A successful year
As we come to the end of a successful year for the great city of Belfast, I want to thank all those who have joined us on this remarkable journey of transformation from, as our newest Freeman would have it, “the dark end of the street to the bright side of the road”.
We step into 2014 confidently in the knowledge that we have a series of new initiatives planned which will showcase the genius and generosity of the people of Belfast.
Foremost among those is the first inward business mission in a generation from the US to Belfast. Endorsed by the American Ireland Fund, the 20-strong business delegation, hosted by my office and backed by Belfast City Council, will be in the city from 27 Feb-1 March.
Our intention is to inspire and surprise our visitors with Belfast’s exciting proposition. Those already signed up include former sons and daughters of this city who have done well in the US alongside American entrepreneurs, boardroom titans, and business leaders.
All share a belief in Belfast and a conviction that peace can best be built on a foundation of jobs.
Among those joining the delegation will be tech entrepreneur Seamus McAteer, former Friends of Belfast Chair John Connorton, Shaun Kelly of KPMG, the CEO of Moet-Hennessy USA Jim Clerkin, and entertainment entrepreneur Liam Lynch.
If you are interested in joining the mission, please contact me at email@example.com.
In the meantime, I want to leave 2013 with a salute to the volunteers who brought the spirit and joy of Christmas to our homeless, vulnerable and just plain lonely. On Christmas Day visits to the inspirational Welcome Organisation centre for the homeless, the Stella Maris hostel and the Eakenhead Memorial Hall, I was moved and humbled by the warmth of the welcome I received. I was also deeply impressed by the selfless service of those who had given up their Christmas day to serve the less well-off.
I enjoyed a festive sing-song with the residents of Stella Maris, scoffed some shortbread at the Welcome Centre and pulled crackers at the Eakenhead Hall. Like those enjoying the generosity of the volunteers who had made all three celebrations possible, I had a whale of a time. But it also struck me that those having the most fun were the volunteers themselves. So I raise a glass to all those volunteers, including the wonderful nuns Sr Olive (Welcome Centre) and Sr Nuala (Stella Maris project) and to the McConnells Mona and Louis (Eakenhead), in admiration and in salutation. May they, and all those who live in Belfast or simply love Belfast, have a wonderful New Year.
Go raibh bliain úr faoi shéan is faoi mhaise agaibh uillig.