Government sets out plans to mark Northern Ireland’s centenary – and possibility of G7 meeting coming to NI this year

A major London event to showcase local businesses will be at the heart of events to mark the centenary of Northern Ireland’s creation, the government last night revealed.

Friday, 12th March 2021, 8:24 am
Brandon Lewis told the News Letter that Northern Ireland is key to the Union

Finally setting out plans for the centenary commemorations, the Northern Ireland Office said that there would also be a church service, an extensive young people’s programme, a £1 million fundfor community projects, and other events.

In an interview with the News Letter, to be published in full tomorrow, Secretary of State Brandon Lewis spoke of his firm belief in the Union and also revealed that the government is considering the G7 meeting of trade and finance ministers, an offshoot of the main G7 meeting of world leaders, coming to Northern Ireland in early June.

He said: “There’s opportunities this year - particularly to host the G7, G7 trade ministers and finance ministers - to really promote that globally as well.”

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Despite suggestions of a grand centrepiece for the ocassion such as a public holiday or a visit by the Queen, there is no such event in the programme.

Ucertainty about whether the course of the pandemic will allow for gatherings of large numbers of people has made the planning particularly difficult. Already the Orange Order has postponed its own main event, a huge parade to Stormont.

Mr Lewis told the News Letter: “I’m going to be very unabashed about continuing to promote and push the positivity of that because if we’re not trumpeting what’s brilliant about Northern Ireland, and the reasons to invest in Northern Ireland, we can’t expect others to do it for us.

“It’s for us as those who have an understanding of, and a love for, Northern Ireland to do that.”

Vowing to promote Northern Ireland and the Union, he said: “I’m not going to apologise - I’m going to be quite punchy about that; I think part of my job in the UK government is to promote all parts of the UK and Northern Ireland is a hugely important part of the UK.

“One of the other points I feel very strongly about is that I make the argument...that it’s important for Northern Ireland to be part of the UK. We’ve seen through covid what the Treasury could do because of the strength of the four nations together financially.”

He said that “the UK is stronger because Northern Ireland is in it”.

When asked if it was not deeply problematic to be advertising Northern Ireland as a place for investment at a time when the Irish Sea border has disrupted trade and there is uncertainty about the future trading environment, he said that “it’s not just about the centenary year – this is using the centenary year to give a platform for the future growth of Northern Ireland.

“I would hope that as we get further into the year, as we solve these issues for trade for Northern Ireland, that people would see that there is that potentially competitive advantage as a reason to be based in Northern Ireland.”

However, he said that even aside from the terms of Brexit, Northern Ireland has exceptional globally-leading talent in areas such as advanced manufacturing, cyber security, financial technology, renewable energy, and weapons manufacturers such as Thales which supply the Armed Forces.

The programme outlined by the government last night will include academic events which explore the historical context of the centenary.

And a partnership with Royal Mail and the Post Office will mean that a special postmark reading ‘Our Story in the Making – Northern Ireland Beyond 100’ will be applied to stamped mail sent around the world.

Stamped mail across the UK will receive the postmark from 26 April to 3 May. From 3-29 May, stamped mail originating in NI will have the postmark applied. There will also be 2021 Northern Ireland, First and Second Class stamps.

The National Lottery Heritage Fund said that has selected 39 projects which will benefit from the £1 million of funding through the Shared History Fund – which it is distributing on behalf of the Northern Ireland Office to mark the centenary in “a thoughtful, inclusive and engaging way”.

The National Lottery said that the fund received high levels of interest and that it had awarded the 39 projects grants of between £3,000 and £100,000.

PM expected to fly in today for launch

Northern Ireland’s centenary programme will champion young people of the future, Boris Johnson said ahead of the Prime Minister coming to Northern Ireland today.

It will also pay tribute to those who worked tirelessly here during the pandemic, he added.

Plans for 2021 include a major business showcase in London, a £1 million Shared History Fund, an ambitious programme for young people, tree-planting projects, academic and historic events and an international church service for all denominations.

