Thursday 13 February 2020


A new book launched today (Thursday, 13 February) at the Duncairn Arts Centre, exploring the complex relationships that exist between Britain and Ireland.

Published by the British Council, Britain & Ireland: Lives Entwined is a series of Essays reflecting on the current context of change and flux on the islands.

This latest edition, Lives Entwined V, focuses on the theme of ‘shifting borders, shifting identities’ and offers contemporary, authentic and sometimes challenging perspectives from a range of voices drawn from politics, journalism, arts and academia.

It includes contributions from Journalist Susan McKay, who interviews women who knew and who were changed by the life and death of journalist Lyra Mckee, Pádraig Ó Tuama, who through poetry wrestles with the nature of time, contested histories and Brexit, and writer Glenn Patterson, who transports us to a night at Bert’s Jazz Bar.

Senator Ian Marshall and former Deputy Leader of NI21 John McCallister explore the place of unionism in 2020, Playwright Shannon Sickles (Yee) discusses her LGBTQ activism and the role of the Arts, and ex-MLA, Conall McDevitt, examines his multi-faceted identity.

Meanwhile, Theatre-maker Grace Dyas questions the narrative that conflict is over, historian Diarmaid Ferriter argues that British-Irish relations are in need of careful repair and British Council’s Kate Ewart-Biggs gives a deeply personal and moving insight into three generations of her family.

Speaking about the book, Jonathan Stewart, Director, British Council Northern Ireland, said: “We’re delighted to be able to launch Britain and Ireland: Lives Entwined V at a time of change and flux in British-Irish relations. 

“The book captures a range of voices and perspectives reflecting on life across these islands against the backdrop of many of the changes happening on the geopolitical landscape. We hope this volume will provoke dialogue and an opportunity to explore some of the complexities of relationships that exist. Relationships that are often multidimensional and evolving and not always simply bilateral.”

Britain & Ireland: Lives Entwined was initially commissioned following the 2004 report, Through Irish Eyes which examined changing attitudes towards the UK among young Irish people. 

This fifth edition, ‘Shifting borders, shifting identities’, is made up of a series of ten essays from ex-politician John McCallister, journalist Susan McKay, writer Glenn Patterson, historian Diarmaid Ferriter, Theatre-maker Grace Dyas, Playwright Shannon Sickels (Yee), ex-MLA Conall McDevitt, Senator Ian Marshall, British Council’s Kate Ewart-Biggs and Poet Pádraig Ó Tuama.

The full publication can now be viewed online: and includes a full audio recording of Pádraig Ó Tuama’s piece.

The Belfast launch featured a panel discussion chaired by writer Glenn Patterson – he was joined by Playwright Shannon Sickles (Yee), former Deputy Leader of NI21 John McCallister, Ex-MLA Conall McDevitt and Theatre-maker Garce Dyas. 

The event will be followed by events in London at the Irish Embassy next week (Tuesday, January 24) and in Dublin later this spring.


The British Council is the UK’s leading cultural relations organisation. For more information on the British Council Northern Ireland visit or follow on Twitter: @BCouncil_NI.

Notes to Editor


Glenn Patterson 
Glenn Patterson was born, and lives, in Belfast. He is the author of ten novels, including The International, The Mill for Grinding Old People Young (Belfast’s first One City One Book Choice]) and Gull, set in the DeLorean Motor Company’s Belfast factory in the early 1980s. He has published two collections of essays and articles – Lapsed Protestant and Here’s Me Here – and two other non-fiction works, the most recent of which, Backstop Land, came out on 31 October 2019, the day that the UK left/didn’t leave (delete as appropriate) the EU. He is the co-writer, with Colin Carberry, of Good Vibrations (BBC Films), which the pair later adapted for stage, and in 2016 he wrote the libretto for Long Story Short: the Belfast Opera, composed by Neil Martin. A new novel, Where Are We Now? will be published by Head of Zeus in March 2020. He is the Director of the Seamus Heaney Centre at Queen’s University, Belfast.

