February 28, 2016

#NorthernIreland2016 Interview Series - Dawn Purvis

Dawn was a Member of the Northern Ireland Assembly from March 2007-May 2011, representing the East Belfast constituency, first PUP then as an independent.  Dawn is 49 and was born in Belfast. She joined the PUP in 1994 and first stood for the party in the elections to the Northern Ireland Forum in 1996.  Dawn was involved with various rounds of peace process negotiations before, during and after the Good Friday Agreement.

After the death of PUP Leader David Ervine in January 2007, Dawn was appointed as his successor, following this, she was elected Party Leader and Assembly Member in her own right. 

Dawn left politics in 2011 and became Northern Ireland Programme Director with Marie Stopes International (MSI). She is currently a self-employed consultant working at home and abroadDawn continues to devote much of her spare time to community and voluntary initiatives aimed at tackling socio-economic disadvantage and exclusion.

Brian John Spencer: "When did you first learn about the Easter Rising of 1916?" Dawn Purvis: 
"Probably Easter 1996 when I saw for the first time Republicans wearing Easter Lilies."
BJS: "Do the men, the act or the stated ideals in the proclamation mean anything to you?" DP:
"Only in the sense that they brought about the state of Northern Ireland. I would have much preferred the 26 countries to remain within the union."
BJS: "When did you first learn about the Battle of the Somme?" DP:
"As a child from my daddy and his stories of family members who fought and others who supported the war effort from home."
BJS: "Does this act, the men and their determination to show their loyalty to Britain mean anything to you?" DP:
"It brought home to me the horror of war and the untold suffering of everyone involved. Growing up in a family with a strong tradition of serving in the armed forces I could understand the motivation for joining up and ‘doing your bit’. That sense still prevails today although the motivations of those in positions of power who chose to go to war appear selfish and partisan."
BJS: "As a (British/Irish/Northern Irish*) person, is the 1916 Rising important to you and your sense of identity and sense of belonging on this island?" DP:
"It is not important for those reasons but it is important in the sense that it shaped the lives and political views of many people on this island and is part of our shared history prior to partition and one that some people aspire to today."
BJS: "As a (British/Irish/Northern Irish*) person, is the Somme offensive important to you and your sense of identity and sense of belonging on this island?" DP:
"More so because of the family connections it is important to me. And again it forms part of our shared history."
BJS: "Will you be commemorating or celebrating either of these two events in April and July of this year respectively?" DP:
"I hope to attend a number of events in order to learn more about them."
BJS: "Are you happy with the series of commemorative events put on by the Irish State? And what do you think of Arlene Foster's take on the events of Easter 1916 (she has refused to attend any commemorations)?" DP:
"I am glad that the Irish State is recognising a seminal event that contributed to its own existence. I would have hoped to see our First Minster attending events in recognition of our shared history."
BJS: "As a person on (or from) the island are you happy with the where we are now at in terms of culture, cosmopolitanism and broad-mindedness?" DP:
"No. I think we still have a long way to go to recognise and appreciate the rich diversity of many people that co-habit this small place."
BJS: "What are your hopes for the future of this divided province and island?" DP:
"That we get to the point were we can stand together side by side at different events exploring our past and our future without expecting an elbow in the ribs."
BJS: "Please share any further thoughts these questions may have stimulated." DP:
"The more we stay confined to our own barracks the more we need to get out and explore life beyond our comfort zones. Making peace and building reconciliation involves placing yourself in uncomfortable situations and having conversations that you’d rather not have. Commemorations provide such opportunities."
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