The trajectory is up, the momentum is forward
When the whistle blows at 6:30pm on Monday to signal the end of my year in office as Lord Mayor of Belfast, it means only that we move to another field of play not that this great game of peace building comes to a halt.
And this is not a game for spectators, you are all on the pitch too: the champions of the new Belfast at home and abroad.
You are the people who have inspired me to be relentlessly positive about our great city. Your commitment to a Belfast which is inclusive, diverse and prosperous has helped drive the city to ever-greater heights.
Of course there are challenges but the common ground is deeper, more solid and more expansive today than it was 365 days ago when I took up this high office.
The trajectory of Belfast is up, the momentum is forward.
And there is much to do. So let’s build, build, build the future Belfast — together.
On Wednesday, I travelled out to New York at the head of the first business delegation from Belfast to the US in a generation. Philip Cassidy of Concentrix, Paul McMorran of Crosslé Cars, David Gavaghan of Titanic Quarter, Jayne Brady of Kernel Capital and Mandy Patrick of the Park Avenue Hotel were among those who stormed the Big Apple with the story of a Belfast transformed by this remarkable peace journey on which we are set.
Shaun Kelly, KPMG Vice-Chair in the US and chief sponsors of the American Ireland Funds New York ball which raised $2.75m last month for Irish causes, joined fellow-expat Jim Clerkin, CEO of Moet-Hennessy USA, and a who’s-who of Irish American leaders to ensure our delegation got access to the key contacts needed to forge business partnerships and cut job-boosting deals. At the New York-New Belfast conference in Fordham University, the very best of Belfast laid out its stall while on the 48th floor of Tower 4 on what was Ground Zero, Belfast artist in exile Marcus Robinson unveiled his uplifting Rebuilding film and art works about the rebirth of the World Trade Centre.
There has been no more special moment in my year of office than bringing the Belfast Community Gospel Choir to New York and hearing them sing Something Inside So Strong in New York. Here they are in Central Park.
Before I left Belfast, I had the great privilege of meeting the Trustees of the Belfast Islamic Centre to thank them for their ceaseless contribution to Belfast. On Monday, as my last act in office, I will host the Chaplains of Belfast as they launch the Compassionate Belfast Charter, a statement of intent about the city’s commitment to tolerance, diversity and inclusion. The Muslim community will be represented at that momentous occasion and, like all our ethnic minorities, will receive my thanks for helping push Belfast confidently into the 21st Century.
We have come too far to be turned back now.
Anyone who thinks differently should have been with me today when I went from the UNITED New York-Belfast flight to meet up with 100 super young people who will sleep rough outside City Hall tonight to highlight the fight against homelessness.
They are the true face of the city and I have been honoured and privileged to lead them and every other citizen of Belfast for the past year.
Thank you for your support but now I have to go, there is work to be done.