Freeing up peace impasse with WD-40

Freeing up peace impasse with WD-40:
The David Stevens Memorial Lecture by Rev. Harold Good
by Allan LEONARD for Shared Future News
1 October 2015

At the third annual David Stevens Memorial Lecture, the Rev. Harold Good used a physical metaphor of a tin of WD-40 lubricant to illustrate the need to ‘unlock and free up the mechanisms’ of peacebuilding.


Forgive for the sake of the future?

Forgive for the sake of the future?
A lecture by Duncan Morrow
by Allan LEONARD for Northern Ireland Foundation
29 September 2015

As part of the Community Relations Week programme, a former Chief Executive of the Community Relations Council, Dr Duncan Morrow, gave a lecture that explored how unresolved trauma affects the legacy for future generations.

Essays Photography

Book review – Frank Browne: A Life through the Lens (David and Edwin DAVISON)

God can sanctify photography. With a poem by Pope Leo XIII, Colin Ford explains the basis for how Irish Jesuit Frank Browne acquired a camera from his bishop uncle, at the age of 17, and kept making images throughout his priestly life.

Browne took his camera everywhere. His early trips to Europe were the apparent source of his self-teaching of technique, analysing the works of Masters’ painters in Venice and Florence.

He travelled widely, to the front lines in France and Flanders during World War One (serving as chaplain) and further to Australia (where he went to recuperate after suffering mustard gassing).

Yet I would argue that it is his persistent images of Ireland over the decades, emerging as a new republic, that leaves a significantly valuable legacy. Photos of countryside life are complemented with ones of industrialisation.

20150127 Frank Browne - Titanic Cobh

Browne is known primarily for photos that he took during the maiden voyage of the Titanic. His first class ticket was only for Southampton-Cherbourg-Cobh (his uncle never intended for him to emigrate to America!). With the sinking of the ship, his precious images were in highest demand by newspapers.

Kodak thanked him by offering a lifelong supply of film. Yet Browne was responsible for developing the film and paying for any prints. Consequently, many of his photos remained unpublished, until Father Edward O’Donnell discovered a large trunk, long after Browne’s death.

Father O’Donnell proceeded to publish a series of Frank Browne photo books, including Frank Browne’s Titanic Album. More recently he has written a full biography in The Life and Lens of Father Browne.

20150127 Frank Browne - At Keem Beach

But Frank Browne: A Life through the Lens, by Donald and Edwin Davison and the subject of this review, is a more artistic critique of his best work, copiously illustrated and drawn from his trove of 42,000 images.

In a chapter titled “Father Browne photographer of the twentieth Century”, Donald Davison explains how Father Browne was influenced initially by pictorialism but also with modernism.

Browne was not constrained by any particular photographic style, though reportage-style stands out. Even here, he didn’t always obey the decisive moment – sometimes he would get children and take off their shoes and socks for his more desired, rustic look of the countryside.

One could argue that because Browne did not concentrate on any particular method, he never mastered his craft.

But I don’t believe Father Brown was ever seeking photography perfection; his formal training was spiritual, remember.

Instead, we’ve been blessed with the vision of a man who understood tone and mood, natural and human, who recorded the matter of life wherever he found himself.

I highly recommend Frank Browne: A Life through the Lens, by Donald and Edwin Davison, for its approach to the subject from a photographer’s perspective.

Frank Browne: A Life through the Lens accompanies an exhibition at the Andrews Gallery, Titanic Building, Belfast, 14 January-31 March 2015.


The prevailing wisdom of A Love Divided

The prevailing wisdom of A Love Divided
by Allan LEONARD for Shared Future News
4 April 2014

Based on a true story, “A Love Divided” chronicles the aftermath of a mixed marriage in Co. Wexford, Ireland, where Protestant-raised Sheila refuses to send her children to a local Catholic school. She flees with her two young girls, leaving her husband Sean confused and frustrated.


FITZGERALD was why I pursued Ireland

What a sad coincidence that Garret FitzGerald should die today, in the midst of the historic visit to Ireland by the Queen of England.

For me, FitzGerald was the spark for my interest in Irish history and politics.

While in high school in a small Midwestern town, I read an article of the Taoiseach in an issue of Current Biography, at my local library.

In the article he discussed his work towards what became the 1985 Anglo-Irish Agreement.

I wrote a letter to him, expressing support and telling him that a cousin of mine was living in Dublin for the year as an exchange student.

I was delighted to receive a sincere reply:

Office of the Taoiseach
27 February 1985

Dear Allan,

Many thanks for your letter. I enclose herewith copy of the Richard Dimbleby Lecture “Irish Identities” (duly autographed) which I delivered some years ago, for your political history collection. As you will see from the lecture it concentrates on the problem in Northern Ireland, about which I am deeply concerned.

I am delighted to hear that your cousin is enjoying her stay in Ireland and sincerely hope it will be possible for you to visit this country some day.

Yours sincerely,
Garret FitzGerald TD (signed)

My first visit to Ireland was the very next spring.

Inspired, I went on to self-tailor my undergraduate studies in international relations towards everything Ireland, ultimately moving to Belfast in 1994, and I’ve been here ever since.

During my postgraduate studies at University College Dublin — where FitzGerald was Chancellor — I had the opportunity to meet and thank him in person.

His letter proudly hangs in my office.


Post-Agreement Northern Ireland: New opportunities or unresolved stalemate?

Post-Agreement Northern Ireland: New opportunities or unresolved stalemate
by Allan LEONARD
17 December 2008

Does the 1998 Good Friday Agreement, or the subsequent 2007 St Andrew’s Agreement, represent a means of conflict management between stalemated unionist and nationalist communities in Northern Ireland, or does the environment of peace itself provide an opportunity to pursue a more ‘ordinary’ form of politics, for greater prosperity and fairness for the wider population?


Book review – Born Fighting (James WEBB)

20070802 Born Fighting cover
There’s no denying the fighting spirit of the Scots-Irish, particularly as James Webb describes the defence of the frontier in the Appalachian Mountains. However, Webb goes too far in defining this attribute as somehow ethnically unique.

Webb also overplays the Scots-Irish role in the American War of Independence. One giveaway passage is, “Although the trained minds of New England’s Puritan culture and Virginia’s Cavalier aristocracy had shaped the finer intellectual points of the argument for political disuinion, the true passion for individual rights emanated from the radical individualism of the Presbyterian and, increasingly, Baptist pulpits. This concept … dovetailed neatly with the aristocratic forces of revolution in the East.”

One can appreciate Webb’s desire to emphasise the passion of the Scots-Irish, but his arguments could have been stronger by demonstrating a more fulsome knowledge of the “finer intellectual points”. For example, it was no mean feat to convince some of the reluctant colonial governors to side with the cause of independence. Furthermore, these “trained minds” included many of America’s Founding Fathers, whose wisdom established the political philosophy by which the US government still lives by.

So, while Born Fighting is a decent read about a proud Scots-Irish American’s perspective on his communal ancestors’ contributions to American culture and society, this not the more serious investigation as it at times pretends to be. (3/5 stars)