HAVE you ever went to an event that’s been organised by people you only know from the internet?

It’s a bit of a weird feeling and a nightmare for sufferers of social anxiety. There would have to be introductions, hand shaking and worst of all – smiling. The only time I smile is when I’m drunk. I was pretty sure there would be no alcohol available, but there was coffee which is the next best thing to shake off inhibitions. I didn’t so much ‘work the room’, it was more like awkward shuffling in the hope that those who did stop and talk – stayed there so I wouldn’t look like a loner.

During my mini panic attack, I had a look around the venue. Duncairn has had a lovely facelift. I love seeing old Churches being turned into something useful. The chairs were arranged in a semi-circle. The organisers decided it would be best to turn it into a full circle for the 40 people who’d turned up. Perhaps the circle was needed because there would be no central person of importance. Everyone was equal.  Rather than helping with the new arrangement, I thought of the pagan ring symbol. The discussions on the page often turn to religion – funny enough. There appears to be a lot of us who are humanists rather than followers of any specific faith.

The page I’m referring to is I want a non-sectarian Northern Ireland. It was created by John and Eugene Harron. They set it up last year with no agendas or intentions of starting a new political movement. It was just put out there for others who thought the same and it now acts as a platform for over 1,500 people from all over Northern Ireland to have their say.

Some had described it as a talking shop with insinuation that nothing will ever come from it. That Northern Ireland will remain sectarian. I’ve only been a member for a few months but I really feel like I have found my people.   We don’t see eye to eye but there’s a nice atmosphere. It’s free from trolls and bots. Joiners are immediately analysed by the four admins who do a sterling job of banning trouble makers.  Trouble makers aren’t those who disagree with you – more like those who deliberately join to give abuse or have an inability to accept criticism.

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The meeting began with a talk by Peter Osborne from the Community Relations Council. David Holloway from Community Dialogue split us into three separate groups. This was where we gave a brief description of ourselves and then talked about the things that matter to us.  The rules are shown above.

For confidentiality, I cannot tell you what was said in our group. But I can tell you that everyone was singing from the same hymn sheet when it came to Integrated Education.

If you like to talk about politics or your experience of living in the North, you’ll not be judged but listened to and made welcome.

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