THE fifth generation Mercedes E-Class that launched in 2016 was good, but now the 2021 model has taken things a step further.
Belfast's property market has boomed during the lockdown with mortgage searches online almost doubling.
THE recent opening of a halal supermarket in the heart of Dunmurry village is another sign of the warm welcome that has been given Muslim newcomers to the district on the outskirts of West Belfast.
GEORGE Galloway used to fight for Ireland’s unity, now it’s Britain’s. The socialist firebrand turned Kremlin TV personality is playing a fascinating cameo role in Scotland’s general election.
STAFF at the NSPCC’s Helpline in Belfast have been taking part in a 5km-a-Day Challenge to raise much-needed funds for the charity. The team of seventeen, which includes Joanne McDonnell and Chloe McGettigan from West Belfast, have been using the initiative to keep fit and raise funds for the charity as well. The group covered approximately 2630km between them and raised £4,162.21 so far which will help support children here. Employees at the Helpline, which is based primarily in Belfast, were granted key worker status by the NI Executive early on in the pandemic. This allowed the essential service, to be staffed for adults to get in touch by phone or online to get advice and share their concerns about a child, anonymously if they wish. Joanne McMaster, Supporter Fundraising Manager at NSPCC Northern Ireland, said: “We are so proud of the Helpline team for going above and beyond their duties and to fundraise for NSPCC Northern Ireland. “Their amazing endeavours will help support our work throughout Northern Ireland.”As lockdown continues throughout Northern Ireland, staff at the helpline are urging members of the public to be alert to possible signs of neglect and abuse and to call the helpline if they are concerned. Social distancing, self-isolating and quarantine can cause stress and changes in everyone's behaviour. Spotting the signs of abuse might be more difficult and it can be difficult to know for certain if something is wrong. Possible signs of abuse include: aggressive or repeated shouting; hearing hitting or things being broken; children crying for long periods of time; very young children left alone or are outdoors by themselves; children looking dirty or not changing their clothes and children being withdrawn or anxious. The free NSPCC Helpline provides adults with a place they can get advice and support, share their concerns about a child or get general information about child protection. Adults can contact the Helpline on 0808 800 5000 or email email@example.com You can still donate to the team’s fundraising efforts, go to: www.justgiving.com/team/NSPCC-Belfast
WHILE it could be suggested that society is becoming more secular as people move away from organised religion and the number of people filing into the pews on a Sunday dwindle, West Belfast man Jim Deeds has published his fifth book ‘A Look of Love’ which explores the scriptures through the eyes of those who were around at the time of Jesus. Recounting his journey in faith, Jim recalled the first time he became interested in scripture.
Max Verstappen took a superb victory in an action-packed Emilia Romagna Grand Prix at Imola Italy. Rain ahead of the formation lap caused drama with Fernando Alonso hitting a tyrewall on his way to the grid, but he made the start. Most of the field started on intermediate tyres on a track that was damp at one side and soaking wet at the other. Leclerc spun at Acque Minerali on the warm-up lap but managed to keep his place in the formation. Launching off an almost dry startline, Verstappen in third, starting in second gear drove up alongside pole sitter Hamilton on the run to Tamburello where Hamilton bounced across the kerbs, allowing Verstappen to take the lead. Latifi spun at Acque Minerali regaining the track only to crash a few yards later after contact with Mazepin, that brought out the safety car. Mick Schumacher crashed while weaving to warm his tyres and Perez went off at Piratella doing the same. Perez lost, then took back two places, but later received a 10-second stop/go penalty for overtaking behind the safety car.
WHILE lockdown has been a testing time for many, it has also allowed those within the creative industries some time to work on their craft and produce some fantastic works of art. Originally from West Belfast, artist and poet Noel Connor has used this time to produce a book of poetry in collaboration with artist Paul Stangroom with the profits raised going to Doctors Without Borders. Discussing how he developed a love of art, Noel told the Andersonstown News: “I did a prize-giving in La Salle back in 2019 and I stressed the importance of the relationship between teachers and pupils. If you have someone who inspires you and makes you believe in yourself.
