Rolling out the red carpet
For those of us who believe Ireland is a country of six million and a nation of 70 million, the Diaspora is the greatest ally we have.
I saw that clearly during the many bridge-building visits I made to North America during my term as mayor when, again and again, I was bowled over the genius, generosity and goodwill of those who had left Ireland, or whose forebears had left Ireland, and who were hungry to connect with ‘home’.
Therefore, as I pondered what challenges to pick up when my mayoral year came to an end, I knew that I would like to create an event which would bring Belfast and the Diaspora closer together.
Thus was born the Belfast Homecoming-One City Conference which will run from 17-19 September in Belfast which will enable 50 members of the Disapora to join the conversation with 150 of our civic leaders about how to create a prosperous, united and diverse Belfast.
I was inspired by the success of the Gathering and the impact of the Detroit Homecoming in developing a way for expats to reconnect, re-engage, re-invest and rebuild Belfast. But it won’t only be debate and dialogue, I also intend to celebrate the remarkable transformation of Belfast and raise a glass to the achievements of the Diaspora.
I’m delighted that Therese Murray, State Senate President of Massachusetts (whose ancestors are Harrolds from Ulster) will be in Belfast to kick off proceedings on 17 September and that the Titanic Drawing Rooms will host a Pop-Up Homecoming Banquet prepared by super chef Niall McKenna that evening.
We will bring together authorities across not only these islands but Europe and the US to discuss the next stage of Belfast’s rise over the following two days, visiting every corner of the city.
In an increasingly dangerous world, we will spotlight the success of the peace process and discuss how partnerships with the Diaspora can provide the positive energy we need to push forward.
And the good news is that you are all invited to the Belfast Homecoming-One City Conference. Whether you’re a Belfast expat (who will receive an especially heartfelt céad míle fáilte) or simply a member of the Diaspora who loves Ireland and wishes to see the peace we enjoy blossom, you’ll find yourself at home courtesy of our famed hospitality. And let’s build to bring 100 people home in 2015 and 150 in 2016 when our venue will be the newly-opened Waterfront Convention Centre in Belfast.
For emerging details, visit our conference website or email Connla McCann.
Beidh fearadh na fáilte romhaibh.