Two decades on from the Good Friday Agreement, true reconciliation still seems a distant prospect. Next month’s 4 Corners Festival features events to help ‘Bring Belfast Together’
AT the beginning of every new year, we look back and reflect on the year we have just had.
A year of political resignations, two snap elections and eventually the collapse of Stormont; a year of public inquiries into government schemes, royal visits and nearly being able to go to the World Cup – twice.
We also look ahead to what 2018 may bring us. Will we be able to put our political differences aside? How will the Brexit negotiations affect this island?
We are constantly shaped by our past and our future. But we often forget the most important aspect – the present.
How we deal with the present will affect how we view the past and shape the future.
The 4 Corners Festival in Belfast – now in its sixth year – has always sought to bring together people to live in our present.
This year marks 20 years since the signing of the Good Friday Agreement.
Not only did political representatives of loyalist paramilitary groups take part in peace negotiations at the time, but their buy-in helped boost the ‘yes’ vote supporting the 1998 peace agreement.
Our first event on February 1, ’20 Years on: A Conflict Frozen in Time?’, will be a panel discussion reflecting on the experience of loyalist communities during the past two decades.
We also want to explore the role that churches can play in society to promote reconciliation, to heal division and to end sectarianism.
‘Blessed are the Peacemakers’ (February 4) seeks to explore that very question. Contributors will include Rev Dr Heather Morris, secretary of home missions and former Methodist President, Rev Steve Stockman, minister of Fitzroy Presbyterian and co-founder of the 4 Corners Festival, Fr Brian Lennon SJ, one of the founders of Community Dialogue and Karen Sethuraman, pastor of the Down Community. It will be hosted by Dr Gladys Ganiel with musical performances from Caroline Orr.
‘Those You Pass on the Street’ (February 5) is a hard-hitting play that explores the legacy of the conflict; when Elizabeth, an RUC widow, walks into a Sinn Féin office seeking assistance with anti-social behaviour in her area, she strikes up a friendship with community officer Frank.
This friendship challenges their personal preconceptions and beliefs as well as their family and political loyalties.
The play contrasts political positioning with individual’s needs, challenging the view that any mechanism for dealing with the past is simply about ‘whose side gets what’.
The performance will be followed by a panel discussion with playwright Laurence McKeown, Debbie Watters of NI Alternatives, SDLP assembly member Claire Hanna and PUP spokesman Winston Irvine.
‘The Boy Who Gave his Heart Away’ (February 7) is a must-see event.
Award-winning author Cole Moreton will be reading from his book of the same name which tells the true story of two families who are drawn together when one son becomes the heart donor for the other son.
Moreton is also guest speaker at the 4 Corners Banquet for organ donors and those living with transplants.
Do consider coming along to support the festival, which is going to be our biggest yet.
There are musical contributions from Iain Archer, Ursula Burns, Joby Fox and Ricky Ross, discussions with authors including Tony McAuley and Philip Orr, incredible life stories from Alan McBride and Stephen Travers, as well as discussions with Monica McWilliams, Rev Dr Heather Morris and Fr Brian Lennon SJ.
This article was first published in the Irish News on 18 January, 2018 and can be found here.