It’s not every election campaign that gives you the chance to tread the boards but I got the opportunity to show off my acting chops this week at the launch of the Sinn Féin campaign in the Lyric Theatre on Wednesday.
In fact, I managed to quote both Shakespeare and Beckett while surely disproving the old adage that politics is show business for ugly people! You can see my theatrics and read my comments online.
It was standing room only on Thursday morning when Belfast’s business community turned out in the magnificent Merchant Hotel for a breakfast event with the apposite title of Belfast On The Rise. A robust discussion on the best way to build a fair and prosperous economy was led by panelists Richard Ramsey of the Ulster Bank, Judith Totten, MD of Keys Commercial Finance, Rose Mary Stalker, Chairperson of Catagen and Suzanne Hill, MD of Handel Export Consulting. They all spoke with authority to Belfast’s ambition and potential. I had a chance to spell out my own vision for the future in a keynote address to the audience which came from every part of the city. You can see my statement online and in this short video but among my pledges was to take a delegation of Belfast business leaders to our sister city of Boston. Mayor Marty Walsh is enthusiastic about the proposal and I’m confident that our business owners will find the boardroom doors of Boston open to them. We streamed the event live via Periscope on Twitter and you can catch up on my comments and pledges on my newbelfast.com site.
In between acts, I found time to join the cast in a ‘leaders’ debate’ on NewsNight which was broadcast locally and throughout Britain. I used the opportunity to highlight the diversity of Belfast in comments which were given the thumbs-up by one of our most entrepreneurial communities who hosted a hustings for me today (Sunday): the Bangladeshi community. The first Bangladeshi family arrived in Belfast in 1971. Since then the community has prospered in the restaurant sector, of course, (most of our best Indian restaurants are run by Bangaldeshis) but also in the professions and it was a pleasure to meet the new generation who were born and grew up here. I learnt a new word in Bengali in the process: Donobad. Or as we say, Go raibh maith agat. Thank you indeed to the burgeoning minorities who are contributing to the rise of Belfast. They should, to finish on the theatrical theme, take a bow.