Rep. Gene O’Flaherty has returned from a business and political exchange program held in Belfast, Northern Ireland. It also included residents of Derry and Donegal.
The highlight of the speaking program at the conference took place last Thursday and Friday, culminating in a reception at the US Consul General’s residence in Northern Ireland.
The event closed in the same building where the late Senator Ted Kennedy and other significant Irish leaders and officials met to lay the framework of the peace now existing in Northern Ireland.
O’Flaherty was one of the exchange program’s featured speakers.
He delivered a speech on how places like Chelsea and Boston renewed themselves. He talked about the Boston Main Streets Program and of Chelsea’s resurgence as a thoroughly modern example of how a changed city government can achieve great strides in business and in the residential community as well.
“ I spoke about how to bring stability to neighborhoods like Charlestown and Chelsea. They appreciated immensely my participation. It was all about talking about achieving peace and prosperity in places where those two things hadn’t easily been achieved in the past,” he said.
The 21st Century Belfast, he said, is portrayed as a city where everyone is cooperating to secure a better economic future.
His trip was paid for by the Belfast Media Group.
“Belfast, like Boston, is a city of neighborhoods,” he said. “Certain neighborhoods are identified with certain demographics.”
O’Flaherty is a keen observer.
“In Belfast many neighborhoods are still struggling with ways to talk with one another because of historic politics divisions,” he added.
O’Flaherty said the effort in Belfast, Derry and Donegal is to develop synergy and infrastructure.
“Belfast has fabulous architecture, and the combination of sea and mountains. It is struggling to develop a new image and identity and is enjoying huge increase in tourism,” he said.
“The Titanic Quarter Building is where I delivered my speech. It is an incredible new building and the centerpiece of the new Belfast,” he said.
He described the food in Belfast as the same here. You can eat Indian, Chinese whatever.
The annual conference included three Northern Ireland Ministers, the Lord Mayor of Belfast and Naomi Long MP.
The summit reflected on and assessed the progress the city has made in the last 12 months, highlighting the dynamic and vibrant businesses and communities emerging across Belfast.