"Live from the Great Hall of Stormont Castle"
Sands 'recalls' parliament for Christmas

Parliamentarians from across Northern Ireland’s political divide gave singer poet Tommy Sands a standing ovation (December 17th 2002) after he delivered perhaps one of the most memorable and inspiring “addresses” ever witnessed in the Great Hall of Stormont’s Parliamentary Buildings.

It was a unique “address” for it was illustrated with not only his own songs and the music of Ireland’s foremost artistes but also it featured artistic contributions from leading Unionist, Nationalist and Republican politicians.

The evening was described as a Christmas present to the politicians by Sands, who presented and organised the event in association with The Speaker, Lord Alderdice’s Office and Downtown Radio.

“We artistes, said Sands, travel the countryside. We know every proverbial blade of grass and every back street. We hear what people say and know what they feel. That’s our job.

“People know the issues. They know that our “Troubles” of eight hundred years won’t be solved overnight nor in one generation. They are saying to the politicians “Don't despair, thanks for what you have been doing and keep doing it.”

Amongst those joining him on stage were Ireland’s leading lady of song Mary Black, Steve Cooney, Laoise Kelly, Sands Family, Brendan Monaghan, Tom Newman (co founder of Virgin Records), Mark Wilson with World champion Field Marshall Montgomery Pipe Band Champion Piper, Richard Parkes; undefeated world champion step dancer (conquerer of the great Michael Flatley) Gentleman Jim Johnston and other dancers and singers of world renown.

Amongst the politicians who performed on the programme were Minister for Agriculture Brid Rodgers, Minister for Health Bairbre de Brun, Deputy Speaker Jane Morris and PUP Leader David Ervine.

Poet Peter Makem had this to say: "Tommy Sands has obviously appealed to a deeper level of the psyche to get all these people from diverse political backgrounds together again after the recent crisis. It reveals a truth that if a given focus is created- something to which all can aspire- old resentments and fears can slowly disappear.

"As a member of the artistic community he is aware that it is not enough to sing and perform at people, but that a sense of involvement has to be created. Along with the poets, singers and song writers are the real legislators of society and the Stormont event is an instance of such leadership in action."

It was a night to remember, perhaps well summed in the words of Irish Independent Northern political editor Dominic Cunningham, “We are still trying to catch our breaths after that stunning concert in The Great Hall. How you put that “Assembly” together is a mystery to me!! What an outstanding talent you produced for us. I think that prolonged standing ovation at the end spoke volumes about what we all felt for your efforts on our behalf for peace, prosperity and progress”.

© Shauna Robb, Bridge of Nations Communications