Bringing it all back home
I am convinced the young people will save Belfast from itself.
Their exuberance and high spirits at the Pride parade on Saturday dispersed the grey clouds over Belfast and set the scene for a month which shows the city at its very best.
No sooner does the curtain come down on the Pride celebrations than we fasten our seatbelts for the West Belfast Féile an Phobail rollercoaster which leads, at month’s end, to the Eastside Arts Festival and Van Morrison on Cyprus Avenue.
And the Diaspora will play its part.
From 7-10 October, we will welcome home diaspora leaders from all arts and parts to join in the conversation about building a better Belfast at the Homecoming and One City Conference.
And you don’t have to be part of our 70-million-strong global family to join in the deliberations — a connection of solidarity and spirit will do just fine.
Which is why the Mayor of Bilbao Juan Mari Aburto — who confirmed his attendance this week — can expect a rapt audience when he talks of his own city’s journey from industrial wasteland to Europe’s capital of culture. A journey hastened, undoubtedly, by the burgeoning peace process in the Basque Country’s showcase city.
As Homecoming Conference Host, I’m proud of the fact that we are rolling out the red carpet for the biggest-ever delegation of New York legislators, it’s will also be a thrill to have a delegation of British MPs led by Conor McGinn, Labour MP who hails from Co Armagh, and Conor Burns, a Conservative MP born in Derry.
And as diversity and education are the building blocks to Belfast’s progress then we will have much to learn at the Homecoming from New York City Council Member Daniel Dromm, a fearless advocate for LGBT rights and chair of the city’s education board where he oversees a staggering $28bn budget.
There’s a host of others coming in, join them.
I fly out to New York this Thursday to meet our Homecoming ambassadors and next week I will be in our sister city of Boston to meet the honorary chairs of the Golden Bridges conference (21-22 October) as the guest of life-sciences attorney Maureen Bennett of Jones Day. And DC is on my intinerary too. We have put together a special legal symposium at the Homecoming and I want to meet with some lawyers there who are interested in taking part. In all three cities I will catch up with formidable Irish American advocates who have been four-square behind the peace process for many decades..and their work is far from done!