Being good ancestors
It’s a brave person indeed who would approvingly quote the All-Blacks in the weekend that is in it, but nevertheless Terry Robb of sponsor Ulster Bank captured the spirit of the Belfast International Homecoming by looking south to Aotearoa-New Zealand.
Speaking to a room full of young entrepreneurs, Terry referenced the Maori spiritual concept called ‘whakapapa’ – a long unbroken chain of humans standing arm in arm from the beginning of time to the end of eternity.
Added Terry: As James Kerr, author of Legacy, a study of leadership and the All Blacks puts it: “And the sun shines for just a moment on this, our time. It’s our obligation and responsibility to add to the legacy. Our first responsibility is to be a good ancestor.”
We had plenty of good ancestors join us in Belfast this week for the Homecoming. All playing it forward: Jim Frawley, a business coach from NYC and member of the Irish Business Organisation whose father was a cop in the Bronx when it was in flames in the eighties. His parting words, “tell me what you need done”.
Fidelma Breen from Adelaide, Australia, representing the Irish Australian Chamber of Commerce made the longest journey to be with us – she also kept the toughest pace, going straight from the after-party of the closing banquet to catch the 3:30am bus to Dublin Airport and the long haul back.
Giancarlo Di Vece, all the way from Guadalajara, Mexico, CEO of Unosquare who urged us at conference to cut him some slack as he struggled to pronounce the name of Irish medium school Coláiste Feirste which he plans to partner. “Guys, English is already my third language so don’t be too hard on me.”
Seán Somers, CEO of the biggest Irish-owned hospitality Group on the East Coast of the US, pointed to the pull of the global Irish family. “Six months ago, I hadn’t heard of the word diaspora, now it’s at the centre of my life,” he said.
Bank President Jerry Sullivan of Butte, Montana, who told the full house at the City Hall gala that his relationship with Ireland had been rekindled in the eighties when his family took in young people from Belfast under the Project Children programme.
Aisha Alnajjar of Homs, Syria, lamented the destruction of her home city in a moving address as she received her Young Ambassador Award from Homecoming Host Dr David Dobbin of Belfast Harbour: “I still miss my home city where we used to celebrate our holidays with our relatives, neighbours and friends,” she said, adding: “I also miss our house, our home street, the mosques and my grandparents there. But quiet and peaceful Belfast is now my second home.”
James Martin, an inspirational young actor with Down’s Syndrome, who brought the house down with his opening remarks – “It’s okay I’m not going to talk about Brexit”.
The All-Blacks weren’t the only rugby salt in the wounds at the weekend though. Guest of Honour at the farewell dinner in the Dome of Delight was the First Minister of Wales Mark Drakeford who opened his address in Welsh – the language spoken in heaven as has, he assured us, been scientifically proven. Fresh back from Japan, he said he wouldn’t mention the fact that the hosts had scored “a victory which will live in the memory for many Rugby World Cups to come.”
His speech focused, not surprisingly, on the Brexit stormclouds gathering over a Wales, which, he posited, faced being more isolated than ever from their Celtic cousins in Scotland and across the Irish Sea.
Shall we allow a small matter like Brexit tear asunder Celtic connections which go back 2,000 years and more? Our ancestors would never forgive us and anyhow, good ancestors, such as those gathered in Belfast this week, understand that our global family and friends are our greatest blessing.