Mr Johnson said: “2021 marks 100 years since the creation of Northern Ireland, which has paved the way for the formation of the UK as we know it.

“Our centenary programme will reflect on the past and on the people and developments that make Northern Ireland the great place it is today.”

The programme of events and projects includes:

*** A total of £1m has been awarded to 39 community projects to research and demonstrate what 100 years of Northern Ireland has meant to them and their community.

*** Belfast City Council will host an event at City Hall marking the 100th anniversary of the opening of the Northern Ireland Parliament in the building on June 22 1921, by King George V.

*** Every school will be presented with a native tree to plant in their grounds and be encouraged to video their planting ceremony and upload what the government said was their moment in marking the centenary and working towards a greener future.

*** An extensive young people’s programme will explore what the future will look like in the next 100 years.

*** Live performance, radio and social media will showcase their hopes and ambitions.

*** The “Centenary Rose”, a flower the government said would represent reflection and hope, will be produced in Northern Ireland and planted in the gardens of the royal residence at Hillsborough Castle in Co Down. A Centenary Rose will be presented to the Queen for her own garden and there will be a decorative rose pin designed and produced in the UK, to be worn by VIPs at centenary events and given to programme participants.

*** An international church service for all denominations will be held in the autumn, followed by a reception at Hillsborough Castle.

*** On the same day historic buildings across the UK will be lit to signify a bright future for all.

*** London will host a Northern Ireland 2021 Business Showcase where companies and organisations from across the province will promote their products, services and expertise while meeting representatives from international companies, governments and investors.

IN FULL: Shared History Fund projects approved by Heritage Lottery Fund

Project name: 1921, Stormont and Soccer Splits

Organisation: Tollymore Football Club

Grant awarded: £9,400

Tollymore Football Club will deliver a series of community lectures looking at sport in the

context of partition.

The three lectures will be led by Dr Cormac Moore, a leading academic who has written

books on sport and partition. They will focus on the following areas:

 The events leading up to the creation of the NI Parliament and how different

organisations/bodies reacted to the partition.

 The formation of the Football Association of Ireland, the reasons for the split with the

IFA, as well as a broader look at soccer and the governance of other sports in


 The impact of partition, focusing on the day to day effects, such as the effects on law,

business/trade, religion, education, the labour movement and infrastructure and


The project will also involve a celebratory football match in October 2021 between the

Northern Ireland Veterans and English Veterans to commemorate the first international

played after the soccer split in 1921.

The application is supported by wide-ranging, cross community and cross party letters of

support, as well as the local Chamber of Commerce.

Project name: The Jewish Community and Northern Ireland’s centenary

Organisation: Belfast Jewish Community

Grant awarded: £10,000

Belfast Jewish Community aims to mark the Centenary by telling the story of the Jewish

community in Northern Ireland and its relationship with the wider community.

The age profile of the community and a widely spread diaspora means that the photographic

and documentary heritage is in danger of being lost.

This project will for the first time collect, preserve and crucially display and share a wide

range of photographic and documentary material never seen before about the Jewish

community in Northern Ireland.

The project will include Jewish heritage walks in Belfast city centre and for the first time at

the Jewish cemetery at Carnmoney, a place of international heritage importance.

Online resources will also be developed to ensure the history of the Jewish community in

Northern Ireland is preserved, and a wide range of people in Northern Ireland have the

opportunity to learn and understand the contribution of the Jewish community.

Project name: The Irish Traveller Community in Northern Ireland

Organisation: Armagh Roma Traveller Support

Grant awarded: £8,100

Irish Travellers have been documented as being part of Irish society for centuries. Travellers

have a long shared history, traditions, language, culture and customs that the wider

population may not be aware of.

Armagh Roma Traveller Support will design and develop an OCN accredited educational

programme focusing on the history and heritage of the Traveller community in Northern

Ireland, and specifically in the Armagh area.

The programme will be delivered via Zoom (or face to face when restrictions ease) and will

be targeted towards adult and young groups, statutory bodies and other relevant groups.

