Centre for Democracy & Peace Building launch post EU Referendum programme to establish best outcome for NI

Establishing-the-Best-Outcome-for-Northern-Ireland-1The Centre for Democracy and Peace Building (CDPB) launched the next phase of their EU Debate NI Programme this morning with an event hosted by Ulster Bank.

In partnership with Professor David Phinnemore and Dr Lee McGowan from Queen’s University Belfast, the Centre has produced a paper entitled “After the referendum: Establishing the best outcome for Northern Ireland”.

Following the decision of the UK to leave the EU, the paper explores where we are, the potential options for Northern Ireland and the issues that we must consider in NI as a result of this referendum.

Conor Houston, Programme Director at CDPB said “The decision of the UK electorate was to change the relationship between the UK and EU.  That is why CDPB are continuing our important work with EU Debate NI. Now more than ever we need to have an informed and inclusive conversation across the private, public and community sectors to understand the practical implications of the decision to leave the EU and how to achieve an outcome that is in the interests of all people.  This means carefully debating the kind of relationship we want to have with the EU and exploring new relationships with other countries around the world.”

He continued “CDPB acknowledge the support of the Joseph Rowntree Charitable Trust who have generously supported the EU Debate NI programme and without whom we would not have been able to continue our important work with this programme”.


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CDPB are currently developing an online toolkit allowing interested individuals and groups to understand the issues and to help host events that allow communities to consider the kind of relationships they envisage with the EU.

Professor David Phinnemore told an audience from across the private, public and community sectors: “The outcome of the EU referendum has created considerable uncertainty about the future of the UK’s relationship with the EU. It has raised questions about how any new relationship will be negotiated and whether and how it can satisfactorily accommodate the interests and preferences of the people of Northern Ireland. There are many issues at stake and many unanswered questions. It is important that the range of challenges is fully recognised, solutions identified and the priorities for Northern Ireland effectively promoted such that the best possible outcome to the prospect of Brexit is secured.”

The paper is available to download at www.democracyandpeace.org/publications

Join us for the World Premiere of “Hazel: Made in Belfast” in New York’s Carnegie Hall

A key figure in the emergence of the Irish state is to be commemorated at a special concert in New York’s world famous Carnegie Hall later this year.

Carnegie Hall will be the setting for the world premiere of: “Hazel: Made in Belfast” which presents the untold story of Lady Hazel Lavery, wife of the famous painter Sir John Lavery who had an influential role in the Anglo Irish talks involving Michael Collins, David Lloyd George and Winston Churchill.

Lady Lavery helped build diplomatic links between key figures in the negotiations that led to the Treaty that created the Free State and let her home be used to host the historic Anglo Irish Conference on 1921.

This concert will be performed by the stunning young Irish soprano, Sarah Power making her New York debut, accompanied by the Irish violinist Aveen McEntee, leader of the Dublin Symphony Orchestra with Irish poet and script-writer, Terence Browne on piano. New York artist Gregory de la Haba narrates the most romantic, sacred, beautiful and historic Anglo-Irish-American story of all time.

Hazel a beautiful young American artist from Chicago was married to Belfast painter Sir John Lavery.  Sir John had been commissioned by Justice Darling to paint him passing the death sentence for High Treason on Irish revolutionary, Sir Roger Casement. Hazel while sitting in the public gallery at the Court of Criminal Appeal in London with her husband decided then and there to seek to reconcile Ireland and England, which had been locked in apparent never-ending conflict for over seven hundred years.

Historians had for many reasons airbrushed Hazel out of the narrative of Ireland’s achievement of Independence, and the establishment of Northern Ireland in 1921, until Sinead McCoole published the first and only biography in 1996 entitled Hazel – A Life of Lady Lavery (Lilliput Press).

Although Hazel had been the icon representing Irish female beauty on Irish paper currency from 1927 until the introduction of the Euro, practically no one in Ireland knew of her central and pivotal role.

