From heartache to celebration
Who would have thought that the speech of the Belfast Homecoming would be made by a Savino?
But in her moving remarks at the finale of our global family gathering, New York Senator Diane Savino revealed that her ancestors had left Ulster for Scotland 200 years ago.
“That’s where the Irish who had nothing at all went, Glasgow,” she said. “So for me this really is a Homecoming. I am home.”
And the Savino surname? “The Irish and the Italians married in their new country of America. That’s why in the outer boroughs of New York, you’ll get lots of Patricks and Brieges with Italian last names.”
And while the Belfast Homecoming is certainly about economics — jobs, investment, trade — it’s the spiritual connections which really make it special.
Those mystical ties of kith and kin and the eternal pull of home are the pillars on which the success of the Belfast Homecoming is built.
As Divis Flats-native Geraldine Hughes (who flew in from her new home of New York) said at our opening evening gala pop-up in an old ferry terminal in the heart of Belfast’s dockland:
“Where does one gather a global family? Well this is a grand place for it. A place where many of our ancestors and forefathers left from. Those immigrants who landed on Ellis island took the boat back then. There is great heartache in leaving home but so much to be celebrated by so many of those who have done well because of it. We have come full circle this evening, back to a place where voyages began, a happy place now, a place to be celebrated, a place where fewer and leaving and many more are coming.”
So to our visitors from Chicago, Silicon Valley, Boston, Liverpool, New York, Jersey City, Glasgow, Buffalo, Toronto, Bilbao and so many other great cities, thanks for joining us in the journey towards a better Belfast. We are the richer for your visit and your friendship.
Next up: Boston for the Golden Bridges conference on 21-22 October when the Mayors of Derry and Donegal will join the leaders of Irish America to forge transatlantic partnerships.