Members of the Traveller community will also be trained to lead and deliver the programme

in the future.

The project will also see the creation of an exhibition, and a number of events open to the

public, providing an opportunity to preserve and tell the story of the Northern Ireland

Traveller community.

Project name: What does Northern Ireland mean to you?

Organisation: Shared Future News

Grant awarded: £4,200

Shared Future News will undertake a series of interviews, which ask participants to reflect on

‘what Northern Ireland means to them today and what they envision Northern Ireland to be

like in 100 years’ time.

The participants will be from a wide range of backgrounds, including local people and those

who have arrived from near and far.

The interviews will form part of a new podcast series which will be hosted on their website,

as well as available through streaming platforms such as Apple and Spotify.

The project will culminate with a conference, which will provide an opportunity to share some

of the stories captured in the podcast, as well as stimulate discussion from a wider audience.

Project name: BDCA Shared History Fund project

Organisation: Ballynafeigh Community Development Association

Grant awarded: £9,900

The district of Ballynafeigh in the Ormeau Road area of Belfast was noted as ‘mixed’ as

early as the 1911 census.

In the century since Northern Ireland was established, the district has not only remained

mixed, but has become increasingly socially diverse with waves of immigrants and people

across Belfast and other parts of the world coming to make their home in the area.

Ballynafeigh Community Development Association’s project will seek to understand how it

remained a shared neighbourhood throughout the last century, whilst many others became


The local community will be involved in conducting research of the neighbourhood and its

development over the past 100 years, focusing on its rich built, natural and social heritage.

A project worker will be employed to co-ordinate the activities as well as develop an

exhibition and virtual tour.

Project name: Stormont Remembered in Libraries NI Resources (A Shared History project)

Organisation: Libraries NI

Grant awarded: £10,000

Libraries NI will develop, collate and exhibit material from its archive resources documenting

the building and opening of Parliament Buildings, Stormont between 1927-1932.

The digitised collection will be available via their website, and they also plan to develop an

online exhibition, which documents the key events and context of this time.

A travelling exhibition will be available to the network of 96 branch libraries within Libraries

NI and a range of organisations including community, academic, public sector and cross


Libraries NI will promote the collection and the exhibition by engaging speakers to present

talks on a range of topics. They will also engage a professional storyteller to create and

present a programme of cultural activities relating to the project for children and adults.

Project name: 100th Anniversary of Northern Ireland, 100th Anniversary of Seaview

Stadium of Crusaders FC

Organisation: Crusaders FC

Grant awarded: £10,000

The project will look at the 100 th anniversary of Seaview Stadium, home of Crusaders

Football Club in North Belfast in the context of the Centenary of Northern Ireland.

Their Shared History Fund project will reflect upon the troubled history of Crusaders Football

Club, and explore how it remains a stable and thriving sporting institution in Lower North


A key highlight of the project is the ‘100 years at Seaview’ exhibition, which will take place at

Grove Library. This will include hard copy and digital records of the Club’s history, ranging

from match programmes and team sheets, to club photos and historical artefacts. Crusaders

will promote the exhibition through leaflets and social media, as well as deliver educational

programmes in local primary schools.

The club are also planning a number of cross-community events as part of the programme,

including working alongside other Belfast football clubs, Belfast Celtic Society and a ‘Four

Corners’ event hosted by Joel Taggart.

Project name: 2021 Marking the Decade of Centenaries in Belfast

Organisation: Belfast City Council

Grant awarded: £87,700

Belfast’s City Hall was the place where the first Northern Ireland Parliament sat, inaugurated

on 1921, a key event in the history and heritage of Belfast, Northern Ireland, the island of

Ireland and further afield.

Belfast City Council is planning a civic programme of events from March '21 to March '22

which it anticipates being accessed by an estimated 11,000 people of all ages and


Some of the planned activities include:

 A drama and animation programme in City Hall leading up to their flagship event, The

King's Speech - The King's Speech event on 22 June - 100 years to the day after the

new NI Parliament was inaugurated.

