Throughout February 2017, we got people from all over Northern Ireland to contribute personal pieces in the run up to the assembly elections on March 2nd. 28 days in February for 28 different voices.
Instead of waiting for the gatekeepers of the Northern Irish news cycle to tell us how to think and how to vote, we reached out to you. We had people who were born in Northern Ireland and people who have moved to Northern Ireland, people who lived in Northern Ireland before but don't anymore, and people who just care about the people that live there.
We particularly encouraged submissions from groups that are normally underrepresented in the media. The editorial team at Fly By Those Nets didn't necessarily agree with everything posted, and that was kind of the point. We were excited by the range of views expressed during the month, and are looking forward to continuing to showcase the best new writing talent from Northern Ireland in the future. Northern Ireland needs to hear from as many of you as possible.
For 2018, we will be reposting each article exactly a year after they were originally posted.
They will appear below as February progesses, and as you can follow the discussion on Twitter at #28daysNI.
"Loving people who are different to me is difficult. To find ourselves in a place where we’re naturally rubbing shoulders with every type of person regularly is a rare opportunity that I’ve been blessed with, that is not realistically achievable for everyone."
"I may have a beard, drive a Volvo and read Scandinavian fiction but I am not a hipster cycling obsessive. I am an ordinary person who cycles a bit. In work, however, I am 'The Cyclist': the only one of 50 or 60 staff who cycles to work every day."
"I remember sitting on the floor of my bedroom with my head in my hands: it had been one week since the test had proved positive; ten days to go until the procedure. I sat on the floor and thought about everything I’d ever been taught about responsibility and the sanctity of life, and I tried to make myself cry."
"The kind of cruel demagoguery the DUP peddle has become the new normal everywhere else."
"For as long as I can remember, I’ve not been allowed to have my own nationality. It was always, and never, a choice with just two options – British or Irish. Even if you didn’t know which one you wanted to pick, you knew which you didn’t want to."
"Far from waiving my right to weigh in on local issues, living away from the painted kerbs means I don’t have to pretend to align myself to anything apart from the things that matter. Our rights trump outdated fear and suspicion every time."
"For a long time now I’ve essentially been a romantic nationalist but a pragmatic unionist. The vote to leave the EU completely changed my mind, because Northern Ireland is going to be the most radically affected region of the UK."
"Culture and identity should not be treated as sacrosanct and static – culture is the expression of identity in a given place and time and can be either beneficial or harmful to society; it is in a constant state of flux with new elements being introduced and old ones discarded."
"It’s beyond my political wisdom to understand how advocating policies repudiated by the rest of the United Kingdom enhances the Union."
"If you obtain a diagnosis of ASD as an adult in Northern Ireland, you are given some leaflets, a few phone numbers and a “good luck” by the health service as they wave goodbye to you. This has been the case for decades."
"Politics for young people matters just as much as it does with the older population of Northern Ireland. The only difference is, we become the leaders, teachers and the thinkers and therefore our voices need to be heard loud and clear."
"I lose interest when Arlene Foster speaks of being a woman and a strong unionist leader. Yes we share gender affiliations and while I am delighted to see female representation and leadership, I am not hearing the narrative hospitality of representing all, be they male, female, transgender, rural, urban, wealthy, impoverished..."