In the Town We Love So Well
No one does céad míle fáilte like the people of Derry so it was a real thrill to address the Sinn Féin ard fheis in Derry yesterday on that historic city’s inexorable rise.
In Ireland’s capital of culture, I raised a glass to the revolutionaries of music and arts who have made Doire Colm Cille their muse.
I said: “This is the Hometown of Field Day and Friel, where Reading in the Dark is the perfect prologue to Teenage Kicks. And with its peace bridge, Siege Museum, Fleadh Cheoil na hÉireann, resurgent Magee campus, (here’s one for our comrades in Syriza) Carthaginians and Butcher’s Dozen, the Museum of Free Derry, glorious Peace Bridge and famed walls, Derry well-deserves its accolade as Ireland’s cultural capital. Our job in the time ahead is to make Derry not just a capital of culture but also a European capital of community and commerce. An economy which removes borders and puts up bridges will do just that.” You can see my brief ard fheis contribution here.
But no matter how much I praise Derry, my heart remains in Belfast where one of our most inspiring community projects — the building of the new NI Hospice — is nearing completion. The finish line is in sight with millions having been raised for this global centre of palliative care where love and grace make it possible for patients to live life right up to their last moment. I am a fan of the NI Hospice and a debtor so I was delighted to hear that the SPAR Craic 10K on St Patrick’s Day is trying to raise £10k for this great cause. I will run the good race by raising the first £1,000 of that sum. I have put up £500 and hope your donations of all sizes will help me reach my personal target. You can see more at my JustGiving page. The NI Hospice is the official partner of the SPAR Craic 10K and official sponsor forms can also be downloaded from the Aisling Events website. With, at the time of writing, 1250 people registered for the SPAR Craic 10K, I am confident we can hit that magical £10k target.
Finally, I will be in Albany, state capital of New York, this Thursday to meet the American Irish legislators led by Rep Mike Cusick and Rep Mike Fitzpatrick. They have the dates for the Belfast Homecoming in their diary but hopefully, we’ll be able to persuade a few other Albany luminaries to join them in building transatlantic ties of commerce, community and culture. I’m also looking forward to calling to Albany City Hall to bring Belfast greetings to their fabulous first citizen Mayor Kathy Sheehan. In the week which saw the launch of the Irish Government’s new diaspora policy ‘Global Irish’, there is no better time to be reconnecting Irish America with the peace process.
Go dté sibh slán.