 Cataloguing 1921 related artefacts and developing a digital Belfast trail with partner


 Locating a Time Capsule in City Hall with young people.

 Restoration of the original Chairs used by the King and Queen at the inauguration of

the NI Parliament 100 years ago.

 An end of the Decade conference.

The project has received political agreement within Council as a roadmap to mark it and to

promote the city as an attractive place to live, visit, invest and do business.

Project name: Perspectives on Partition and the Foundation of Northern Ireland 1921-2021

Organisation: The Governors of the Belfast Library and Society for Promoting Knowledge

(Linen Hall Library)

Grant awarded: £57,000

This project by the Linen Hall Library aims to explore a wide variety of Northern Ireland

heritage in the context of the Centenary - literature, music, poetry, history and anthropology.

This multi-stranded project will feature an exhibition supplemented by an events and learning


This will include:

 An exhibition to showcase items from the collection with interpretation to interrogate

the theme of the foundation of Northern Ireland.

 Talks given by noted historians in the field will examine the important issues around

commemoration and specifically what it meant for Northern Ireland and ROI then and


 Antiques Roadshow style event where public will be encouraged to put forward

items/documents they have from the period helping to contextualise the issue of the


 Digitalisation of artefacts from Linen Hall's collection from the period and to provide a

fact-based narrative while ensuring they can be made accessible to a wider audience

and benefit future generations.

 Quest to discover NI's 'Book of the Century'

 A series of panel discussions will reflect on Northern Ireland perspectives on partition

from historic, current affairs, community reflections and the southern perspective on


 From 100 years of music in Northern Ireland, a partition poetry open mic session, to

an exhibition launch ‘The Long and the Short of the Creation of Northern Ireland’ with

Tim McGarry and David Hume.

Project name: Shared History, Shared Learning Project

Organisation: REACH Across

Grant awarded: £50,500

REACH Across is a cross community youth group based in Derry/Londonderry, working with

young people (14-17) adult volunteers (18+) and school groups.

The group aims to run a cross community project focused on the heritage of the partition,

creation of Northern Ireland and conflict and resolution within the past 100 years.

The group will appoint a full time Shared History Education officer who will plan, deliver and

evaluate the project which will include visit to buildings, sites and museums of interest to the

heritage as well as collecting oral histories.

The project will provide a six-week training course, a residential and experience of creating

an exhibition. Adult volunteers will be given training in order to work with the Shared History

Education officer to co-facilitate the training offered to young people and schools.

The project will end with an exhibition made up of photographs, stands and interactive

elements, enabling the young people to share their learning with the wider community.

Project name: Creative Centenaries Digital Engagement Programme

Organisation: The Nerve Centre

Grant awarded: £51,900

The Nerve Centre is a creative media arts centre and focal point for youth culture in

Derry/Londonderry. This large-scale digital engagement programme has been designed to

encourage interaction with the history and heritage of the foundation of Northern Ireland from

a wide range of people, including the public, heritage bodies and institutions, young people

(aged 12-18) and history groups.

The project will create the ‘go to’ online hub marking the centenary of Northern Ireland, in

partnership with the Centenary Historical Advisory Panel. New, rich digital content will be

created and promoted through the Creative Centenaries website, including: - ‘On This Day’

strand, featuring content from historians and researchers reflecting events of 100 years ago.

There are plans for an events calendar of activities marking the Centenary from a range of

partners and groups including a prominent website, e-newsletters and social media

campaign to highlight centenary related activity across Northern Ireland as well as creating a

bank of educational resources, film, websites.

The Nerve Centre will also delivering five high profile webinar events reflecting on partition

and the formation of Northern Ireland, including the international context of the time. Leading

historians, academics and others with an interest in the centenary commemorations will


The project also involves plans to produce a new curriculum linked graphic novel explaining

the foundation of Northern Ireland that makes the heritage of the centenary more accessible

to young people. 10,000 copies will be printed and distributed to secondary schools across

NI as well as through the Libraries network.

