The Director of the Forum for Cities in Transition, Professor Padraig O’Malley, was in Belfast for the day. I quickly organised a series of meetings to increase awareness of this project and encourage greater involvement by those who are already formal members of the Forum, as well as by those who are doing excellent work in this regard.
Our first courtesy call was with the Lord Mayor of Belfast, Councillor Niall O Donnghaile. We expressed our gratitude for the participation of Belfast City Council officers at our annual conference last year in Derry-Londonderry, and for the interest being developed by the Good Relations Unit.
Good Relations Officer, David Robinson, provided us with copies of the council’s Good Relations Plan and Investment Programme 2012-2015. I particularly like the pledge to implement actions to secure shared city space and transform contested space.
Onto Parliament Buildings, Director of Engagement, Gareth McGrath, provided Prof. O’Malley with a background to the Northern Ireland Assembly’s work with the Assembly of Kosovo, which includes a recently signed Memorandum of Understanding between the two legislative assemblies.
The Speaker of the Northern Ireland Assembly, Willie Hay MLA, described to us his favourable impressions of his experiences in Kosovo, and in particular the contested city of Mitrovica, seeing obvious parallels with his constituency of Derry-Londonderry and Northern Ireland in general. Prof. O’Malley presented the Speaker with copies of a just published report as well as a journal of papers related to last year’s conference. Both were generously supported by the Community Relations Council.
A busy day, but one that has hopefully left a favourable impression upon those we met. The breadth and depth of the Forum for Cities in Transition is increasing, with member cities implementing real and practical outcomes for the betterment of all their citizens in their municipalities.