Hazel used her house in London to play informal host to range of celebrated figures and politicians and establish diplomatic links between them. On the evening of 5th December 1921, Hazel drove Michael Collins in her car to Downing Street where he signed the Treaty granting Independence to Ireland. And they say the rest is history…

To book tickets please go to: http://www.carnegiehall.org/Calendar/2016/10/16/0730/PM/Sarah-Power-Soprano-Terence-Browne-Piano-Aveen-McEntee-Violin/

EU Debate NI: Where NI goes next?

Following the decision by the UK electorate to Leave the EU, The Centre for Democracy & Peace Building (CDPB) are to continue their ‘EU Debate NI’ programme thanks to support from the Joseph Rowntree Charitable Trust.

EU Debate NI took a neutral position to stimulate and inform debate in Northern Ireland on the consequences of remaining in or leaving the EU.

The EU Debate NI Briefing Paper set out the issues and the questions to be considered in respect of the referendum in Northern Ireland, while the outreach events and online toolkit engaged thousands of people in understanding the different issues and arguments in the Referendum.

Lord Alderdice, CDPB Chairman speaking in the House of Lords said:

“We developed a public conversation which we called EU Debate NI. I pay tribute to Eva Grosman and Conor Houston from the Centre for Democracy and Peace Building that I run in Belfast. This became the major initiative in Northern Ireland: a public conversation, not campaigning for one side or the other, but enabling people from all sides and with all views to come together in public and engage on the legal, constitutional, educational, agricultural, industrial, economic—all aspects of the question.  It meant that in Northern Ireland the debate was able to be conducted without some of the rancour and vitriol that there was in other parts of the UK.”

EU Debate NI will create the space for informed debate through events, online engagement and community outreach across NI. There will be a new Briefing Paper produced in conjunction with academics from Queen’s University Belfast setting out a roadmap and summary report of options for Northern Ireland.  EU Debate NI will make this accessible to communities and groups across Northern Ireland and promote a national conversation about how Northern Ireland can best protect its unique and special interests post-referendum.

EU Debate NI looks forward to engaging all across our society in this important discussion – follow us on Twitter @EUDebateNI or visit our website at www.eudebateni.org

CDPB announces new appointments to the Board and Advisory Board

We are absolutely delighted to announce appointments of Dr Laurence Crowley CBE to the ‪Board of Directors and Mr Terence Browne to our Advisory Board.

Dr Laurence Crowley CBE is chairman of the Economic and Social Research Institute (ESRI), Ecocem Ltd., The Middletown Centre for Autism and Realex Payments Ltd.  In 2005 he completed his term as Governor of Bank of Ireland.   He is also a director of O’Flaherty Holdings Limited, The Gate Theatre and a number of not-for-profit companies.

Formerly, Laurence was a Partner in KPMG Stokes Kennedy Crowley for many years, specializing in reconstruction and insolvency.

He holds a Bachelor of Commerce Degree from University College Dublin and is a Fellow of the Institute of Chartered Accountants in Ireland.   In 2004 he was conferred with an honorary Doctorate in Laws by the National University f Ireland.

In 2009 Laurence was awarded an Honorary CBE by Her Majesty the Queen.

Terence Browne is a poet and pianist. He holds a Bachelor of Commerce Degree from University College Dublin with a background in Corporate Finance. He was appointed executive director of the Irish Spirit Award established by Ross Perot of Dallas Texas in 2003 to honor the life and works of his late friend and colleague Dr. Harry E. McKillop.

Terry has written a number of collections of poetry and the musical art-history of modern Ireland entitled “Hazel – Made in Belfast” which opens at Carnegie Hall, New York on October 16th, 2016.

You can book your tickets here https://www.carnegiehall.org/m/event.aspx?id=4295020072

Sir Van Morrison to perform at CDPB dinner











The Centre for Democracy and Peace Building are delighted to offer you a unique opportunity to support their work at the exclusive ‘Imagine’ dinner with an intimate concert by the legendary Sir Van Morrison.

