I have always been in support of regeneration and development, and I have always maintained that Belfast sorely needs it. At present, Northern Ireland's economy very much relies on public services, which is by no means sustainable; therefore, investment into the private sector has been a priority for quite some time now by the Department of Enterprise, Trade and Investment.
On Saturday I stood at Place Luxemburg facing the European Parliament with a few friends for the 'March for Europe' rally. I had made my placard the night before, knowing with complete certainty what the message I wanted to write was and of course it was going to be about Northern Ireland, Brexit and the Border. Myself and many others within the province have been feeling a deep frustration with Theresa May's pursuit of a hard Brexit and the fact we've been so powerless within the whole fiasco. A frustration which is also mirrored by our Scottish cousins. Therefore, I wanted to convey this anger and in the words of Sinn Féin's Martina Anderson, to tell Theresa May to 'stick the border where the sun don't shine'.
I believe everyone has those moments in life were they can remember exactly where they were and what they were doing at that time when something profound or catastrophic takes place. On the morning of the 22nd March 2016, I was lying in bed with the other half talking about my flight the next day to go home for Easter to surprise the family whilst he was on his phone scrolling through Facebook. He then urgently turns to me and says "Emma, there's been a bomb in Brussels airport" and in true Northern Irish fashion, I replied "A bomb or a bomb, bomb?" When he began to read out the facts to me, that it was indeed a terror attack that had caused so much devastation, everything began to dawn on me.
They say that the best written words often come from the heart. At present, my heart is very sore with the sense of loss that myself and many others feel at the passing of Martin McGuinness this morning in his hometown of Derry. I actually feel intimidated attempting to write this piece - how could I do him justice? This is the man who was essential to the peace process in Northern Ireland - without him, it might not have ever happened. He was many different things to different people, but to me, he epitomizes the journey of Northern Ireland - from an IRA freedom fighter to a true statesman who worked tirelessly for peace and reconciliation, his story is a complex one but it is one of extraordinary growth and progress.
It's been no secret that the relationship between these two ladies has been frosty for some time now. When Brexit was first announced to be taking place, the devolved regions, Scotland, Northern Ireland and Wales, had been reassured by Mrs. May and her 'Brexit Brigade' that the concerns they had would be taken care off or were ill-founded. For Scotland, it was an issue of access to the single-market and EU customs union, while for Northern Ireland, there were concerns over the potential loss of EU peace funding, a hard border with the Republic of Ireland, the undermining of the 1998 Good Friday Agreement and the ruin of our agriculture industry. Wales, although had voted along with England to leave the EU, now seems to be experiencing regret and who could blame them - the Tories ever hardening stance on Brexit and how it has been handled has been nothing short of a few crazed clowns set loose from the circus.
March 2017 has seen the political dynamics in this part of the world change dramatically, starting with the Northern Ireland snap election results, which over a little week a go had stunned everyone. One thing that is without a doubt, is that it was a historic election, an election that has changed the face of the province, and it has provided Nationalism with a much-needed energy boost, to the point where they are now almost equal to that of Unionists within the Northern Irish Assembly. There has been a real buzz about the communities since the result and many are hopeful that changes for the better are about to come. While others remain sceptical and believe that the period of negotiations between the two largest parties will end in gridlock; therefore, a period of direct rule from Westminster or another general assembly election is inevitable.
Many of my readers will know what the 1990s in Northern Ireland was like, I myself was only a nipper but I can recall memories and experiences that have stayed with me. The 90s kids in Northern Ireland were really straddled between a period of violence and another that wished for peace. Amongst the riots, bomb-scares, paramilitary activity and social deprivation, the 90s childhood in Northern Ireland was actually pretty good. We were the last generation of children that played outside, we were fearless and street-smart, we could name everyone who lived in our street, we had dogs in our gangs, we weren't afraid of getting dirty and we had respect for our elders.
I frequently suffer from a quarter-life crisis. Yes, this thing really does exist and a lot of people from the age of 23-29 will agree with me. I experience emotional melt-downs at least twice a year, wondering what I'm doing with my life, feeling insecure in my abilities and frustrated with not having reached my goals. There has been one too many nights were I've found myself seeking solace with a tub of Ben&Jerrys only to discover I don't feel any better, just guilty for consuming all those calories. I know it's my own fault as to why I often feel this way, I put too much pressure on myself and many of my peers do the same.
When I think about the women in my own family, my eyes often well-up thinking of the struggles they had faced throughout their lives. Poverty, domestic abuse, discrimination, and basic rights denied to them. Their strength to overcome adversity has been something I've always admired. To raise a family is difficult enough but to do so in working-class conditions is more so. Belfast is very much a working class city and I maintain it is a matriarch city. Although men tend to be the face of Belfast, it is women who are the arms, legs, brain and heart...