Speech by Deputy Lord Mayor of Belfast, Councillor Maire Hendron
Forum for Cities in Transition Opening
Europa Hotel, Belfast
26 October 2014
Distinguished guests, elected members, ladies and gentlemen,
On behalf of Belfast City Council, I would like to extend to you all a very warm welcome to Belfast. This is an opportunity for you all to meet the friends you made at previous conferences, and to connect with new friends and learn and share with each other.
This is the fifth annual gathering of the Forum for Cities in Transition. Previous gatherings were held in Boston, Mitrovica, Derry-Londonderry, Kirkuk and Kaduna.
I know there are representatives in the room from across Europe, the Middle East and Africa, and I’m delighted to be welcoming you all to our city.
Belfast City Council is very proud of the changes for the better that it has helped to progress in the last 20 years. The image we are aiming to achieve is one of prosperity for all our citizens, a beautiful city with amenities for all, and a welcoming place where everyone feels comfortable and safe.
Just to give you a brief update as to where we are in our journey to promote reconciliation.
This year we celebrated the 16th anniversary of the Good Friday Agreement, which was a defining moment in the overall history of Ireland.
This Agreement was built on the highest ideals of liberty, equality, justice, friendship and respect for our fellow men and women. It represented the will of the people to live together in peace and harmony. That wish was democratically expressed in separate referendums in the north and south of Ireland.
Our peace process continues to evolve and expand, and we continue to deal with the legacy of over 30 years of conflict. Belfast and cities like yours have had to confront many issues in the pursuit of peace.
As Chair of the Council’s Good Relations Partnership group, I am very keen to promote and encourage dialogue among people with differing views. It is important that we address issues of mutual concern, learn about others, and help improve civic life in general.
You have gathered from the four corners of the world, taking time out of your busy schedules to understand, explore and share ongoing challenges and successes in moving from conflict to reconciliation.
I hope you will all benefit from your experiences over the next four days. You will have opportunities to see at first hand the excellent partnership work that’s going on now in Belfast. You will meet representatives of communities which were once fractured but who today are working together promoting better relationships.
You will also have opportunities to talk directly to the community leaders who will demonstrate the practical outcomes of their work at a local level.
This year’s gathering theme is “Promoting Reconciliation through Resilience”, and there will be lots of opportunities during the four days to hear about the work that Belfast is doing in this field.
There will also be opportunities for us to learn about the valuable work that you are doing in your countries to promote peace and reconciliation.
I wish you all a very successful Belfast gathering.