The event will take place at the magnificent 5 Star Culloden Hotel in Belfast on Saturday 17th September 2016.

With a limited seats available, this is the best way to see and hear Sir Van in a ‘jazz club’ cabaret-style atmosphere. The show is preceded by a sumptuous dinner showcasing and celebrating the best of Northern Ireland produce.

We are realising a limited number of general admission tickets (dinner and concert only) at www.getinvited.to/cdpb/sirvm

For further information about Sponsorship Opportunities and VIP Packages please contact:

Eva Grosman at eva.grosman@democracyandpeace.org


Conor Houston at conor.houston@democracyandpeace.org


Annual Report 2016: Building the momentum

If the first year was about getting started, year two of CDPB has seen the building of remarkable momentum.  Even a quick glance through the monthly calendar of events will show the extraordinary level of activity of the Centre and those who work with us, especially our Chief Executive, Eva Grosman and Programme Director, Conor Houston, to whom I want to express particular appreciation and acknowledge a profound debt of gratitude.

In addition to building on the various on-going programmes like “Unite against Hate” (look inside at the major success of Music Unite) the past year was notable for the EU Debate NI initiative. At a time when there was almost no serious public conversation about the issue, CDPB started work with universities and students, the legal profession, the business community, the agricultural sector, voluntary, community and statutory agencies, the Northern Ireland Executive, the British and Irish Governments and the European Commission to create a thoughtful and informed debate about the EU referendum. In recent months it was widely acknowledged by all sides of the argument that not only had CDPB taken the lead on the issue in Northern Ireland, but also that the open, creative and engaging way in which it was conducted owed much to the approach taken by CDPB.  Thanks to Conor and Eva for their leadership, but thanks also to those who gave us the financial support that made it possible, not least the Joseph Rowntree Charitable Trust.

While EU Debate NI comes to a conclusion with the holding of the referendum, and some initiatives such as the Leadership Academy were pilot exercises that will be assessed and may be taken forward in the autumn, other programmes like Together, TEDx, the Women’s Enterpreneurship Day (congratulations Eva on being appointed NI Ambassador for this initiative) and our partnerships with the Washington Ireland Programme and Corrymeela have already proved themselves and are an established part of our on-going Northern Ireland programme.

Last year also saw significant steps forward on the international front as CDPB welcomed visitors to Belfast and started building the foundations for substantial ongoing partnerships in Britain and Ireland, North and South America and the Middle East.

With an enlarged Board of Directors, an enhanced Advisory Board, and a new office base in Belfast City Centre, the momentum is building, and with it our need for more financial resources to help realise the CDPB vision at home and abroad.

I guarantee that as you turn the pages of this report you will begin to share our excitement and enthusiasm, and this time next year we may well be reporting on your contribution to this vital work.

John, Lord Alderdice



Download CDPB Annual Report 2016 HERE.


My name is Luca; My religion is compassion

In a week that has seen the massacre in Orlando and the brutal murder of a Member of Parliament in the UK, it demonstrates the capacity for hate that exists within human beings.

There have been vigils, rallies and public demonstrations of solidarity across political, cultural and national divides which prove the power of human spirit to unite and triumph in the face of adversity.

We do not know the exact circumstances and the complex chain of events which lead two disturbed individuals to inflict such horror. Many theories and propositions are put forward to try and explain such barbaric acts.

What we can say is that deep-seeded hatred was involved – hatred for what someone is or what they stand for and represent.

Our society has encouraged a toxic and damaging discourse. On any event or issue we seem determined to have ‘them’ versus the ‘other’ in an intractable and seemingly unresolvable dispute.

We individually can accept that life is complex and yet our society continues to function on the basis that there are only two sides to every argument.

And whilst it makes good TV, good debate, surely we are now at a point in our human evolution to accept that there are a multitude of opinions, views and perspectives on issues.

