Whether it’s a protest against government cuts, fighting for abortion legislation, the killing of a police officer, we do love a good protest — but despite what some say, such gatherings are vital. Sure, creating hashtags on Twitter, shouting about how awful it is on Facebook, and creating memes are a large part of what it is to show disapproval, physically rallying in the centre of town shows that the people are serious about taking a stand. Armchair activism is vital for getting movements off the ground, but it needs to be taken to the streets.

Today I am proud to be from Belfast. Over 1,000 people gathered at the City Hall for an hour. Then at 11.55 whistles, horns and drums came out. Screams could be heard all around and the clapping was contagious. The atmosphere was electric. There was no tension in the air. Everyone was happy to be out. If anything, it made us simply feel better about the people who live here. As one placard said: “It’s a piece of land, and we all have to live on it.”

This was a non-political event. Organised on the ground by a very small number of individuals, which rapidly spread over the course of just a few days, this is the way in which our society will continue to move forward. This is about more than a flag, this is about informing the small, violent, minorities that we do not want violence. The very fact that many did not turn up today due to fears for their (and their childrens’) safety from a counter-protest, is a sad fact in itself. However, today was peaceful, and we can only hope that tomorrow will be peaceful.

The next step is ensuring that the positive attitude that everyone went away with can be shown in the party policies, that our government leaders can lead us away from violence. That the fight for peace can resonate in the minds of those who continue to disrupt the peace. Whatever the outcome, we came together and showed our support. For peace. For no violence.

belfast peace gathering 16th december 2012

belfast peace gathering 16th december 2012

belfast peace gathering 16th december 2012

belfast peace gathering 16th december 2012

belfast peace gathering 16th december 2012

belfast peace gathering 16th december 2012

belfast peace gathering 16th december 2012

belfast peace gathering 16th december 2012

belfast peace gathering 16th december 2012

belfast peace gathering 16th december 2012

belfast peace gathering 16th december 2012

belfast peace gathering 16th december 2012

belfast peace gathering 16th december 2012

belfast peace gathering 16th december 2012

Claire Morgan: ‘Gone to Seed’ at The MAC

Claire Morgan’s beautiful, intricate and mesmerising work, ‘Gone to Seed’ opens tonight at The MAC in Belfast.

claire morgan - gone to seed

claire morgan - gone to seed

Claire Morgan’s sculptural work is about our relationship with the rest of nature, explored through notions of change, the passing of time, and the transience of everything around us. She creates seemingly solid structures from thousands of individually suspended elements, which have a direct relationship to nature. Both flora and fauna have been present in many of Morgan’s recent installations. In ‘Gone to Seed’, we encounter what seems to be a controlled cloud of seed heads, frozen in the wind and rearranged into an orb-like structure. This form has then been fractured and split by a crow plunging through its mass, but much like the seed heads has also been frozen in time just before impacting with the gallery floor.

Within this work, a broad exploration of mankind’s control over and relationship with nature is presented in an enchantingly beautiful display.

“The processes involved in the work are laborious and there are thousands of individual elements involved, but clarity of form is of high importance. I do not wish the animals to provide a narrative, but rather to introduce an element of movement, or energy, or some sort of reality; animating or interacting with the larger architectural forms.”

The titles of Morgan’s works are important, and often make reference to historical or popular culture. Words are taken from the titles of films and books, or phrases of colloquial slang. These connections often add a comedic element, a sense of irony or bluntness that keeps the work firmly rooted in the experience of the world in which we humans inhabit.

Claire Morgan was born in Belfast in 1980. She graduated in 2003 with a first class degree in sculpture and has exhibited internationally, with solo exhibitions in the UK and Europe and museum shows in the US and Australia.

The exhibition opens at 7pm tonight 1st Nov in the Sunken Gallery at The MAC and runs until 20th Jan 2012.

Belfast Trade Union Anti-Cuts March

This morning tens of thousands of people from various trade unions marched against cuts in London, Glasgow and Belfast. More than 1,000 people made their way through Belfast city centre with a number of trade unions, political parties and other groups in the march organised by the Northern Ireland Committee of the Irish Congress of Trade Unions (ICTU), which represents more than 250,000 members in 36 trade unions across Northern Ireland. Beginning at the Art College grounds, the march finished at Custom House Square.

The trade unions and political groups involved are fighting against public service cuts, welfare reform and austerity: as well as a demand that the banks and bankers are held to account for the resulting economic crash.

belfast anti-cuts march

belfast anti-cuts march Continue reading

The difference between a “personal attack” and providing constructive criticism to a public organisation

It was pointed out by members of the local public organisations, which I mentioned in a previous blog post, that it was a “personal attack” and that I tried to “publicly humiliate the organisation”. I find this difficult to comprehend, and perhaps the person who made this claim has difficulty comprehending the difference between a “personal attack” and publicly providing constructive criticism to a public body, which, as a member of the public I am within my right to do.

As I mentioned, the local LGBT support groups do great work in Belfast, however, the purpose of my post was to highlight an area in which they are in fact letting down their users and putting them at risk. In doing so I provided ways in which this can be rectified. Instead, and in the most unprofessional manner, I was asked to remove any mention of the group and that “workings of the group are not a public issue and this will be taken further”.

It is evident that this organisation does not take criticism well, which is both unfortunate from the perspective of the general public, and those who work within and around the organisation. If a group, such as the one mentioned, is so unwilling to take criticism, to the point that they will then privately request that it is removed — and issues hidden under the carpet — then what good is the group? Problems should not be ignored. When errors are pointed out, someone with better judgement would open up a dialogue rather than take offense, shut down communication, refuse to look into the issue and defend everything like a stubborn child.

However, I look forward to the response of the “Management Committee” on this issue, having also contacted them myself regarding their social media policy.