Berkeley forever bonded with Ireland
Berkeley and Ireland have always enjoyed a special link through the Bishop of Cloyne George Berkeley who gave the city its name — but now they will be bonded forever by the memory of the six young students who perished in the balcony collapse of Tuesday 16 June.
Senator Loni Hancock of Berkeley rose “with a heavy heart” in the Californian State Senate on Thursday to ask that the legislature adjourn as a mark of respect to the dead students. And she spoke for all of Irish America when she pledged to embrace the grieving families and stand in solidarity with the injured.
Minister David Ford made reference to the Berkeley tragedy in comments to the Assembly on Tuesday evening – as news of the extent of the catastrophe was still trickling through — and I am hopeful there will be further opportunities in the chamber tomorrow (Monday) for MLAs of all parties to express their condolences.
On 1 July, I am inviting Belfast’s business leaders to join me at a special fundraising event for four magnificent but hard-pressed arts groups at an Arts Dragons reception.
And our very special guest at the event which is being backed by the Arts Council and Arts and Business will be Bronagh Waugh who starred alongside Jamie Dornan in The Fall.
Playwright and actor Tony Devlin will be our emcee, eliciting pledges from a large group of generous business people led by Jackie Henry of Deloitte, Tracy Gilligan of Optilase, Emer Hinphey of Think People, Eamonn Donaghy of KPMG, Tourism NI Chair Terence Brannigan, Peter Dixon of Phoenix and Michael McAdam of Moviehouse.
The four magnificent groups who represent the heart and soul of Belfast are Kabosh Theatre, Belfast Community Gospel Choir, Belfast Film Festival and Wheelworks Youth Art. We have set ourselves a fundraising target of £4,000 per group and are delighted that esteemed Belfast artist Brian Ballard has donated an original work for auction on the night to augment funds. I wrote last week about the need for business to step up for the arts, now we’re walking the walk.
If you wish to join me at the night — with your credit card — I will roll out the red carpet. You can learn more about the groups on my newbelfast website and donate online at our new JustGiving page.
I had a lively exchange with Finance Minister Arlene Foster at the Stormont Finance Committee on Wednesday morning in a bid to move the DUP minister onto the same ground as those of us who believe the British Government needs to invest — not cut — if we are to spur economic growth in the North. The IMF recently warned against “needless austerity” by western governments, a warning we can echo here at a time when cutbacks imposed by English ministers remain the greatest threat to our stuttering economic recovery. You can see our discussion here.