The 25th anniversary of the Good Friday Agreement will be fittingly marked when agreement signatory, Monica McWilliams and co-founder of the Northern Ireland Women’s Coalition, opens Scariff Harbour Festival at Waterways Ireland Marina over the August Bank Holiday weekend.

In addition, she will read from her memoir, Stand up Speak out at Scariff Library and give a ‘behind the scenes’ look into her public and political life.

Best known across the island of Ireland for her work in the Northern Ireland Women’s Coalition, on a platform of inclusion, equality and human rights, Monica was elected to the Peace Talks in 1996. She championed proposals on victims of the conflicts, on integrated education and shared housing and the right of women to fair and equal political partnership.

Her presence in Scariff underpins a long-standing commitment on the part of the organising committee to acknowledge the festival’s connection with Northern Ireland. That relationship began when Waterways Ireland’s Western Regional Headquarters was established at the Marina, as a follow-on from the Good Friday Agreement in 1998.

Chair of the Harbour Festival Committee, Mike Rodgers stated, “Monica McWilliams remains a highly-respected figure in the Peace Talks of the 1990s and openly voiced her opinions on the many issues that faced people in Northern Ireland, becoming one of the better recognised faces north and south. We are privileged that she has accepted our invitation to Scariff”.

Outside of her political involvement, she is an academic and Emeritus Professor in the Transitional Justice Institute at Ulster University. She has undertaken major research, detailing the experience of women abused through domestic violence and has co-authored two government research studies and a wide range of publications on the impact of political conflict on women’s lives.

Scariff Harbour Festival 2023 in association with Waterways Ireland runs from Thursday 3rd August – Sunday 6th August. It opens with a performance at the Church of the Sacred Heart by Donna Taggart from Omagh, Co Tyrone, who co-incidentally witnessed the harsher side of life while working in a refuge centre for women and children affected by domestic violence. Much of this experience inspired both her songs and her singing.

Other musical events include Qween, De La Lune, The 4 of Us, Norma Manly, The Logues with Trad Music at the Harbour and set dancing to the Tulla Céilí Band. There are boat, outdoor, biodiversity and walking tours, book and genealogy talks, family fun & kayaking activities, cookery demonstration and build your own chocolate bar, McKernan Woollen Mills Open Days and an Open Air Mass, the much loved street entertainers Jim & Dr Nick, the familiar street stalls and an Exhibition of Chipboard People with pictures and stories of a representative selection of employees over a 60 year period. (www.scariff.ie).

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