We need greater perspective. In biology the Last Universal Common Ancestor (LUCA) is the most recent organism from which all organisms now living on earth have a common descent – in other words all life on earth shares biochemistry.

LUCA creates a perspective with which to consider our common humanity and our inextricable link with one another and our world.

It also demonstrates the diversity and complexity that makes life so challengingly beautiful.

I propose that we need to do two things. Firstly, there is a time to be still. To say nothing. To quietly reflect. To stand in solidarity. This creates the space for perspective.

We also need to underpin our entire discourse, our interaction with each other with compassion.

Compassion is about a concern for others, an understanding, a kindness, a tolerance – a warm-heartedness.

I watched the outpouring of solidarity and grief around both of these tragic events. Human solidarity. But I have also watched many react with anger and hatred. A need to target and blame someone.

Last year I wrote a blog entitled “Defending Equality; Promoting Compassion” in which I talked about growing up as gay man in Northern Ireland. I urged all sides in the debate around civil marriage equality to underpin all their arguments and their beliefs with compassion. (At http://sluggerotoole.com/2015/10/30/defending-equality-promoting-compassion/)

This week, I witnessed a lack of compassion by some who appeared unwilling or unable to accept that the Orlando massacre was an attack on the LGBT community.

Sadly I also saw a lack of compassion from some within the LGBT community. I fully understand and respect the anger of many within the LGBT community as to how they have been historically treated and the struggle which continues around realising equality.

But I am quite certain that anger, vitriolic language and hatred will not result in a society underpinned by equality, respect and love.

Whether it’s marriage equality, gun control, immigration, abortion or austerity – we must ensure that we conduct our discourse, debates and discussions grounded in compassion.

This begins with each of us taking responsibility in our conversation, our interactions with each other and our social media use. If we underpin our opinions with compassion, it will lead to a more tolerant, kind society.

We are human and therefore anger, hatred are natural responses, especially when we see ignorance or are met with intolerance and hatred.

But hatred does not counteract hatred. Compassion allows us to move the narrative to one of respect and understanding towards love.

We must be compassionate with ourselves before we can be compassionate towards others – let us be gentle on ourselves and accept our frailty as human beings.

We must then be gentle towards others, even those who hold diametrically opposed views to us. We have to accept that this is a natural consequence of the complexity of our human race! If we accept this premise, then each of us can begin to challenge ourselves – how can I be more compassionate in what I say and how I relate to others?

I believe in the power of the human spirit and that our common humanity is greater than anything which can divide us.

Astronaut Tim Peake said yesterday as his space capsule landed safely in Kazakhstan “it’s good to be back on earth”. In the infinite universe it remains our only home.

Let us begin an age of compassion.

Compassion is the key to unlocking the power of love which is the greatest gift each of us can give as a human being.


EU Debate NI launch referendum toolkit to help unpack the issues

EU Debate NI have today launched their online referendum toolkit to allow individuals and groups across Northern Ireland to unpack a wide range of issues in their own time and in their own way in the run up to the poll on June 23.

A programme of the Centre for Democracy and Peace Building, EU Debate NI takes a neutral position on the referendum.

Introduced by comedian Shane Todd, the online resource uses graphics, video and the contribution of experts to answer questions about

  • the wording of the referendum question, who can vote and how to register;
  • an overview of the key arguments from the Leave and Remain campaigns;
  • the stance taken by the main political parties in Northern Ireland;
  • the consequences on sovereignty, freedom of movement, immigration, the economy and funding streams
  • the process of leaving.

The EU Debate NI Toolkit can be freely access online at http://eudebateni.org/referendum/

This online resource builds on six interactive workshops held before Easter that shone a light on some of the issues underpinning the European Union referendum and stimulated informed debate.

In locations across Northern Ireland, attendees examined the potential affect on the border and trade; the impact on the agri-food and fishing sectors; the perspective of higher and further education; the views of those in the community, peace building and public sectors; as well as legal and criminal justice implications.

