Buíochas agus beannacht; anois chun oibre
Go raibh míle maith agaibh uilig as bhur gcuidiú le bliain anuas.
Chuir muid an chathair chun cinn, chneasaigh muid cuid de na cneácha, thóg muid an tsíocháin.
Thanks for all your help over the past year in promoting Belfast, healing some of the wounds of the past, creating jobs and building the peace.
There’s lots more to do and with your support I plan to get stuck in immediately.
I wish my successor Nichola Mallon every success as Lord Mayor of Belfast and am confident both she and incoming Deputy Lord Mayor Máire Hendron will be great ambassadors for our city.
Below are my parting comments from the agm of Council last night. I started the meeting by reading from the Muslim version of the Prayer for Belfast: “Oh Allah, one of your name’s meaning is PEACE, we pray to you Spreader of Peace among us.”
It was a great honour and privilege to serve the people of Belfast as First Citizen.
I want to thank the Sinn Féin grouping on City Hall for according me that great honour and pay special tribute to the group leader Cllr Jim McVeigh for his support and guidance throughout my year in office.
I wish to thank the other party group leaders for the space they gave me in which to promote the great city of Belfast and for the patience and forbearance they showed when we approached them, repeatedly, for support for new initiatives. To Cllrs Billy Hutchinson of the PUP, Cllr Lee Reynolds, Ald Davy Brown, Cllr Máire Hendron, Cllr Tim Attwood, my sincere thanks. The co-operation of my Deputy Lord Mayor Christopher Stalford has been invaluable and I am grateful also to High Sheriffs Brian Kingston and Lydia Patterson.
Of course, none of us in public life can serve the people without the help and backing of our families and I thank my wife Helen and children for their support this year.
During my term of office I have come to understand that the senior management team at City Hall, led by Peter McNaney and shortly to be led by Suzanne Wylie is the greatest management team in the country. It has been my privilege to work with so many of our dedicated staff throughout my year in office and in particular with the Chief Executive’s team, led by Jayne Bryne, and with the Development Team led by John McGrillen and his international relations officer Laura Leonard who has made it possible for me to tell the story of the reborn Belfast to the world. Thanks go also to the Corporate Communications team at City Hall who made it possible for me to win the hearts and minds of the people of Belfast. My publicity team was led by Sue Corbett but equally I had great support from Eamon Deeny, Conor McCullough, Anne Donnegan and others in the press office.
But it is the Lord Mayor’s team which has been the engine of all I have tried to do. For her wise counsel and unstinting support, I offer my sincere thanks to my chief of staff Sandra Robinson and her A Team: Debbie, Gwenn, Emma, Vicky, Sharon, Martina, Petra. To the perpetually smiling Vicky who has made the parlour a place of hospitality for members and our visitors from across the globe, a special thank you. All of them have a can-do and flexible approach which made it possible for me to fulfil the full potential of this job.
To the supremely competent civic chauffeurs Trevor, Philip and Nigel, may your journeys always be safe and speedy.
But it is right too that I thank the people of Belfast for making it possible for me to serve every one of them. There is no greater people, none more generous or more loving, than the people of Belfast. My nine chaplains and poet laureate have reminded me again and again of how we all, minorities and majorities, live in each other’s shelter.
It has been my pleasure to stand with the faith communities of Belfast — the Christians of course, but also the Muslims, Jews, Buddhists, Baha’is, Hindus and others — on the common ground of unity and mutual respect as we push our beloved city to the bright side of the road.
Finally, my congratulations to those returned to the new super council at the recent elections and my commiserations to those who lost out. I thank you all for your service.
As for the future, I have no doubt that with three women at the helm, Belfast will continue to progress. In our city the trajectory is up, the momentum is forward.