It was touch-and-go with the weather, but thankfully the rain stopped for the unveiling of Northern Ireland’s first “peace pole”, near the gates at Northumberland Street, west Belfast.
I arrived just in time for some introductory singing by the Waterford Omagh Peace Choir, which was formed in 2006 by members of the Omagh Youth Peace Choir and the Waterford Peace Choir. Their musical director is Phil Brennan, and they came to national prominence with their performance on 15 August 2008, the 10th anniversary commemoration ceremony of the Omagh bomb victims.
While the choir has been derided by the likes of Ruth Dudley-Edwards, who accuses it of being overly Catholic, it should be noted that the DUP’s Jeffrey Donaldson (among other MLAs) invited the choir to perform at Parliament Buildings, seat of the Northern Ireland Assembly.
There’s no denying the Christian ethos of the choir, which has produced an album, “Songs For The Soul”, released at the Assembly concert. (Ask me for details how to get the CD.)On the day of the peace pole unveiling, I found their singing beautiful: the soloists, the choir, the accompaniment, and responsiveness to their choir master, Brennan.
The persistent wind assisted with the physical unveiling of the sculpture, one which I found appealing. On the four sides of the twisting cubes, the word “peace” is written vertically in four languages: English, Ulster-Scots, Welsh, and Irish.
This appears as an adaptation of the more official Peace Pole Project, which is promoted by the World Peace Prayer Society (which has trademarked the phrase “May Peace Prevail On Earth”). There are an estimated 200,000+ peace poles in the world.
The Lord Mayor of Belfast, Naomi Long, made a brief welcome speech. She said that she was pleased to be able to participate in the event, as it represents her work and vision for removing divisions in our society. The Commissioner for Children and Young People, Patricia Lewsley, also spoke compliments.
There was another beautiful recital then concluding remarks by Pastor Jack McKee, who invited everyone to an evening concert at the Life Centre right next door.
The peace pole event was supported by the group Unite Against Hate, and I had some very positive conversations with their Project Manger, Eva Grossman. I encourage you to sign up to their website: www.uniteagainsthate.org.uk
Eva kindly provided me some promotional rubber bracelets. If you want one, just let me know.