MAYOR OF MANY COLOURS

Launch of Belfast Children's Festival  Photo: Arts Council via twitter

Launch of Belfast Children’s Festival Photo: Arts Council via twitter

Lord Mayor of Belfast Máirtín Ó Muileoir showed he is a man of many colours…or at least his hair is…when he launched the Belfast Children’s Festival (March 7th-14th) in the city centre this morning along with the Chair of the Arts Council Bob Collins. Hairdressing meets art by Sienta La Cabeza, a Catalan group from Barcelona.

Lord Mayor with Marie-Louise Muir, BBC Radio Ulster

Lord Mayor with Marie-Louise Muir, BBC Radio Ulster

The Lord Mayor even gave an interview to Marie-Louise Muir of BBC Radio Ulster’s Arts Extra programme while his hair was being reconfigured!

New-style Lord Mayor of Belfast Máirtín Ó Muileor

New-style Lord Mayor of Belfast Máirtín Ó Muileor

The Lord Mayor attended a number of other engagements throughout the day but was perhaps lucky that he did not have to chair a Council meeting! How long we have to wait until he reverts to his traditional look remains to be seen! Here’s a reminder of how things looked in the Lord Mayor’s parlour yesterday (Tuesday) when I was among a group of Lions Clubs representatives to be welcomed by him at City Hall.

Lord Mayor of Belfast Máirtín Ó Muileor with Lions 105I District Governor Liam Lyons, PDG Sean Sandford, PDG James O'Sullivan & Michael Fisher (Belfast Club)

Lord Mayor of Belfast Máirtín Ó Muileor with Lions 105I District Governor Liam Lyons, PDG Sean Sandford, PDG James O’Sullivan & Michael Fisher (Belfast Club)

UVF EXHIBITION IN DUBLIN

Armistice Day Belfast  Picture: BBC News NI

Armistice Day Belfast Picture: BBC News NI

As the centenary of the start of the First World War approaches, a couple of important developments happened today on either side of the border on Armistice Day. Representatives of victims of the troubles were at Stormont to call on politicians to agree new mechanisms to investigate past human rights violations and abuses.

A Sinn Féin Lord Mayor of Belfast, Máirtín Ó Muilleoir. became the first member of his party to take part in the official ceremony at City Hall. BBC Northern Ireland report here. As I commented elsewhere (on twitter), this was in my view the ‘right call to attend Armistice Day event: your presence at a Belfast ceremony was significant, not about wearing a poppy’. He was accompanied by some of the chaplains he had appointed at the start of his mayoral term, among them Fr Des Wilson from West Belfast, and a couple of party colleagues including Councillor Tom Hartley, a local historian.

Preparing the exhibition at Glasnevin  Photo: © Michael Fisher

Preparing the exhibition at Glasnevin Photo: © Michael Fisher

Meanwhile in Dublin, an exhibition developed under the auspices of the Unionist Centenary Committee and containing the largest collection of UVF memorabilia ever seen in the Republic was opened in the visitor centre at Glasnevin cemetery. This is the burial ground for some of the best-known figures in Ireland’s history, such as Daniel O’Connell and Michael Collins, and including many republicans. The Unionist Centenary Committee was formed in 2010 as a steering group made up from stakeholders from the Unionist community to oversee the decade of centenaries between 2012-2021.

Bag used by UVF Medical & Nursing Corps  Photo: © Michael Fisher

Bag used by UVF Medical & Nursing Corps Photo: © Michael Fisher

Arts Minister Jimmy Deenihan   Photo: © Michael Fisher

Arts Minister Jimmy Deenihan Photo: © Michael Fisher

The Ulster Volunteer Force was formed to resist plans to make Ireland self-governing, but many members went on to fight in the British Army in the First World War. The exhibition is called Home Rule Crisis… the unionist response. It covers the period from 1912-1914 and was officially opened by the Minister for Arts and Heritage Jimmy Deenihan, who had read a lesson at the Remembrance Sunday service at St Patrick’s Cathedral in Dublin yesterday.

Some unionist politicians also attended the Glasnevin event. A priest read prayers before people in UVF costumes laid wreaths at the war graves commission memorial to those from the Republic who died fighting for the allies in the two world wars.

The collection of artefacts from the Home Rule period includes personal items  of James Craig, uniforms, and literature from that pivotal period. Tours of the exhibition will be provided free of charge. The exhibition focuses on the unionist reaction to events during 1912-1913,  particularly the Ulster Covenant and the formation of the UVF.

UVF armbands from Cavan and Monaghan  Photo: © Michael Fisher

UVF armbands from Cavan and Monaghan Photo: © Michael Fisher

The launch included a talk by Philip Orr and a drama depicting discussions  between Carson, Craig and Crawford at the time, and music. On Saturday 16th November, Quincey Dougan and Jason Burke will provide lectures on Unionism 100 years ago. The exhibition is free and will run for two weeks until the end of November. It will be followed by an exhibition on the Irish Volunteers, the formation of which was planned at a committee meeting 100 years ago today in Dublin.

Quincey Dougan, talking about the UVF in Monaghan in June  Photo: © Michael Fisher

Quincey Dougan, talking about the UVF in Monaghan in June Photo: © Michael Fisher

Unionist Centenary Committee Chair David Hagan said:

We are excited to be bringing such a major collection of Unionist artefacts to Glasnevin Cemetery. Traditionally a site steeped in Republican and Nationalist history, it shows the progress we are making in embracing and learning more about our shared history. Over the course of the week we are also holding lectures which provide a deeper insight into Unionist thinking at the time and we will have historians on hand around the exhibition to provide further information on the collection. We have already exhibited some of the collection around Northern Ireland and have received really positive feedback, so we are looking forward to offering the people of Dublin the opportunity to learn more about Unionism in Ireland 100 years ago.”

Figure of UVF member  Photo: © Michael Fisher

Figure of UVF member Photo: © Michael Fisher