Letters of support are noted from, the Head of Audience Development, National Museums

Northern Ireland, Northern Ireland Centenary Historical Advisory Panel and the Good

Relations Manager, Belfast City Council.

Project name: A Country’s Centenary for Our Community…. Reflecting Back Striving


Organisation: Antrim and Newtownabbey Borough Council

Grant awarded: £94,600

Antrim and Newtownabbey Borough Council plans to uncover the 100-year history of Antrim

and Northern Ireland through the lens of place and people through a programme developed

around three themes: reflection, commemoration, and inspiration to mark the Centenary of

Northern Ireland in 2021.

 Refection – Setting the historical context educating and informing about 1921 and

each decade of the Centenary. Within this, untold stories will be captured, and the

community will be educated about the historical facts.

 Commemoration – Several special events will showcase Northern Ireland and mark

the year by shining a spotlight on success of people of the place.

 Inspiring Future Generations – this strand will focus on legacy, creating an archive

and in particular the youth, to set a vision for the future of Northern Ireland through

their engagement and understanding of its past.

The project's core focus is on intergenerational working, with both older residents and

younger people being engaged and educated on the Centenary of Northern Ireland. Other

target audiences include families, those living with special needs and community groups.

Various elements of the project are divided into 'Centenary Scripts', 'Centenary Collection',

'Centenary Citizens', 'Reflections of the Centenary', 'An Unlikely Alliance,' 'Daughters of the

Decades', 'An Aliens Guide to Northern Ireland', and 'A Shared History - Older Peoples

Reminiscence Project'.

These elements will all be driven by community led participation with individuals’ memories,

stories and personal artefacts collected, and smaller projects run to engage target groups

such as schools, older people and women. Community displays and exhibitions will be some

of the finished outputs to come from this work.

Project name: The I in NI

Organisation: Chinese Welfare Association Limited

Grant awarded: £79,000

The Chinese Welfare Association works to secure the future of the Chinese community in

Northern Ireland, providing support in accessing services and helping overcome difficulties

of integration and language.

A series of events will inform participants of the historical events that led to the formation of

Northern Ireland and how society was impacted. Participants will also explore how

immigration of their own communities has contributed to life here. This includes sharing

personal experiences, academic understanding and legacy issues with other partitioned

regions, and their communities while considering how immigration has shaped Northern


An education and engagement project 'Know Norn Iron', is aimed at involving Black and

ethnic minority (BEM) communities and organisations in Northern Ireland’s Centenary.

The project will also produce educational and informative resource packs, an online platform,

a conference with historian commentators to set the context and discuss the issues, and

multi-lingual publications.

The project will culminate in a showcase event, ‘The I in NI’ giving ethnic minority

communities and others an opportunity to reflect on their experience of and attitude to

Northern Ireland.

Project name: 100 Years of Change - Rural Shared History Programme

Organisation: Rural Community Network NI

Grant awarded: £35,000

Rural Community Network NI (RCN) '100 Years of Change - Rural Shared History

Programme' will address areas of contention related to the centenary of the formation of

Northern Ireland in 2021 through delivering capacity building, educational courses and a

series of online storytelling workshops.

‘100 Years of Change’ will recognise the change makers and quiet heroes that have

contributed so much to improving life and relationships in Northern Ireland over the last 100


The project will use dialogue models within/between communities, working across all strands

of unionism and nationalism, as well as considering the needs of other communities who

also call Northern Ireland home.

This is an exploration of "home" in its broadest sense; through shared history courses, digital

storytelling focusing on border communities, as well as a regional capacity building

programme for rural practitioners/volunteers.

The programme will include:

 Shared history courses, digital storytelling focussing on border communities and

regional capacity building for rural practitioners/volunteers

 100 years of change project - storytelling, archive and media project

 State of Northern Ireland courses (Shared history courses)

 Beyond Belfast Capacity Building Programme for rural practitioners

 Partition training and dialogue programme

Programmes will be offered on a regional basis to encourage people from rural Northern

Ireland to engage in the discussion and take the learning into their own communities where

they will have the confidence and knowledge to discuss and debate the issues at the local


Project name: Seasons through Time

Organisation: Magherafelt District LOL No3

Grant awarded: £29,600

Formed in the 1830s, Magherafelt District LOL No.3 is a community organisation which

promotes local traditions and is involved in actively working toward positive cultural

expression within the community.