Grace Dyas 
Grace Dyas, an acclaimed artist, activist, writer, theatre director and actor, makes theatre, film and large-scale participation projects because she wants to change the world. And to change the world you must change power. In 2017, she shared her experience of abuse of power in the Page 3 of 5 theatre world in Ireland, contributing to the global #MeToo movement. Her post to her blog opened the gate for others who followed from across Irish public life. This became an ongoing cause. Grace explored the legacies in her play, We Don’t Know What’s Buried Here. Grace creates durational art campaigns to coincide with important social moments. For the centenary of 1916, Grace co-authored Its Not Over with Barry O’Connor, a campaign to expose the reality that the conflict in the North of Ireland is unresolved. For the abortion referendum, she toured across Ireland to small towns and cities with Not At Home – performing an archive, coauthored with Emma Fraser, of women’s experiences of travelling for abortion

Conall McDevitt 
Conall McDevitt was born in Dublin in the early 1970’s but spent most of his youth in Malaga, Spain. He has been politically active most of his adult life. He served as junior adviser in the Irish government during the FF-Labour coalition in the early 90’s and also worked in the European Parliament. He is a former Vice President of the youth wing of the Party of European Socialists. He was the SDLP’s Director of Communications during the Good Friday Agreement negotiations and subsequent referendum and election then serving as a special adviser in the first power sharing government in Northern Ireland. He served as MLA for South Belfast from 2010 to 2013 where he led the campaign for a public inquiry into historic institutional abuse, chaired the assembly’s all party group on international development and served as a member of the Northern Ireland Policing Board. Today he is Chief Executive of Hume Brophy, a global communications and government relations firm with offices in Dublin, London, Paris, Frankfurt, Brussels, Hong Kong, Singapore and New York. He still runs, just not as quickly and is most happy at sea, literally!

John McCallister
John McCallister lives near Rathfriland, County Down. After studying at Greenmount College (CAFRE) he returned home to start his farming career. After many years of involvement with Young Farmers Clubs of Ulster serving in various roles within the organisation, he was elected YFCU President and served between 2003-05. With a passion for politics, John was then elected as a UUP Member of the Legislative Assembly (MLA) in March 2007 and re-elected in 2011 for the South Down constituency. He was the first MLA in have a Private Members Bill passed by the Assembly becoming the Caravans Act 2011 and the only member to pass a second Private Members Bill in 2016 when the Assembly and Executive Reform (Assembly Opposition) Act 2016 was passed. He served on ten different Assembly Committees and the British Irish Parliamentary Assembly. John served as Deputy Leader of the UUP between 2010 and 2012. He co-founded NI21 and was Deputy Leader for one year

Diarmaid Ferriter
Diarmaid Ferriter, born in Dublin in 1972, is Professor of Modern Irish History at UCD. His books include A Nation of Extremes: The Pioneers in twentieth century Ireland (1998), The Transformation of Ireland 1900-2000 (2004), Judging Dev: A Reassessment of the life and legacy of Eamon de Valera (2007), Occasions of Sin: Sex and Society in Modern Ireland (2009), Ambiguous Republic: Ireland in the 1970s (2012), A Nation and not a Rabble: The Irish Revolution 1913-23 (2015), On The Edge: Ireland’s Offshore Islands, A Modern History (2018) and The Border: The Legacy of a Century of Anglo-Irish Relations (2019). A weekly columnist with the Irish Times since 2014 and a regular television and radio broadcaster, he co-wrote with Nuala O’Connor a three part television history of twentieth century Ireland, The Limits of Liberty (2010) and the film Keepers of the Flame (2018). He is a member of the government-appointed Expert Advisory Group on commemoration of the revolutionary decade 1913-23, and was elected a member of the Royal Irish Academy in 2019.

Susan McKay
Susan McKay is a writer and journalist from Derry, currently writing a book about borders. Her recent work has been published in the New Yorker, the New York Times, the Guardian/Observer, the Irish Times and the London Review of Books. Her books include: Bear in Mind These Dead (Faber, 2007) and Northern Protestants - An Unsettled People (Blackstaff, 2000. Her journalism and documentaries have won several awards. She was one of the founders of the Belfast Rape Crisis Centre.

Shannon Sickels (Yee) 
Shannon Sickels (Yee) is an award-winning playwright and producer whose perspectives as an immigrant, ethnic minority, queer artist-parent with a disability living in NI are deeply embedded in her work. 
Her Reassembled, Slightly Askew uses binaural sonic arts technology to immerse audiences in her autobiographical experience of nearly dying and subsequent acquired brain injury. Reassembled… has received numerous accolades and has toured internationally since 2015. It has been used in medical training, most recently, in New York City’s Mount Sinai Rehabilitation Hospital. 
Shannon was a 2017/18 Arts Council NI Major Individual Artist Awardee for her project, Starf*cker, exploring popular culture, social media and video projection mapping to tell a story of what makes our stars fall. Her recently published short story, The Brightening Up Side (Belfast Stories, Doire Press, 2019) tackles racism and new motherhood. 
Shannon is also an LGBTQ+ activist; in 2005 her and her partner, currently taking legal action to bring same-sex marriage to Northern Ireland, were the first public civil partnership in the UK.

