Categories
@MrUlster

‘Americans had little experience of terror’ (News Letter)

‘Americans had little experience of terror’
Laura Murphy (News Letter)
7 May 2011

[Laura Murphy interviewed me about the death of Osama bin Laden]

Relief, and the belief that “every right-thinking person” should share this emotion, was what was experienced by US-born Allan Leonard, when he learnt of the death of terror chief Osama bin laden this week.

“There’s no question (about that),” says the 43-year-old.

“The man was an international threat.”

Originally from Toledo, in Ohio, Allan lived in various parts of his native country, including Boston and New York, before moving to the province in 1994. He is now married and settled in Balygowan.

“I had planned to come here for several years after I graduated from Boston University,” he says.

“My Bachelor’s degree was International Relations and I was interested in Irish history and politics, and like many Americans, I have Irish ancestry.

“It was the classic story — I came here and met a local girl from Belfast (her name is Beverley), married and settled down, bought a house, and I’ve been working ever since.”

Ironically, on the day of the 9/11 atrocities, Allan was “busy finishing a project at the Linen Hall Library called Troubled Images.”

Just a couple of days later, he had to fly to England in order to sign off the final master disk for a multimedia CD-Rom which was part of the project — “this was in the days before high speed broadband,” he laughs.

“My plane ticket was already purchased, so on the day of 9/11, I’m watching all of this take place.

“People asked was I nervous and I said ‘absolutely not’, this would be the safest day in all of history to fly because it was just such a rude awakening in terms of airport security.”

Allan likens the impact of 9/11 to that of the attack on Pearl Harbour in 1941, “in a sense that America had been directly attacked by a foreign power.

“Also, the audacity and the shock … it was almost unreal. Friends and I were sending text messages asking ‘is this really happening?’ It just felt like a nightmare.”

But he says that despite the horror, it didn’t evoke in him a feeling that he needed to “rush out and join the US army”, and he believes this was in part due to the fact that he had been living in Northern Ireland — a country well acquainted with terrorism — for some time before the strike in America.

“I have learnt how society operates in a conflict. I know how it affects people’s psyche and their outlook and how they deal with things.

“Americans have very little experience in dealing with direct terrorism.”

In was back in the late 1990s when Osama bin Laden first came to Allan’s attention.

“He was doing all these atrocious acts, and I just thought ‘this person must be stopped’.

“He was a threat to international security, he was just way too dangerous. I knew that something was always going to have to happen.”

Allan adds that he knew that once his fellow American countrymen “set their minds to taking action, it gets done.”

And he says that whilst he believes that “Al-Qaeda still remains a threat”, he hopes that with the organisation’s “charismatic head cut off”, and future operations will be “not so effective and less co-ordinated.”

He adds: “Al-Qaeda atrocities will continue but I cannot see how they will manage to pull off a spectacle like 9/11 because that was, in a way, an incredible mastermind of co-ordination. What we need to be hopeful of is that they will never carry the same kind of impetus.”

Categories
@SharedFuture

Shared Future panel: @UUPonline conference 2010

Shared Future panel: @UUPonline conference 2010
by Allan LEONARD for Shared Future News
4 December 2010

At the annual Ulster Unionist Party (UUP) conference at the Ramada Hotel, Belfast, I attended a panel discussion on shared future policy. The event was facilitated by Councillor Ross Hussey. Panellists were Duncan Morrow, Bill Manwaring, Lesley Macaulay, Kenny Donaldson.

Categories
@SharedFuture

A Shared Society: @SDLPlive conference 2010

A Shared Society: @SDLPlive conference 2010
by Allan LEONARD for Shared Future News
5 November 2010 

At the annual SDLP conference at the Ramada Hotel, Belfast, I attended a panel discussion — A Shared Society — chaired by Conall McDevitt MLA (South Belfast).

Categories
@SharedFuture

Young people discuss CSI at Stormont @Cinemagic

Young people discuss CSI at Stormont @Cinemagic
by Allan LEONARD for Shared Future News
27 September 2010

As part of the Cinemagic International Film & Television Festival for Young People, and in conjunction with the Unite Against Hate campaign, there was a day event at Parliament Buildings, Stormont, home of the Northern Ireland Assembly.

Categories
@MrUlster

Cartoons in Conflict

As part of its 2010 Summer School, Community Dialogue (www.communitydialogue.org) hosted an exhibition of international cartoonists’ contributions to The Parents Circle – Families Forum (www.theparentscircle.com), which is a grassroots organisation based in the Middle East.

The Parents Circle – Families Forum represents more than 500 families, both Israeli and Palestinian, who have lost a family member to the conflict.

At the Belfast launch event at Farset International, Springfield Road, Forum members Robi Damelin (Israeli) and Seham Ikhlayel (Palestinian) described the background to this exhibition and their project work, as well as shared their stories, experiences and hopes:

I was particularly intrigued to learn more about their “Crack in the Wall” project, which will make interactive use of websites and social media. As Robi explained, with it becoming increasingly difficult to physically meet up, the use of phone lines and online resources become vital.

Robi and Seham insist that any peace agreement that does not involve the people in the process nor include reconciliation as a specific outcome is doomed to failure.

Robi also has no time for the display of flags, citing Israeli flags in Protestant areas and Palestinian flags in Catholic areas of Belfast:

“I don’t think that’s helping anybody. It just makes you feel good about yourself. I don’t see how Seham’s life was improved by a Palestinian flag.”

