Curtain up on new challenges
At times of political tumult or indeed torpor, the engagement and involvement of Irish America in our peace process has always been a plus.
That’s why I remain resolved to ensure 2018 sees continuing high-level commitment by our many friends in Irish America to delivering the investment and support to mitigate against the economic drag of Brexit and the not inconsequential challenges already facing our underperforming economy.
In pushing forward, the focus must always be on indigenous entrepreneurs – the start-up champions who have the innovative chops and the determination to deliver a new wave of job-creating companies.
The New York State Comptroller Tom DiNapoli has put his money where his mouth is in backing the peace process with over $20m of investment in equity funds for early-stage companies. The next step in that strategy could be an investment in the Irish region with the greatest potential — and, until now, also the lowest levels of state investment — the greater Derry area and the border counties. Such a cross-border, cross-community boost to a new generation of entrepreneurs who are refusing to give into the road-to-nowhere philosophy of Brexit would be game-changing. That’s a conversation I will have later today in Albany, New York, with Comptroller DiNapoli.
Of course, none of this can happen without the amazing generosity of ordinary state employees — police officers, civil servants, firefighters and many more — who are willing to see their pension dollars invested in peace building.
And none of this support should be taken for granted. After all I have arrived in a country where government shutdown is the main topic of conversation — and they’re aren’t referring to Stormont!
Miraculous Is the word which best describes the renaissance of the Irish language in Belfast — despite the fact that the language enjoys no official status in the Northern state. And if that’s the case then the umitiigated success of a professional Irish language theatre company in the heart of the Gaeltacht Quarter for the past two decades is surely a happening of Fatima proportions. But that is indeed the boast of Aisling Ghéar, a bold theatre company based, of course, on Broadway, in West Belfast, which celebrates its 20th birthday party on 1 February. Beckett, Fo, Millar and all the greats have had their works translated by Aisling Ghéar and staged nationwide while their oeuvre also extends to some of Ireland’s greatest playwrights. To help them celebrate reaching the Big 2-O, I have agreed to host a fundraiser for the company in Cultúrlann McAdam Ó Fiaich (a cultural hub and treasure named after Catholic Cardinal Tomás Ó Fiaich and Presbyterian language ambassador Robert McAdam, which more or less sums up the commitment to outreach of Aisling Ghéar founders Brid O Gallchóir and Gearóid Ó Cairealláin). Our aim is to raise £5,000 and we’re well on the way. A ticket costs £50 and we’d love to have your company but If you can’t make it, a donation of the price of a ticket would cheer us immensely. A ticket can be bought on eventbrite here.
Finally, I remain a strong advocate for proper investment in our arts sector — the beating heart of the new Belfast – and have been meeting arts institutions in my own constituency this week to support their protests against continuing austerity pressure on their budgets; as you can see from my statement here.