And the last shall be first

And the last shall be first

March 10, 2019 Blog 0 Comments

Why aren’t we the first sector?

There were a lot of provocative points made in the panel discussion I joined last week at the CO3 conference for chief officers in the community and voluntary sector. (The private and public being first and second sectors, respectively.)

But my favourite was from Canadian speaker Andrew Chunilall who asked the audience, “why don’t we call ourselves the first sector?”

Certainly, there were a lot of groups represented who will always be first in my book – including Ardmomagh family centre which works with broken families and Duncairn Culture and Arts Centre in the nationalist New Lodge area. Duncairn’s base is a beautiful former Presbyterian Church gifted by its departing congregation to the largely nationalist community of the area. 

Much of the discussion centred round how best to maintain the momentum of positive change in a time of political paralysis at Stormont. 

My view was that the work of broadening the common ground and building community must continue. And when it comes to championing work which ensures justice “rolls on like a river and righteousness like a never-ending stream” the first-class chief officers in our voluntary and community sector will not be found wanting.

It’s the time of year when tickets to the White House St Patrick’s Day jamboree become a priceless currency. For some, securing the invite is even more important than attending. For me, however, the Presidential bash takes a backseat to the Belfast celebrations which start with the SPAR Craic 10k from City Hall on the morning of 17 March. This will be the fifth SPAR Craic 10k which has its genesis in the St Louis, Missouri, St Patrick’s Day fun run before their parade which regularly attracts several hundred thousand people. So my feet will be firmly on home soil — and getting ready to run — this St Patrick’s Day, rather than in DC. Not, mind you, that I actually got an invite to President Trump’s hooley — and anyhow, I’m not sure my dyed green hair would get past security.

In the Waterstones bookshop in Belfast on Thursday past, I asked a member of staff how many copies of Milkman by Anna Burns they had sold. “Over 3,000,” came the stout reply. An astonishing sales figure but then this is a truly astonishing book as this review in the Belfast Media Group rightly observes.


About the Author

Máirtín Ó Muilleoir

Máirtín Ó Muilleoir is the outgoing Sinn Féin MLA for South Belfast and a civic activist in Belfast.