One of the cornerstones of Dock life is that we’re about hope, good news and all that is positive about our city – we want to be part of building the New Belfast.
So it was a great pleasure to invite the selfie-tweeting ex-Mayor with pink hair, Mairtin O’Muilleoir to our Sunday Night in Dock Cafe last week. His hair is no longer pink, he has passed the Mayor’s blingtastic jewellery to his successor, Nichola Mallon (of whom more soon!), but he is still a formidable force for hope, life, change, optimism and joy in all that is good about Belfast. With Mairtin, ‘New Belfast’ is not just his Twitter handle but his way of life.
In a candid and fascinating interview with Fr Martin Magill, Mairtin shared the joys of working together with faith communities (whom he found to be the people actually on the ground doing the lion’s share of practical care for the disadvantaged and disenfranchised of the city), forming the Lord Mayor’s team of Chaplains, promoting the positive image of a New Belfast overseas, and being part of the formation of the ‘Prayer For Belfast’ (in which we all joined at the conclusion of his interview).
For someone who keeps claiming to not be religious, Mairtin certainly preached it… It was impossible not to get swept along by his love for the city, his optimism for its future, and his conviction that people of faith have a part to play… In his words, “This is a super city – it needs super churches more than Super Councils!”
The ‘new Belfast’ also manifested itself in an unexpected way last Friday in, of all things, the aftermath of the news of Ian Paisley’s death.
BBC reporter Chris Buckley was sent out around the city to film the reactions of its people (and a sterling job he did too)… He found, inevitably, some for whom Paisley could no wrong, and some for whom he could do no right. And to give balance to the report, he wanted to interview some young people (and, er, me) in a new part of the city – the New Belfast to contrast with the old. Where else, but to the Titanic Quarter, bathed in golden evening light, and to Dock Cafe, where a friendly cuppa awaited him! (even if it was slammed down on the counter rather over-enthusiastically – sorry about that):
What an unexpected honour to be part of a report that went out not just across NI, but on the national 10 o’clock news across the UK. And to be aligned with the new city we’re building, where No is becoming Yes, where peace is taking root, where the past is a preface rather than a prison… the New Belfast.