Continued from last week When Robert Johnston came to Belfast in 1868 Fenianism as the IRB was known, was at a low ebb. The head of the IRB in Belfast, Frank Roney had been imprisoned and on his release was forced into exile and had headed to America. His successor, William Harbinson, had been arrested and died in prison in September 1867. The loss of these leaders coupled with the abysmal failure of the Fenian rising in Dublin in March 1867 meant that heads were below the parapet. In Belfast, Fenians now infiltrated other organisations making advanced speeches and enrolling men into their ranks. Likewise, the Catholic Institute, founded by Catholic merchants to provide reading rooms for their co-religionists, was utilised by IRB man John Griffith for subversive purposes, much to the irritation of Bishop Dorrian. Robert Johnston’s humble beginnings as a labourer meant he could easily approach people while his success in business gave him the opportunity to travel and meet and mix with the national and American leaders. Gradually he built up the numbers in Belfast and by the end of the 1870s the IRB was back to full strength in the city. Johnston became a frequent visitor to America, visiting Fenian and Clan na Gael leaders in New York, Chicago and as far north as New Brunswick in Canada. He collected samples of mineral ores, dabbled in gold mining and studied the economy of every area he visited. He believed that gold, silver, lead and other minerals might be mined in Ireland. He always advocated the establishment of new industries financed by Irish capital. On one occasion when he gave a speech in Belfast on these lines he had a conversation with a man called Thomas Gallaher.
Brendain ó Maoldúin looks through the pages of Belfast newspapers to discover a city running out of space for burials PEOPLE know little of the impact of the Great Irish Famine on Belfast and the typhus fever and cholera outbreaks of 1847 and 1848/49 that followed in its wake or of the huge numbers of destitute and poor who poured into Belfast from the countryside for refuge. This research reveals horrific accounts published in contemporary Belfast newspapers in 1847 of the Shankill Road Cemetery. The other two Belfast cemeteries at Friars Bush and Clifton Street were in the same appalling states but have been more historically documented.
FORMER Delta Print chairman Terry Cross was on hand to welcome Economy Minister Diane Dodds to officially opened his new Hinch Distillery and visitor centre located just outside Ballynahinch. Back in 2016 Terry sold West Belfast company Delta Print to Finnish packaging giant Huhtamaki. The £15million investment in the new 30,000sq ft distillery and local tourist attraction will lead to the creation of 42 new jobs.
“THE worst position to hold is one of certitude about the past,” says the man responsible for the 1984 Brighton bombing, Pat Magee. As we discuss his recently released memoir Where Grieving Begins (Pluto Press 2021) over the phone, the former IRA Volunteer seems pensive. His apparent disposition is undoubtedly reflective of his attempts to reconcile his own beliefs and political actions with the hurt he has caused others, including those affected by the bombing of Brighton’s Grand Hotel. But after putting his story to paper, he admits that perhaps such inner conflicts simply “can’t be squared”. Pat Magee’s account can be split into two halves, the first of which deals with his early life and involvement in the republican struggle. The second coincides with his November 2000 meeting with Jo Berry, daughter of the Tory MP, Anthony Berry, who was killed in the Brighton bombing. The book charts Pat’s course from a boy, raised in Coventry from the age of four, to a young man who moved to Belfast and became an active member of the IRA. After a two-and-half-year period of internment in Long Kesh in the early 1970s, he returned to active service and later spent 14 years in prison for the bombing of the Grand Hotel. But his narrative is much more than a chronological account of the events leading to Brighton in 1984, and a far-cry from crass militarist chronicle.
It does not feel as if history is being made in Scotland. Not on the streets, anyway.