After Robi and Seham spoke, there was a Q&A session, with inevitable comparisons between the Middle East and Northern Ireland experiences. My impression was that the locals weren’t actually listening to Robi’s understanding (or incomprehension) of forgiveness. That is, several people tried to probe why it is apparent that Christian-populated places put such a premium on forgiveness. At one point Robi said that when Bishop Desmond Tutu insists on forgiveness, that’s immoral; you can’t righteously compel forgiveness.

There were workshop-style discussions afterwards, which I wasn’t able to stay for. But I am very grateful for Community Dialogue for facilitating this exhibition’s trip to Northern Ireland.

Robi and Seham were also interviewed by BBC Radio Ulster Arts Extra, where they described their work further:

Categories
@TroubledImages Essays Photography

Troubled Images – A personal perspective by Gordon GILLESPIE

Troubled Images Exhibition
14 June 2010 – 11 September 2010
Location: Vertical Gallery
Admission: Free
Troubled Images Exhibition

EXHIBITION

All 70 political posters from our ‘Troubled Images’ exhibition, documenting the years of the Northern Ireland conflict, have been hung five storeys high in our Vertical Gallery. 

The exhibition has travelled throughout the world to inform and educate the general public about the turbulent years of Northern Ireland’s ‘Troubles’. It is now ‘home’ again and available for all to see.

Categories
@SharedFuture

Transformation and Ongoing Conflict in Contemporary Belfast

Transformation and Ongoing Conflict in Contemporary Belfast
(BBC Radio Ulster)
31 January 2010

On 20 January, the Institute of Governance at Queen’s University Belfast hosted a workshop organised by the Centre for Peace and Conflict Studies at the University of St Andrew’s: “Transformation and Ongoing Conflict in Contemporary Belfast”.

Categories
@MrUlster

Book review – The Storm (Vince CABLE)

20090612 The Storm cover
Vince Cable is the chief economic spokesperson for the Liberal Democrats, and his lucid explanations of the credit crunch and overall current parlous global economic situation has seen him well sought after by mainstream news media outlets. For good reason — his analysis has been proven spot on.

In his book, The Storm: The World Economic Crisis & What It Means, Cable reviews both distant and more recent economic history to put the current situation in context. This includes a chapter on the surge in commodity prices in 2008. Here, his professional experience as a chief economist for Shell provides credence to his arguments.

Cable does his best to present the intricacies of international finance and macroeconomics to the lay reader, but having some education in economics does no harm, e.g. appreciating the diference between a trade balance and balance of payments.

My favoured sections were towards the end, when Cable suggests some actions for the way forward:

  • Central bank monetary policy to deal with asset prices as well as inflation (a la Irving Fisher; the Swedish experience)
  • Remove mortgage tax relief (USA) (reduce over-borrowing) and business interest tax relief (UK) (reduce excessive leverage)
  • Replace cash salary bonuses with stock with delayed redemption
  • Agreed international accounting standards and reporting (greater transparency)

More challenging is Cable’s suggestion for a new multilateralism that places Asia “at the heart” of the world economy.

Indeed, The Economist published an excellent article that described the role that China’s gigantic trade surplus had in flooding the American financial markets with funds needing investing (“When a flow becomes a flood”).

Cable calls for a New Bretton Woods, hosted in a place like Singapore, with key participants the USA, China, Japan, the eurozone, and India.

Part of Cable’s motivation is to prevent economic nationalism, or “state capitalism”, which encourages protectionism under numerous guises, including “economic security”. Cable isn’t predicting a repeat of what happened in the 1930s interwar years, but he repeatedly paints an ominous picture of what a failure to properly address the current issues could mean.

Cable has an enduring faith in liberal markets producing wealth and prosperity, which includes public services, and implores with policy makers to take the appropriate actions to ensure this remains the case.

My criticism would only be that I wished Cable had presented more detail on his own suggested actions, as well as on what he would deem as best practices around the world. Perhaps that’s the scope of a future volume.

Categories
@SharedFuture

Book review – Ordinary Lives

Book review: Ordinary Lives
by Allan LEONARD for Shared Future News
8 January 2009

In recent years there has been an influx into Northern Ireland of new arrivals from east European countries, as well as more familiar western places of Portugal and Spain.

Categories
@MrUlster Essays Photography

John CARSON – Friend Map revisited

During 1975 and 1976, artist John Carson visited friends and family in Belfast, Northern Ireland, and photographed them in their homes. The photographs were placed on a map of the area to create an artwork depicting a social network of connections and relationships that crossed geographical, religious and political divisions.

Some 30 years later, Carson decided to revisit this network of friends, speaking with as many of them as possible about their life experiences over the past three decades. Carson wanted to give a voice to the faces from his original Friend Map and reflect on how their life experiences compared to youthful aspirations. The resulting artwork is a compilation of extracts from video interviews with 42 people still living in the greater Belfast area.

Western Michigan University released a press statement about the forthcoming exhibition at the Gwen Frostic School of Art at WMU.

Categories
@SharedFuture

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?

Categories
@SharedFuture

Our future together: Alliance Party conference 2008

Our future together: Alliance Party conference 2008
By Allan LEONARD for Shared Future News
20 September 2008

As part of the annual Alliance Party Conference at the Marine Court Hotel, Bangor, the Northern Ireland Foundation hosted a fringe meeting: “Our future together: Realising a shared vision for local communities”. I prepared a folded-A3 flyer, describing the meeting as “a discussion about engaging with local residents and neighbourhood groups, to explore challenges and possibilities, and work together to achieve a shared vision”.