Our unstoppable young people
At a visit to the Belfast Islamic Centre this afternoon for their annual Open Day (see picture of warm welcome below), I was heartened to hear so many people express support for our continuing efforts to restore the institutions at Stormont.
And while our prospective partners in the DUP stumbled at the final hurdle, thus leading to the collapse of talks and preventing a return to the Executive and Assembly, the issue of civil rights isn’t going away.
Anyone who thinks that in this the 50th anniversary of the civil rights movement in the North, the fight for basic rights is going to move into reverse really needs to engage more with the public.
For change is continuing apace. I see it in the vibrancy and confidence among our minority faith communities as evidenced today at the Belfast Islamic Centre, in the joyful exuberance of our LGBTQ community at Stormont this week to mark Valentine’s Day with renewed calls for marriage equality, and in the new studios of Belfast Irish language station Raidió Fáilte rising up majestically above the Westlink. But most of all I see it in our youth who now regard this entire city as their birthright and who refuse to be confined by peace walls or political ideology.
Justice, equality, and live and let live are the watchwords of the next generation; Values which make a rights-based accommodation to our political differences inevitable.
I will get a chance to raise a glass to another cohort of inspirational young people at the Irish 40 Under 40 awards in New York on Friday night coming. It’s my favourite Irish American event of the calendar and I’m honored to have been asked to address the sold-out gathering in Manhattan.
Anyone who has any doubts about the future of Irish America should spend an hour or two in the company of these formidable young leaders.
As with the young people closer to home, they truly are unstoppable ambassadors for a bright future.