Covid-19 has had an unprecedented impact on the performing arts industry with shows cancelled and theatres closed. As the pandemic took hold in early 2020, St Agnes’ Choral Society were forced to cancel their production of Irving Berlin’s Top Hat. Now, they are preparing to tread the boards once more as they bring Shrek out of the swamp and on to the stage of the Grand Opera House. Discussing the impact that Coronavirus had on the company, Society Chairperson Gareth McGreevy said: “Going back to the beginning of Covid, we were gearing up to stage Top Hat at the Island Arts Centre and that was pulled the week before it was due to open. “As a company we have been re-evaluating where we are. Our main purpose is to put on productions for audiences from near and far but we obviously have Top Hat waiting to go and we have invested a lot of money in that. “I think that it was only fitting on our return to the Grand Opera House that we picked a show that was not only fun but family friendly and that the audiences would be able to enjoy. “We were planning on performing Shrek in 2021 but it was postponed and we decided that we would proceed with that and put Top Hat on the long finger as we have the rights for ten years and hopefully we will bring it to the stage in 2022.” The pandemic brought many challenges to the group but they were willing to work to overcome them as Gareth recounts. “One of the biggest challenges we have faced as a company during Covid-19 is maintaining the social aspect. While people have their own friendship groups within the company, we miss that social interaction. “One of the first things we done when lockdown was introduced, was we launched a song in aid of Macmillan. We recorded ‘Thankful’ by Josh Groban and it raised over £2,000 for the charity. “We have also been holding online workshops with the company in terms of audition etiquette and we have been working with professionals around the country on choreography workshops. “One of our members, Patrick Smyth has performed in the West End and we held a question and answer session with him on how he moved from performing with St Agnes’ to some of the best theatres in London.” As the world moved online, St Agnes’ Choral Society were adapting their programmes in a Covid-safe manner as Gareth tells us: “Singing virtually on a Zoom call isn’t the most beneficial for us as you can get time delays and it simply doesn’t work for us. However, music is at the heart of what we do at St Agnes’ and as soon as we can get back to that, we will. “At Christmas we recorded two concerts in St Peter’s Cathedral and they were broadcast in aid of the Renal Unit. They were then picked up by NVTV and broadcast on Freeview and Virgin Media on Christmas Day and Boxing Day. “Although we filmed in line with the Covid guidelines, people were able to see each other as they were entering or leaving the church to record their songs. That raised over £4,000. “Moving forward we are hoping to arrange some social activates when the restrictions allow so that we can bring our members back together as I don’t think we appreciated the social aspect of meeting in the rehearsal room. “Hopefully the arts will continue to receive the support that is needed from our government because the lack of support during the pandemic has been concerning. We are looking forward to helping those within the industry who haven’t been able to avail of funding for one reason or another be that lighting teams or sound teams and we are looking forward to be able to give them some business when we get back up and running.” For many of their members, there is more to the group than performing as Gareth details. “We are looking forward to getting back to what we love doing. We all do this as a hobby and I don’t think we will ever take for granted again the ability to open up a hall, have a cup of tea, a sing and a bit of craic. “I think St Agnes’ means something to everybody. If it is getting out of the house, getting out for a sing or getting to the Opera House, everyone has their own reasons for loving the company. “One thing about St Agnes’ is that friendships do transcend generations. One of our oldest members Kevin McKavanagh, who is over 80, right down to our youngest members who are 16.” Discussing the upcoming production of Shrek The Musical, he added: “Moving forward, we wanted something that would lighten the mood of the pandemic and Shrek is certainly one to do that as the characters and sense of humour are brilliant. “In terms of logistics, we still have a number of challenges to overcome. The Opera House are programming shows at the moment on the understanding that it will be operating on a full capacity of an audience and that is the only way that this production will be viable for us. “They have seen unprecedented uptake in ticket sales and people really want to get back to the theatre. We have already sold 35 per cent of our tickets for the Saturday matinee and with almost a year lead-in that is unheard of for us. “We normally see an increase in sales around Christmas time and then in a last minute rush as we get closer to the production. “The production coincides with St Patrick’s week and hopefully it will become part of the St Patrick’s week celebrations. “In terms of getting back into the rehearsal room, we as a company have to be mindful that Covid is still out there. We are not rushing straight in and there is a lot of preparation going on behind the scenes. “We will only return to rehearsals when it is safe to do so and we want to give ourselves a longer lead-in time in the event that Covid is still with us closer to the production.“For a show in March or April, we would normally hold auditions around November time and begin rehearsals from January. With Shrek we are bringing that forward to allow for any Covid restrictions which may come along and there is a lot of preparation going on to get the show on stage. “We are currently deciding if we will be having in-person auditions or if they will be done virtually. Ideally we would want to cast the show in the summer time and then hit the ground running in terms of rehearsals when we have no restrictions. “We are also looking forward to get back to the Grand Opera House when they reopen after their refurbishment to see what has changed and we can’t wait to show that after our 60 odd years in business that we are still bringing joy to our audiences.”
IRISH music old and new comes together for us to celebrate this week, as a host of institutions and artists announce new projects and tracks. Firstly we have Music Generation, the leading music education programme on the island, calling for established professional musicians to apply for a role within the organisation. MG has been a powerhouse in giving children and young people access to high-quality schooling since its inception, and applicants are invited to create meaningful work, communities and development within the minds of the next generation of Irish musicians. With the application process occurring online, the deadline for interest is April 30th.