The road home
I was grateful to our firm friend Rob Walsh, son of Belfast ancestors and distinguished lecturer at Baruch College in New York, for inviting me to address his executive Masters of Public Administration students at their Christmas gathering in New York last night.
They are an inspirational bunch of leaders dedicated to making government the servant of engaged communities and are a credit to Dean David Birdsell of Baruch who rolled out the red carpet for this innocent abroad.
Baruch is part of the City University of New York which has a staggering 280,000 undergrads on its books and Dean Birdsell is heading up a new initiative to explore the potential of the Mexican diaspora. In the spirit of the San Patricios, and in light of new immigration reforms in the US, I’m hoping Belfast can link-up with that work.
But my primary reason for coming to the US this week is to promote the Homecoming 2015. You can now download the Deloitte-authored and ASG Ireland-designed prospectus for the 2015 Homecoming (23-26 September), which includes a report on this year’s event.
Tomorrow, I will tell Irish American audiences in New York, Philadelphia and Washington DC to put 23-26 September in their diaries. Our mission is simple: to build a better Belfast. With peace talks stumbling, this is the time to redouble our efforts to bridge-build both at home and with the Diaspora.
In September past, Mayor Marty Walsh of Boston, Minister for the Diaspsora Jimmy Deenihan and Jim Clerkin, CEO of Möet Hennessy USA led 50 prominent Diaspora figures for three hectic days of visits, discussions and deal-making which reconnected our global family with Belfast in a way never tried before.
Next year, we aim to bring 150 Diaspora leaders to the Homecoming and I’m confident that they will include delegations from the top Irish American organisations I will meet over coming days: the Irish Network USA, the American Ireland Fund, the Irish American Business Chamber and Network in Philadelphia and the Ancient Order of Hibernians in DC. Indeed, the Homecoming is shaping up to be the meeting place for Irish American activists across the US — champions of transatlantic co-operation whose paths often don’t cross in the US. They will get a chance to see the new and resurgent Belfast, a place where peace has taken root, where young people are driving a positive agenda of progress and where the diaspora is our greatest advocate and our strongest ally.
Like most of you, I haven’t given up hope on a breakthrough in the Stormont talks but it’s been a week in which British PM David Cameron seemed determined to prove he is both hapless and hopeless when it comes to the peace process.. All the more reason.of course, for the diaspora to keep its eye on the prize.