As talks begin this week again at Stormont, we’ll need strong leadership to ensure that the community gets a government which can deliver the respect, equality and integrity demanded by the electorate.
With the Brexit juggernaut now bearing down on Ireland, there will be an even more urgent need to campaign for special status for the North within the EU.
The British Prime Minister who says her “red, white and blue” Brexit is about creating a “more united United Kingdom” insists she will face down the majority in the North who voted to remain at the heart of Europe.
Which brings us to that question of leadership again. Leaders can also march their people back rather than forward.
That’s Ms May’s prerogative, of course. But we have come too far to be pushed back.
The time then is ripe for leadership from the grassroots up to drive the peace process forward.
That leadership was evident at Stormont on Wednesday as Borders Against Brexit protested at Stormont simultaneously with the triggering of Article 50 by the British Government.
It was evident again on Friday when a group of MEPS — who will have their say on Brexit when the European Parliament votes on the exit deal `– visited Stormont as part of a fact-finding visit across the North and border region.
The message on both occasions was that we can stop the Brexit juggernaut but it will take courage and leadership to find a way through the chaos and crisis which is Brexit.
I have no doubt we have both in spades.
Also on the eve of talks, the Education Authority has removed funding from five Irish medium youth clubs across Belfast. Using the Irish language as a punchbag has been a trait of DUP ministers. Indeed, it was one of the reasons the government fell. It beggars belief therefore that, as talks begin, the Education Authorities could greenlight a decision which is worse than the appalling Líofa decision. The young leaders affected won’t be accepting this decision of course. And neither will their elected representatives. Seastar an fód.
It was a thrill and a privilege to present the Réalta Award of the Belfast Film Festival to movie icon John Cusack in Belfast on Friday night. He was honoured in front of a full house at the Moviehouse for his work as an activist — his new book with Arundhati Roy was on sale at the venue — for his stellar contribution to Irish America and for his outstanding services to cinema as an actor. In a lively Q&A session with the Chicago star, clips from many of his movies were shown. But one movie which didn’t feature was his latest with Spike Lee: Chi-Raq. In that movie, John Cusack plays legendary Chicago priest Fr Michael Pfleger whose work against gun violence is a beacon amidst the darkness of America’s inner-city homicide rates. In a stirring scene which brings together Cusack’s life of speaking truth to power, his Irish American heritage and his stunning artistry, Fr Pfleger gives a moving and inspiring speech at the funeral of a child victim of the gun gangs. For this scene alone, John Cusack is the worthy first recipient of the Réalta Award.