Pledges, actions, commitments
The craic was mighty, the conversations productive, the collaborations inspiring and the creativity stunning as Belfast joined forces with the Diaspora this week for the inaugural Homecoming celebration.
Our mission was to build the peace in a better Belfast and 400 people, over four days, at seven full-house events, and across 30 different presentations panels and boardroom dialogue discussions certainly painted a picture of a resurgent city.
The real work beings now on bringing to life the pledges and commitments which were made in Duncairn Arts and Culture Centre, in An Chultúrlann Irish language oasis on the Falls, in the magnificent Methodist Church-backed Skainos hub in the heart of East Belfast, and in Titanic Belfast — as well as in café corners, pub snugs and hotel lobbies. I will be posting updates on my website at www.newbelfast.com.
Our list of ‘asks‘ — from the Diaspora and from Belfast — is now online and there is a task to which everyone can commit to ensure we build these strong bonds between our great city and what honorary chair of the Homecoming conference Colin Anderson dubs not the Diaspora but “our 70 million-strong family”.
As we thank the sons and daughters of the Diaspora who came home — most notably Moët Hennessy USA CEO Jim Clerkin, Lieutenant General (Rtd) Rick O’Meara, and Silicon Vally entrepreneur Séamus McAteer (who received our Diaspora Entrepreneur Award from Minister for the Diaspora Jimmy Deenihan) — we are already preparing for the Homecoming II on 23-25 September 2015. A date for your diary.
Meanwhile, the boost to transatlantic relations given by the barnstorming visit of Mayor Marty Walsh of Boston will carry us to new heights at the sixth annual Golden Bridges gathering in the capital of Irish America on 8-9 October.
But before we saddle up for that annual pilgrimage to Boston, let’s also give a shout-out to the generous Primetime business partners who made the first-ever Belfast Homecoming possible: Ulster Bank, Deloitte, Belfast City Council, DSD, Community Relations Council, Duncairn Centre, Magners, Clonmel 1650 and Titanic Quarter. And our Showtime Sponsors also played their part: UNITED, Forum for Alternative Belfast, University of Ulster, Visit Belfast, Belfast Harbour, Mount Charles Group, Springvale, Translink and the Arts Council as well as U105 Radio.
And one final cheer for Honorary conference chair Tom McCusker of Tennent’s NI who put the icing on the conference cake for some of our US visitors by presenting them with premium level tickets for the Croke Park All-Ireland hurling final replay on Saturday. A thrilling end to a tremendous week.