So I made my way back from the Young Unionists’ AGM to the SDLP Annual Conference, for a fringe meeting organised by SDLP Youth: “Changing identities in a new Ireland”. Guest speakers were Brian Walker (Professor, Queen’s University Belfast), John McCallister MLA (UUP), and Conall McDevitt MLA (SDLP).
I missed most of Prof. Walker’s speech and furthermore was having technical difficulties with my camcorder. In the panic I forgot that my iPhone could have served as a substitute! But I managed to record McCallister’s speech and the summing up by all three guests.
McCallister is a member of the Ulster Unionist Party, an elected representative of the South Down constituency and a member of the Health, Social Service and Public Safety Committee at the Northern Ireland Assembly. He clearly demonstrated progressive attitudes towards his identity (identities), in the context of interdependent relationships on these islands:
Prof. Walker’s approach is to consider how contemporary events influence communal perceptions of history. He is relatively optimistic about how the peace process provides scope for more progressive interpretations of history:
McDevitt is a member of the Social Democratic and Labour Party, and recently became a member of the Northern Ireland Assembly as a representative of the South Belfast constituency, replacing party colleague Carmel Hanna, who stepped down. He is very passionate about what a new Ireland could look like:
The challenge remains whether a majority of unionists, nationalists, and society as a whole, are willing to adapt their traditional perceptions, celebrations of historical events and even their own personal identities, in developing a new Ireland or otherwise defined shared future.