Culture Night the image we want to portray
There has been much depressing and distressing news in Northern Ireland recently, but Culture Night 2012 has given a different and more positive picture of this province and its people.
In Belfast, Armagh, Londonderry/Derry and many other places, thousands of people had the opportunity last night to sample and to enjoy a wide range of events, in a special celebration which has become a part of the annual cultural calendar. Culture means different things to different people. It includes popular and classical music, theatre, cinema, circus performances and many other activities which engage people from different backgrounds.
In recent years the province has had a wonderful resurgence of the arts and a host of wonderful new venues. The cultural scene is now a world apart from the dark days of the past. The Belfast Festival at Queen's, and the professional stalwarts of the Ulster Orchestra who played throughout the Troubles, helped to bring welcome light to a dark horizon long ago.
It is fitting therefore, that the Festival will shortly celebrate its 50th Birthday. However, the only shadow cast over this current cultural resurgence was the madness of dissidents who left two bombs near Derry Council Offices yesterday, which could have caused loss of life and yet more damage.
This was a challenge to the forces of law and order, and the bombs were meant as a reminder that while plans are now well in advance for the Londonderry/ Derry year of culture, the dissidents have not gone away.
Such cynical disruption will not deter people from celebrating the cultural riches of the city while affirming the richness of normal life after the suffering of the past.
Culture, normality and enjoyment are for everyone, but violence and disruption benefit no-one.
The dissidents belong to the past, and they should be no part of anyone's future.
Culture Night yesterday evening was a reminder of the very best of Northern Ireland.
That is the image and reality that everyone wants, as we steadily move from the darkness into a more hopeful future for all.