North Down Borough Council last week (April 7) held the last date in their series of Living Irish History Programme.
Held in the Point Boardroom of W5 in the Odyssey, the final meeting revolved around modern Northern Irish politics and how far the country has come since the Good Friday Agreement.
An audience of around 30 North Downers listened to Ken McIlroy, a tour guide, give a brief overview of how the face of Belfast has changed since the post industrial era.
While the Belfast of the past was imagined, the poignant issues covered were that of immigration, industrialisation, political unrest and regeneration.
Four North Down candidates joined the participants on in the final session to give their views on the future of the political system.
Anne Wilson represented the Alliance party, her husband Brian Wilson, an independent in the upcoming Council elections. He recently defected from the Green party. DUP man Peter Weir, and ex police manColin Breen of the UUP.
Neither an SDLP or Sinn Fein representative were present. There are no SF candidates in North Down, and the SDLP’s Liam Logan was not there.
The polticical candidates answered questions and shared their views upon changes in the political landscape of Northern Ireland since 1998. They discussed whether the Good Friday agreement and subsequent St Andrews agreement supported the agenda of their political party and what more can be done by political parties to engage with those who still feel under represented.
Course Organiser, Stephen Rice from North Down Borough Council, said: “The past provides a window into the present. In Northern Ireland, so much is made of our recent history and the 30 years of troubles that it is easy to forget the rich heritage that preceded this period and the impact it still has on our lives today.
“This course aimed at exploring that history in a very real and physical way and most importantly considering how it still impacts the world we live in today.”
He added: “I am very grateful to all those who hosted us on our various visits and worked so hard to give us a ‘real life’ insight into times past.
“Like all those who participated, I have learnt so much from the experience and now have a much greater understanding of, and pride in, the country where I live.”
As the final meeting in the Neighbourhood Renewal Living Irish History Programme drew to a close the audience applauded the politicians and the question of “What is the future for Northern Ireland?”, while predicted, could not be answered.