One final event asking the Remain and Leave campaigns to outline their Competing Visions for the future of the UK and Europe will be hosted in Queen’s University’s Riddel Hall over breakfast on Thursday 2 June.

For further details and requests for interviews, contact EU Debate NI programme director Conor Houston on 07930967694 or conor.houston@democracyandpeace.org

Music Unite: Celebrating Culture by Jeffrey Donaldson MP

Music can unite people, cultures, traditions and communities.  This was clearly demonstrated by the remarkable ‘Music Unite’ event held at The MAC Belfast last week.

Theatre goers mixed with Loyalist bands in the heart of Belfast’s vibrant Cathedral Quarter – in a space where the diversity of culture brought people and communities together.

It was an evening of music, rhythm, culture, diversity and positivity.  The Shankill Road Defenders, Ballykeel Loyal Sons of Ulster and North Down Defenders performed together with an eclectic mix of traditional flute band music fused with Colombian, Kurdish, Ghanaian, Sri Lankan and Irish sounds. Flutes from Ulster, pipes from Colombia, drums from Ghana and Uilleann pipes came together to create powerful symphony.

The Music Unite event was the highlight of what has been an incredible and transformative project.

I grew up in a culture of bands, joining Orangefield Flute Band, Kilkeel when I was still in Primary School and over a number of years of hard practice graduating from percussion to the flute in what was one of the finest part-flute bands in County Down.  I well remember bursting with pride as I donned my band uniform for the first time and marched all the way from Ballinran Orange Hall to Kilkeel for the annual Twelfth parade. In later years I was a founding member of the Pride of Ballinran Flute Band, today one of the best melody flute bands in the country. Therefore, I know the bands scene well and recognise the invaluable contribution that marching bands make to the lives of many young people.  Those young people experience what it is like to be part of a team – to make a contribution in creating musical and human harmony and learning a sense of discipline that stands them in good stead for the challenges of a modern society.

With my interest in marching bands, I have seen at first hand the tremendous local talent that exists but is often overlooked within the music scene.  Sir James Galway developed his immense musical ability in a flute band in Belfast and there may well be other James Galway’s in the ranks of such bands across Northern Ireland.  Music Unite offers a platform for bands to display their undoubted talent to a wider audience with whom they may not normally connect and is designed to break down barriers and challenge perceptions and stereotypes that are often associated with the local band scene.  This is not about persuading people to alter their identity or to change their culture to suit others.  It is about promoting a better understanding of that culture and enabling people to engage with each other in a way that promotes greater harmony across our community.

This does not mean that we overlook the problems sometimes associated with parading and music in Northern Ireland.  Far from it.  I recognise that this is a controversial issue for some and that a minority on both sides of this debate sometimes engage in behaviour that is unacceptable.  However, the idea that the way to resolve this or to alter negative behaviour is to isolate or punish an entire musical fraternity is one that needs to be challenged.  Inclusivity must be practised and not just preached and ought not to require people to abandon their beliefs or their identity or to somehow whitewash their culture to create some kind of unrealistic neutrality.  Diversity surely implies respect for difference, although that respect has to be gained and not just taken for granted.

Last year the Centre for Democracy & Peace Building in partnership with ‘Beyond Skin’ launched the ‘Music Unite’ programme.  Our partners at Beyond Skin lead by the brilliant Darren Ferguson are to be commended for their pioneering work with this project.

This work began with the Shankill Road Defenders with the aim of using music to unify people and empowering and enabling individuals and communities.

Our innovative programme enabled Loyalist bands to meet, exchange ideas & music genres with people from other backgrounds and cultures, develop musical skills, build capacity and challenge stereotypes.

