Celebrating citizenship

Celebrating citizenship

August 7, 2016 Blog 0 Comments
What better way to spend the summer Stormont recess than by supporting the many community festivals which have transformed Belfast over recent years.
Prime among these exuberant community extravaganzas is Féile an Phobail in West Belfast which has pioneered a three-decade shift from conflict to celebration.
I remain a big fan of Féile and applaud its unending ambition and inspiring verve.
Through music, poetry, concerts, conversations, theatre, walks and debates, Féile showcases the bounty of West Belfast.
But it also puts the focus on citizenship and the need to develop vibrant communities which work for the common good.
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(CLOCKWISE FROM TOP LEFT) RACE RELATIONS: With my niece Mary Flanigan before the Sainsbury’s Féile Craic 10K this morning which saw 400 people set off from Falls Park at 9am to cover a hilly but rewarding course. THIRSTY WORK: A competitor in the Sainsbury’s Féile 10K. RUNNING WEST: MP Paul Maskey and Harry Connolly of Fáilte Feirste Thiar pounding the roads through the constituency. TEAMWORK: The team from Run Anon at the festival fun run
I’m delighted to see that the Féile bug has spread to East Belfast where the excellent EastSide Arts is now in its third year.  Kudos to Wendy Langham and Maurice Kinkead for delivering on their vision of a resurgent eastside and with the east festival overlapping with its east cousin, we have a cross-city combination sure to please visitors.
As a bonus this year, mini fests have sprung up this year in north and south Belfast as more community champions come to realise that arts and culture can drive change faster than a dozen government feasibility studies.
Celebration, of course, is the perfect answer to discrimination — as the Pride Parade demonstrated in Belfast on Saturday.
In my role as Finance Minister, I have responsibility for marriage law and, as has been reported, have tasked officials with preparing marriage equality legislation. While the political make-up of the Assembly will make it very difficult for such legislation to pass in the immediate future, the energy, youth and enthusiasm of the Pride marchers leaves me in no doubt but that this particular civil rights tide will not be turned back.
The common denominator across all the celebrations I saw this week was good citizenship which is, as Eric Liu and Nick Hanauer in Gardens of Democracy put it, “people showing up for each other”.
Citizenship, they add, “means leaving a place in better shape than you found it. It means helping others during hard times and being able to ask for help. It means resisting the temptation to call a problem someone else’s”.
Now that is something worth celebrating.



About the Author

Máirtín Ó Muilleoir

Máirtín Ó Muilleoir is the Sinn Féin MLA for South Belfast and a businessman.