Inaugural annual lecture in memory of the late Jimmy Kearney

David Kane |

Duncan Scott (who attended on behalf of VSSN) wrote:-

On Friday Dec 2nd in Belfast over 130 people came together to celebrate the life of Jimmy Kearney, and to listen to Nicholas Deakin on the theme `Bonding, Bridging-or Dividing? Voluntary Action, Citizens and Government`.

Jimmy was clearly a remarkable, much-loved man, who contributed greatly to voluntary action both in Northern Ireland and beyond. Six speakers, from the voluntary sector, the civil service and academe (including a long-time member of VSSN, Arthur Williamson) reflected on his work as head of the Voluntary and Community unit, chair of the Volunteer Development Agency, the first Professor of Voluntary Action Studies at the University of Ulster and much more. To this (English) eye, what stood out was the close-knit nature of the Northern Irish voluntary sector. Yet, just as this generalisation appears to be a coded reference to parochiality, it quickly became clear that Jimmy Kearney`s impact was much more widely felt. In particular, it was apparent that much of the groundwork for the Compacts was undertaken by Jimmy and colleagues in Northern Ireland.

Nicholas Deakin spoke elegantly and sensitively about the potential and problems of Active Citizenship. He held the attention of an overcrowded and overheated audience for 50 minutes. What stood out were his critical hints about the complexities and contradictions of active communities. All those present could not fail to connect their direct experience of sectarian voluntary action with his remarks; these were made all the more poignant for your VSSN correspondent by his having read the lead article of the New Statesman on the morning plane. This began from a banner heading about `apartheid` in the local voluntary and community sectors. Nevertheless, Jimmy and Nicholas remained positive.

For further evidence, see Jimmy`s essays in Voluntary Action Vols 3 No 3 (2001) and Vol 6 No 1 (2003)