We will not be dragged back by violent few
A difficult week for Belfast ended with a rainbow over the Tianic Slipways as the wonderful World Police and Fire Games came to a close.
And that’s how it should be for, while the mob may capture the headlines, the vast, vast majority of the people of Belfast love this city and are determined to build the peace and create a bright future for our children.
That’s the message I brought to the thousands gathered for the Games closure — guests of our city who had treated us to a once-in-a-lifetime experience. The 7,000 competitors were bowled over by the warmth of their welcome but they had given us a gift also by their very presence, their colour, their sportsmanship, and their vitality. In a few short days, they fell in love with Belfast and its people. They came to understand why we love this city — its Black Mountain and its River Lagan, its Falls Road and its Shankill Road, its Cultúrlann in the west and its Cranes in the east.
Undoubtedly, our visitors will have been saddened by the scenes of hatred and mayhem on our streets during the Games but they should be assured that by coming for the Games they have made a enduring contribution to our journey towards peace and reconciliation. In case you were in any doubt about the determination of our people to move forward, the biggest cheer of the night was for the PSNI, an acknowledgement of their commitment and heroism on the playing field undoubtedly but also this week on our streets.
I ran my own gauntlet this week protected by PSNI officers who endured a ferocious and hate-fuelled attack in order to ensure I discharged my obligations to travel to every part of our great city as Lord Mayor for all. You can see more about that assault here and I have no doubt prosecutions of this hate crime will follow. My thanks to all who expressed their concern from the Lord Mayor of Dublin Oisín Quinn to local politicians Naomi Long, Basil McCrea and last year’s Lord Mayor Ald Gavin Robinson as well as colleagues in Sinn Féin and the SDLP. I thought Mayor Michael Bloomberg spoke for all those who believe democracy must prevail with his comments:
“I commend Lord Mayor Ó Muilleoir for refusing to be intimidated by a violent few who wish to drag Belfast backwards. A mayor’s job is to represent all people and all communities equally, and I know that the Lord Mayor is fully committed to that principle. I had the pleasure of hosting the Lord Mayor here in New York shortly after he was elected, and our city stands squarely with him and all those who are working for unity and progress in Belfast and across Northern Ireland.”
My own riposte to the bully-boys appeared in the Belfast Telegraph which you can read here but also in the fact that I have fulfilled every engagement since the attack. The most colourful of those was yesterday when I opened the Caribbean Food Fest in the Crescent Arts Centre in South Belfast. It certainly has whetted my appetite for this job I am privileged to hold as first citizen of Belfast. So let’s push on.