Together we can make our city an exciting place to live
The Lord Mayor Pat Convery is encouraging all Belfast's citizens to contribute to the city's progress
It's good to talk. And where better to host meaningful discussion than in the incredible setting of our City Hall. For three mornings this week, I am hosting a series of Cafe Conversations on a range of issues that affect our city and the lives of those living and working here.
What I hope will result from this engagement is a real impetus to move forward as a shared society with a shared future.
I am keen that as many voices as possible are heard. With that at the forefront of my mind, I have invited representatives from Church and faith groups, statutory bodies and a wide range of community and voluntary organisations.
My commitment is that the feedback we receive from all three sessions will be used to inform the council's future good relations work with feedback being incorporated into the council's Good Relations plan.
It is my view that these conversations are timely, especially in light of the current economic situation and the impending budgetary cuts.
The first Cafe Conversation took place yesterday and took as its theme Good Relations in a divided city in a recession. Duncan Morrow, chief executive of the Community Relations Council, led the discussion.
Today, the second in the series, deals with The Northern Ireland Economy and the socio-economic impact on the city of Belfast. Dr Mike Morrissey, economy and urban regeneration expert, will facilitate this.
The third Cafe Conversation, which I will host tomorrow morning, is entitled The role of Churches and faith groups in promoting a shared society and the effect of the recession on our most vulnerable sections of society. Presbyterian Moderator, the Rt Rev Dr Norman Hamilton, will lead the discussion.
It is my hope that each and every one of our citizens believes that they have a contribution to make to the success of their city. I hope, too, that they will feel that their contribution is acknowledged and valued.
By fostering a sense of belonging and encouraging participation, I am optimistic that Belfast can embrace the differences within it. I recognise the importance of continued dialogue in order to break down barriers and to encourage relationship building within communities.
The real test of fairness and equality lies in how we treat our weakest communities, groups and citizens. It is my sincere belief that we now need to change the mindset to think of our city as an integrated Belfast, rather than always breaking it down into distinct areas.
There is a very real danger that, by not thinking of Belfast as a whole entity, we are driving up costs in terms of the funding of various organisations that could actually be merged to offer city-wide representation.
The theme of my year in office is Working for Belfast. I pledged at the start of my term in office to do just that.
By working together, it is my belief that we can help create a better city for all. Making Belfast a fantastic and shared city to live in continues to be my priority.
This will be a crucial year - we have come a long way in the past few years, but we must ensure that progress isn't blunted by the impact of the economic downturn and Government cuts.
It is my pledge that we will continue to listen to our ratepayers and we will play our part as a council in the development of Belfast.
Partnership working is the key to our success to date and I will continue the excellent progress made in improving how we work with other public-sector bodies and the private sector in making Belfast a world-class city.