In the past year, the Shankill Road Defenders have performed in numerous events in places that would have been simply unimaginable just a few years ago.  This included playing to hundreds of people as part of the Culture Night Belfast and a performance at Belfast City Hall as part of the British-Irish Intergovernmental Secretariat’s St Patrick’s Day reception. The band also played with the North Down Defenders at the Chinese Welfare Association in Belfast earlier this year.  Cultures and communities united by music.

It’s been an incredible journey.  The bands involved in this project have demonstrated remarkable vision, energy and leadership.  They have engaged positively with this project – perfecting their musical skills and collaborating with musicians from around the world.  They have been ambassadors for the positive contribution that loyalist bands make to our musical heritage and culture in Northern Ireland.

A report highlighting the success of Music Unite by Professor John Brewer and Dr Francis Teeney from the Senator George J. Mitchell Institute for Global Peace, Security and Justice at Queen’s University Belfast has been published by the Centre for Democracy and Peace Building.  I commend the authors for endorsing the programme and note the important recommendations they have made.  This will no doubt promote further debate and discussion on the way forward.  We must continue this vital work and give further consideration to the recommendations contained within the report.  The Report is available at https://democracyandpeace.org/wp-content/uploads/2016/01/Music-Unite-Report.pdf

Music Unite is the start of a new flow, a new rhythm that brings people together.  It challenges perceptions and stereotypes. Importantly, it provides hope that Northern Ireland is moving forward together to a new beat – one which creates a positive celebration of our unique and diverse culture and identity.


Independent documentary ‘Born and Reared’ to launch at the Lyric Theatre Belfast

‘Born and Reared’ will launch at the Lyric Theatre Belfast in April – then in London in May 2016 with 3 screenings including the House of Commons, before beginning tour and community outreach programme across the UK and Ireland.

‘Born and Reared’ is a moving documentary that explores contemporary Northern Ireland, through the lives of four men living in the aftermath of violent conflict; a story about re-imagined identity of place and the fragility of masculinity.

Contextualised by the country’s past the film is firmly rooted in the Northern Ireland of today as a population struggles to come to terms with the horrors and the sacrifices of its past and the men turn to face a future defined by their hopes, rather than regret.

Filmed over a year with the men in and around their homes, the filmmakers focused on the stories that took place long after the cameras had left the news story that was Northern Ireland. Thirty years of violence came to an end in a 1998 peace deal and the door on almost relentless media interest also closed. But the lives of those affected indirectly or otherwise by the so-called ‘Troubles’ continued…

In a society where masculinity has long been measured in violence and aggression, what happens to the identities of men when the Troubles end and the roles previously held are no longer accepted or needed? How do you go from being a soldier defending your country, to being a joiner or a taxi driver in ‘peace time’?

In this film you will meet then 16 year old Danny who was born the year of The Good Friday Agreement, he talks about how he “loves his city, but he doesn’t know if he loves his country because he doesn’t know what country he belongs too”. Danny is a positive voice for the future, but he also still carries so much of the weight on his shoulders from the legacy of his country’s past. Billy lost his father in The Troubles. He was shot whilst placing a bet in the Sean Grahams on the Ormeau Road. Billy is now a father and husband and he walks past the betting shop everyday on his way to work. Billy wants people to co-exist side by side today. He also still feels the hurt and pain that’s been left behind and isn’t sure that it’ll ever go away. Bobby is an ex-Loyalist paramilitary who served 16 years in prison. Bobby is now a born again Christian living in Bangor and working as a joiner. He is a father and a husband and he now works in the prisons he once served time in, teaching art and working with inmates. Bryan is a pigeon fancier and his pigeons provided him with an escape route from getting involved. However, he is still affected by the legacy of the past today. He talks honestly and openly about the kingmakers that still exist.

The four characters are all vulnerable and strong. Their stories are powerful, courageous, moving and contemporary.

The launch organised in partnership with the Centre for Democracy and Peace Building will take please at the Lyric Theatre Belfast on 12 April. To register please go to www.getinvited.to/cdpb/bornandreared