The Aisling dream endures
A bridge beyond Brexit
Scotland’s irrepressible Brexit Minister Mike Russell arrives in Belfast this week to address the 21st annual Aisling Awards gala which salutes the heroes of the changing city.
He will bring with him encouraging news of the drive to stymie the train-crash Brexit strategy being promoted by London and plans to further strengthen relations between Ireland and Scotland post-March 2019 with the fostering of a Celtic Arc of development.
A seasoned politician, film-maker, TV presenter and Scots aficianado, he will bring a fresh perspective to the vexed linguistic debate in the North not only as the son of Gaelic speakers but also as an authority on Scots poet Robbie Burns.
Before his Aisling address, the Scottish Minister has asked to meet civic and business leaders in a roundtable to discuss how best to make common purpose in the battle against Brexit but also how we can strengthen the bridge across the Straits of Moyle in the time ahead.
Brexit, designed to divide, might just lead to a stronger union than ever before between Scotland and Ireland, north and south.
Scheduled for Friday night in the Europa Hotel, the sold-out Aisling Awards are the premier event recognising the unsung heroes of Belfast. As well as A Person of the Year accolade, there will be awards across a series of categories including sport, business, culture, education and community endeavour. You can vote for your favourite nominee to receive the People’s Choice Award online.
I was in Boston on Thursday and Friday to unveil plans at the Golden Bridges conference to bring the acclaimed permanent exhibition from the Museum of Ireland’s Great Hunger in Connecticut to Derry.
Next year, the artworks will go on show in Dublin Castle and Skibereen but an additional date in Derry has now been agreed for the start of 2019.
Only Cobh in Co Cork witnessed more emigrants fleeing An Gorta Mór than the port of Derry so the aptly-named Coming Home exhibition is sure to merit much attention. Of course, as the spectre of hunger continues to loom over global affairs, the exhibition will speak not just of the brutal years of the Great Hunger but also about the troubled world in which we live.
Venue for the exhibition — which is on view now at Quinnipiac University’s Museum of Ireland’s Great Hunger — will be Cultúrlann Uí Chanáin in Derry, the country’s greatest Irish language arts venue.
I thought it would have been a shame for the exhibition to come to Ireland at a cost of $500,000 but not to come north. But adding on the Derry date will come with a price tag of £80,000. Fundraising, you will not be surprised to hear, starts now!
I arrived back from Boston in time to speak at the Sinn Féin ard fheis on the Irish language issue and to hear Gerry Adams announce his plans to step down from the leadership of Sinn Féin in the new year. I first went to work for Gerry Adams back in 1983 when he was campaigning for the West Belfast Westminster election and remain a fierce fan. Go dté sé slán. Addressing the ard fheis, I brought news from Boston where I had been greeted by an unusual headline in the Boston Globe: Bilingual Education Advances in Mass. The irony of a situation where they’re celebrating Spanish-medium education in Boston while in Belfast an Irish school last month had to take a DUP Minister to court to win their rights was not lost on the ard fheis audience.