, 34 tweets, 18 min read Read on Twitter
Media coverage to date focused on the structure of this single @IrelandsFuture event rather than the reasons for it taking place. In more than 20yrs covering politics, I can't recall many, if any bigger political gatherings outside party conferences/ard fheiseanna.
The loudest applause so far were for 'we didn't vote for #Brexit', applause against the bomb in Derry, and applause in support of the Principle of Consent (respecting majority view in NI/North).
These debates on the future have to take place across all communities and between them. Demographic change, the failure of Stormont & #Brexit mean some change is inevitable. We all need to play a part in that discussion and find a way to protect everyone's rights and identities.
Niall Murphy spoke of opportunity for inclusive change. @McHughJoeTD said he was here for Irish govt & would be raising these issues with Taoiseach and spoke of the need to protect progress. It was his remarks of respect, including for Principle of Consent, that drew applause
Academic Colin Harvey draws loudest applause for defending the right to discuss reunification as a remedy to #Brexit, says he needs no one's permission to talk about, calls for debate on a rights based, shared future for the island of Ireland.
Writer Brian Feeney says that despite Taoiseach pledge not to leave Irish citizens' behind in North, they have been. Says pledges are not being delivered.
B. Feeney says UK govt deem Irish citizens in North as British in law. Says known for five years and Irish govt hasn't acted. Says "Warm words butter no parsnips."
Clare Bailey, leader of Green Party in NI tells #IrelandsFuture conference that "Brexit has changed everything". She says has an international outlook, and has British passport, but embraces irishness and Britishness as intrinsic to identity here
She cites economic and addiction issues and won't swap one poor system of govt for another. Gets big applause. Calls for inclusive debate and says event programme should have had more than just Irish passport on it.
.@dmcbfs speaks of powerlessness felt at #Brexit result. Tells #IrelandsFuture conference that Westminster is ignorant of the border. Says events like this can turn anger and frustration into action. Praises Irish govt mobilising EU support, & NI remain parties for cooperating
And @dmcbfs says nationalists can have internal discussions like today & can also reach out to unionism. Says "we have to build bigger and broader tent". Says if you feel unheard, the range of people in audience shows all can and should become involved in debate. #IrelandsFuture
Chair @andreemurphy introduces @PaulGosling1 who says he hasn't spoken to such a big crowd since the miners strike of 1984. Says #Brexit ref was based on lies. Says as someone with English accent he's angry English nationalism has taken his family's rights away in NI.
He says #Brexit ref chaos must be avoided in any future Ireland ref. Says swift border poll won't work. Needs proper strategy. Need to engage debate in the south too to ensure its support. #IrelandsFuture
Next up is @columeastwood who says our society faces broad challenge ahead: economic, social and constitutional change. Says people long for calm in public life, but "Sometimes history doesn't afford us that choice".
While @PaulGosling1 cited rise of populist politics internationally, linking it to English natsm rise which, won't care about NI. @columeastwood says international economic climate is volatile, made worse by threat of #Brexit. "This is why backstop must be supported."
.@columeastwood says reconciliation must be top priority but has to be seen in context of reality of a changing island. But that new island needs "definition and detail", says poll shouldn't be rushed and tells unionism this island belongs to them too.
.@columeastwood says a future unionists don't want, isn't worth having. Says we can't avoid governing NI together if we are to build consent for new island future.
Next speaker is @daracalleary who congrats organisers for starting debate. Says he is excited about FF partnership with SDLP. Talks of all-island sporting links and says they've often done better work than politicians. Says hard border can't fracture those relations.
He says conversations required across the island. "We could leave today buzzed up" but must be followed up on. Gives crowd "homework" to carry the message. "POLITICS is about people....(not) a silly game", raises importance of bread & butter issues, but Brexit swamps them
Says assembly must be returned but not at any price, needs respect for all. Spends much time on climate change as a life changing challenge for all. And raises issue of all island health care. Says last all island cancer map was 2011.
Calls for all island connections on health, education, and align A Levels with CAO system to help students.
.@daracalleary calls for building community support for return of institutions in Belfast, but must be with respect for rights, which he says threaten no one.
Now @IRLPatricia introduces the second panel of speakers
She asks Jim Doran as a member of unionist community if unionist parties wrong on #Brexit. Credits UUP with opposing Ref, but critical of DUP. Says NI could become a successful economy. But says demographics make new future inevitable & he congratulates #IrelandsFuture event
He calls for next #IrelandsFuture event to be bigger, says middle ground unionists in NI prepared to engage on the future. He says DUP have "blown it", with soft nationalism.
Next @KevinPMeagher says "Northern Ireland as part of UK was not built to last" & he thinks many people accept need to plan future, under the principle of consent. He says trends are apparent, and unionist voices need to join debate, raising issues such as Commonwealth membership
At #IrelandsFuture @KevinPMeagher says debate cannot wait until inevitable moment when Natsts & wider change vote in majority, says debate must start. Katie Rose Mead of @dreamdearg says Irish lang rights & other rights at issue are human rights, says broad support for change.
Next @frances_black says Irish citizens in North should be able to vote for President. Says border poll could happen at any time and calls for cross-community discussions. Can't risk #Brexit style chaos. Cites fears of hard border, and that unionists fear unity. All must talk
A nursing union rep from the audience cites huge drop in EU employees due to #Brexit - putting health service at crisis point. Prof Jim Dornan agrees. #IrelandsFuture
Speaker from floor tells Fine Gael to "stop appropriating 'Ireland', we live in Ireland". Says #IrelandsFuture event speakers today have been respectful to unionsists and asks unionist people is it fair what the DUP are doing to nationalism.
Final speaker @MaryLouMcDonald tells #IrelandsFuture event it is historic and says there are no "narrow nationalists" here, but a diverse community, no "little Irelanders", but people with international outlook, unlike #Brexit
Excerpt from #IrelandsFuture
At #IrelandsFuture event @MaryLouMcDonald says it's wrong of Irish govt to ignore unity debate. says it should call a forum on unity. Said it doesn't preclude re establishing assembly, which she says can happen. Says unionists must be partners in building a new Ireland.
She says regardless of Brexit there will be a unity ref and and a shared future must be debated by all. #IrelandsFuture
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