The introduction was by Tony McCusker, Chairperson of the Community Relations Council, the welcome by the Lord Mayor of Belfast. Dissertations were then given by the Minister for Culture, Arts and Leisure, Nelson McCausland, Fintan O’Toole, Commentator and Deputy Editor of the Irish Times on: “Who owns culture? Whose story are we telling?” And Jeremy Bowen, BBC Middle East Correspondent on “How the past has been remembered in the Middle East”. A Q&A session was chaired by the most able William Crawley of the BBC.
A Historians and Reflective Panel, mostly but not exclusively nationalist in orientation, was then chaired by William. The Panellists were:
• Dr Eamon Phoenix, Principal Lecturer in History and Head of Lifelong Learning at Stranmillis University College
• Professor Brian Walker, Politics School, Queens University of Belfast
• Professor Marianne Elliott, Director, Institute of Irish Studies, University of Liverpool
• Dr Johnston McMaster, Irish School of Ecumenics, Holywell Trust
• Susan McKay, Director, National Women's Council Ireland
They explored what should be remembered in the decade for unionism and nationalism, whether there was space for conversations based on historical facts, for complexity, for inconvenient truth, for an ethical approach and how to create/give space for public and state acts. What were the issues which motivated historians – truth, evidence, a story to tell, complexities and what were the best contexts for historians.
Following this William chaired a Political Panel with questions from the floor. This consisted of Stephen Farry MLA- Alliance Party, Mervyn Storey MLA – DUP, Cllr Tom Hartley (Belfast) – Sinn Fein, Dolores Kelly MLA – SDLP, Cllr Dr Ian Adamson (Belfast) – UUP. There was no representative of the PUP, TUV or Conservative Parties here, reflecting the inherent bias of the organisers.
We explored how political leadership could support a mature and constructive approach and the role of government institutions and the state in the context of the forthcoming decade.
Conference close was by Ronnie Spence, Chairperson, Heritage Lottery Fund
I then travelled to the Ullans Centre, Ballymoney with my friend Liam Logan for the launch of his book, A Word of Ulster-Scots, previously banned through ministerial directive by DCAL. There was a large crowd at the launch. In my preface to the book I said that I had known Liam as a colleague and friend for many years and his wisdom and wit were proverbial. If you do not read another book in Ullans be sure you read this one. In my speech I put this important book in context, knowing that the controversial nature of its genesis would in no way detract from its value to the whole community.
Remembering the Future Slugger O'Toole blog Mon 21 March 2011