The Seasons Through Time project will be a youth-led programme which will celebrate and

share social evolution in the Magherafelt area resulting from 1921, by moving through

seasons, literally and metaphorically.

Spring presents ‘hope’ and will incorporate research, artefact conservation and a series of

interactive talks on topics such as women’s rights and evolving technology.

Summer theme will be ‘blossoming’ and will focus on open air and open community; themed

walking treasure hunt; traditional-style open air event, celebrating and sharing rural local

history collection; livestreamed ceilidh and 100 years music.

Autumn is ‘harvest’ time and will highlight changing community farming practices, through

talks and demonstrations; harvest festival, changing women's roles, vintage vehicles, and

introduce family links at home and abroad.

Winter is the ‘dark season’ and will address the 'dark times' of Northern Ireland; displays of

local men and women's wartime service, civil unrest, through interactive talks and shared

experiences; challenging panel discussion; traditional Hogmanay to end the year, streamed


The programme will finish with spring again and ‘new hope’; maintaining a community study

into the future online, with youth volunteers taking the lead, showcasing new knowledge

online for schools and libraries.

This will include educational talks and discussions; workshops on capturing oral history and

preserving artefacts to build up its community collection; re-enactments; an exhibition of

Security Forces uniforms and memorabilia; and traditional music and dance events.

Project name: The Catholic Church and 1921

Organisation: Cardinal Tomás Ó Fiaich Library & Archive

Grant awarded: £40,100

Cardinal Tomás Ó Fiaich Library & Archive (CÓFLA) is a free independent library and

archive situated in Armagh, the ecclesiastical capital of Ireland which houses several

specialist collections.

With the partition of Ireland, Irish churches found themselves divided between jurisdictions

and presented with new challenges for both the clergy and the communities that they


This project will focus on the papers of three Catholic archbishops of Armagh, Cardinals

Logue, O'Donnell and MacRory, who each represent three different chronological phases of

the history surrounding the events of 1921 and three differing perspectives.

The Cardinal Ó Fiaich Library & Archive holds important collections that reflect this history

and plans to make these more widely available through a programme of digitisation and

interpretation. The programme plans to:

 Digitalise 4,000 historical documents spanning the period 1880-1940 and made

available via the new searchable database.

 Commission four historical essays to provide context for the online resource.

 Host four engagement events, at venues in Armagh, Clogher, Derry and Down &

Connor dioceses reflecting geographic spread across Northern Ireland and the

Border counties.

Project name: My townland memories - 1921 to 2021

Organisation: Newry, Mourne and Down District Council

Grant awarded: £53,800

‘My townland memories - 1921 to 2021’ is a project which will help communities to explore

the heritage of their townland area, and the stories and histories of those who lived and

worked there from 1921 to the present day.

The project, located in the three AONB in Newry, Mourne and Down will be based on an

intergenerational oral social history, capturing and presenting it; facilitated by schools,

Museums, senior’s groups, and local families.

People will have the opportunity to engage with their oral history through a series of

community workshops and events from local village groups, to artists and crafts people,

luncheon clubs, and seniors groups as well as the “harder to reach” communities such as

Irish Travellers.

The programme will include:

 Gathering of oral histories through community outreach workshops and oral history


 Compilation of oral histories into videos, recordings and written histories

 Online and in-person lectures

 Development and production of hard copy townland maps brochure

 Final celebration event

The project has been developed as a partnership including Una Walsh (lead facilitator),

Down County, Newry and North Down Museums and the Area of Outstanding Natural

Beauty and Geopark within NMDC. Expert inputs from Queen’s University Belfast School of

Natural & Built Environment, and additional specialist support from Happy Days Seniors

Group and Mullaghbane Primary School.