48 Hours in the Big Apple
Trying to make an impression in the Big Apple in just 48 hours is a tall order — as Eddie Murphy knows — but I think this whirlwind visit to New York has given notice that Belfast is upping its game.
And the reception from New York and especially from Irish America to the positive and united message from Belfast has been generous and enthusiastic.
And it’s not just that our friends in Irish America want to do all they can to build peace with jobs but they also know that, with our cultural vibrancy, highly-educated workforce, and determination to succeed, Belfast has a compelling proposition to make. And nothing impresses more than the roll-call of blue-chip companies who have already made Belfast a vital European base: AllState, NYSE, Cybersource, Citi among them.
Of course Belfast boasts another global behemoth — Bloomberg Media — as NYC Mayor Michael Bloomberg proudly reminded the press pack after meeting a Belfast delegation which included myself and East Belfast community champion Sammy Douglas MLA.
(He also joked that his personalised Belfast Giants jersey was “big enough for me and my girlfriend to get into”!)
But it’s not just about ‘selling’ Belfast, it’s also key to recognise our ex-pats who have kept the faith with our city through thick and thin. That’s why I was thrilled to present our first Belfast Ambassador commendation to Liam Neeson, a superstar who remains as proud of his homeland as we are of him.
In the presentation of a second Belfast Ambassador award — to artist and Belfast native Marcus Robinson — we captured the spirit of hope which pervades Belfast today. Marcus has been embedded at Ground Zero since 2007, undertaking a monumental artistic challenge to film and portray the reconstruction of that devastated landmark. His mesmerising, world-class work takes rebirth and rebuilding as its theme. Listening to this wandering son of East Belfast speaking movingly about how much it meant to him to receive formal recognition from his home city, made me realise that his muse is as much Belfast as New York.
(Back in Belfast tomorrow after a busy day of engagements ahead in NYC today. See you at the ICTU and Big IF gatherings.)