Ian Marshall
Ian Marshall was the first Ulster Unionist elected to serve as an Independent Senator in Seanad Éireann in April 2018 following a nomination by Taoiseach Leo Varadkar. He works as a Business Development Manager in the Institute for Global Food Security (IGFS), Queens University Belfast (QUB), established to address the key international challenges of the future of the world's food systems. Ian joined the university following two terms as Vice President and a term as President of the Ulster Farmers’ Union (UFU). Married with 3 children, he was born on a mixed family farm near Markethill in Co. Armagh, Northern Ireland. He went to Greenmount Agricultural College to further his education with a view to returning to the farm to expand and grow the family business. Over 20 years later he returned to academia to complete a Masters in Agri-Food Business Development at Ulster University and Babson College in Boston, USA. He has also served on the Agri-Food Strategy Board for NI (AFSB), and an extensive list of boards and committees, and is a Professional Member of the Institute of Agricultural Management P.Agric (IAgrM).

Kate Ewart-Biggs
Kate Ewart-Biggs leads the British Council’s Global Network providing strategic leadership to our overseas network of offices around the world. Responsible for representing our work and offices overseas on the Executive Board, she ensures that the organisation has a connected network. Kate is also responsible for managing strategic relationships with the Foreign and Commonwealth Office and other Whitehall partners with a geopolitical focus.
Prior to her current role, Kate was Regional Head covering the Middle East and North Africa, Sub Saharan Africa and South Asia regions. At the heart of developing the British Council’s response to the Arab Spring, she worked on how the British Council could best respond to the needs of young people in that region in terms of access to education, skills and the opportunity to participate in the new democratic processes emerging in their countries.
Kate also ran the British Council operations in Uganda and Tanzania and has worked in Egypt and in Central and Eastern Europe. Before joining the British Council, Kate worked for organisations working on behalf of Street Children in South Africa, Brazil, Indonesia and Eastern Europe. Kate is passionate about giving young people, whatever their circumstances, the opportunity to engage actively in their communities.
Kate is also Trustee of the Christopher Ewart-Biggs Memorial Prize which  recognizes work promoting and encouraging: peace and reconciliation in Ireland, a greater understanding between the peoples of Britain and Ireland, or closer co-operation between the partners of the European Community.

Pádraig Ó Tuama
Poet and theologian, Pádraig Ó Tuama’s work centres around themes of language, power, conflict and religion. Working fluently on the page and in public, Pádraig is a compelling poet and skilled speaker, teacher and group worker. Introducing Pádraig’s TEDx talk on Story, BBC journalist William Crawley said, "He's probably the best public speaker I know.”
Ó Tuama’s published work incorporates poetry (Readings from the Book of Exile [longlisted for the Polari Prize 2013]; Sorry for your Troubles), prose (In The Shelter) and theology (Daily Prayer, The Place Between). His poems and prose have been featured in Poetry Ireland Review, Academy of American Poets, Post Road, Cream City Review, Holden Village Voice, Proximity Magazine, On Being, Gutter, America, and Seminary Ridge Review. From 2014-2019 he was the leader of the Corrymeela Community, Ireland’s oldest peace and reconciliation community. He has been featured on the renowned American radio programme On Being with Krista Tippett multiple times and from early 2020, he will present a new poetry programme — Poetry Unbound — as part of the On Being Project.

For further information please contact: 

Claire McAuley, Communications Manager: T +44 (0) 28 9019 2224 | M +44 (0) 7856524504 Twitter: @BCouncil_NI, Facebook – 

About the British Council

The British Council is the UK’s international organisation for cultural relations and educational opportunities. We work with over 100 countries in the fields of arts and culture, English language, education and civil society. Last year we reached over 75 million people directly and 758 million people overall including online, broadcasts and publications. We make a positive contribution to the countries we work with – changing lives by creating opportunities, building connections and engendering trust. Founded in 1934 we are a UK charity governed by Royal Charter and a UK public body. We receive 15 per cent core funding grant from the UK government.  For more information, please visit:


See also