Northern Ireland

Shared Island €250,000 funding bid for cross-border walk fails

Joint council bid for Shared Island funding was turned down, documents reveal

The Little Amal animatronic puppet, that is due to arrive in Belfast in May as part of 'The Walk' project.
The Little Amal animatronic puppet, that is due to arrive in Belfast in May as part of 'The Walk' project.

A €250,000 Shared Island funding application for a planned 10-day cross-border walking event has been turned down.

Documents for Belfast City Council’s latest Climate and City Resilience Committee show the application for a project called ‘Our Shared Island – A Hundred Thousand Welcomes’ was unsuccessful under the ‘Creative Communities’ Shared Island stream.

The event would have featured a giant animatronic puppet that has taken part in events across Europe, and is due to arrive in Belfast in May as part of a touring festival.

On Tuesday, Taoiseach Leo Varadkar announced €800 million for projects in the north, including the new Casement Park stadium and the A5 road upgrade.

The Shared Island Civic Society Fund is described as “an initiative to promote practical North/South cooperation and engagement across a range of sectors and themes, consistent with the objectives and commitments of the Good Friday Agreement”.

Previous projects earmarked for funding include schemes under the Cork/Belfast Docklands Regeneration Initiative, such as a planned walking and cycling bridge over the River Lagan linking the Sailortown and Titanic Quarter areas.

The cross-border walking event that was turned down would have started in Belfast and ended in Cavan. Belfast City Council was one of six council areas on both sides of the border that were part of the joint bid.

A council document states the project would have “seen significant partnership across council areas engaging with communities to explore our sense of belonging and identity across Ireland, North and South”.

The walk would have featured the 12-foot ‘Little Amal’ puppet, that was created in 2021 for travelling arts festival The Walk, and has become a “global symbol of human rights”.

The animatronic puppet represents a nine-year-old Syrian refugee girl.

The document added: “A 24-month extensive engagement programme led by ‘Artists of Welcome’ (would have) created a chain of events across at least six council areas, small and large scale, to give a warm and genuine ‘Shared Island’ welcome to Little Amal.”

The giant puppet will, however, arrive in Belfast later this spring, as The Walk project is hosted in the city from May 16 - 19.

Belfast Lord Mayor Ryan Murphy said: “Little Amal has become a beacon of hope, delivering a strong message of compassion and empathy in today’s divided world, so we are delighted to bring her ‘walk’ to Belfast, a city that is becoming ever diverse and multi-cultural.”