John Finucane Full Speech
Ar dtús ba mhaith liom mo bhuíochas a ghabháil le gach duine a thacaigh liom bheith tofa mar Mhéara.
I want to begin by thanking all those who supported me in my election as Mayor.
I am very grateful for your support.
I want to pay thanks to the Sinn Féin group for nominating me as their candidate in what is a hugely significant and important civic position in this great city.
I also want to thank my family for their support and guidance throughout my life.
Tonight is a special night for them and, of course, for me.
And of course never far from my thoughts, more so on a night like tonight, is my father Pat.
I know my Dad would be proud tonight as my entire family are, as am I, of the position being elected Mayor of Belfast places me in.
And I would also at this time like to especially thank former councillors, Mary Ellen Campbell, my running mate in Castle, Mary Clarke, Mairead O’Donnell and Charlene O’Hara, for their sterling work in their communities and in this council.
Thank you also to former councillors from other parties who weren’t elected.
And special congratulations is also deserved for last year’s outstanding mayor, Deirdre Hargey, whose Charter of Rights placed community and prosperity at the heart of her year in office.
This really is a truly proud evening for me.
Those who know me know how much I love this city.
I was born in Belfast and I have lived in Belfast all my life.
It is a great city, made great by its citizens.
As Mayor, I want to bring a message of diversity and inclusiveness to the year ahead.
I have been brought up and lived my life in an inclusive, welcoming environment where difference and diversity is embraced and celebrated, and I am proud of that.
I am the product of a mixed marriage.
Of a Catholic father from west Belfast, and a Protestant mother from East Belfast.
I have relatives who are Unionist and I have relatives who are Republican.
My upbringing has shown me that everyone deserves to be, and must be, treated equally.
I want a strong, vibrant Belfast in which political persuasion, sexuality, religious choice or race make no difference as to how a citizen is treated.
I want a Belfast where we champion the rights of the most vulnerable in our society, and do so proudly, without fear, without favour.
I will never accept that undeniable rights are merely privileges, to be given and taken from those in need, by those in power.
It is my intention as Mayor to convene a special conference to celebrate the vibrancy and diversity in this city and to show how that fantastic diversity can enrich our city and the lives of all our citizens.
Belfast City Council is making a major contribution to changing our society and supporting rights.
This council has supported remaining in the European Union, and has appointed a Brexit Committee.
This council has supported an Acht Gaeilge – and now employs an Irish language officer.
This council has supported marriage equality.
This council has supported worker’s rights.
At a time when Brexit threatens all of our rights on a catastrophic scale, never before seen, I would like to see this Council support the human rights provisions of the Good Friday Agreement: a Bill of Rights for the north; a Charter of Rights for this island and protection for the Human Rights Act, enshrined in legislation but seemingly permanently under attack – all will help protect many other rights including citizenship and identity rights, Irish and British.
We all must strive to see a society ring-fenced and protected by human rights legislation.
I believe Belfast City Council can play its part in creating such a rights based, and inclusive society, reflecting the changing society right across this island.
Belfast can be a rainbow city that propels us all forward to a better future.
As part of building that better future, we must act urgently on the warnings from environmental experts on the danger that climate change poses to our planet.
Climate change is caused by the wants, the needs and the greed of human beings.
In my year in office I will put a focus on this crucial issue as a contribution to highlighting and raising awareness of the need to protect the environment.
Belfast needs to become a greener, cleaner and more connected city to the needs of the environment.
I would like to see this council place a dedicated focus in the next twelve months to ensure that all Belfast City Council programmes, and funding, adhere to the highest environmental standards.
A special climate commission for Belfast is planned, of which Belfast City Council will be part, and I would like to see this Council play an integral role in ensuring that our city becomes a leader and a model to other cities in how a city can actively work to protect the environment.
Whilst working much harder to protect our environment, we must also work to ensure that the Belfast economy continues to grow, and that our city develops in an imaginative, and socially responsible manner.
The business community, and the workers of this city, are what make it tick so uniquely.
There are, however, still too many people – particularly children – living in poverty, so we must build a city that everyone feels part of; and where everyone benefits from vital investment.
For we do see increased investment. We see the fantastic creativity of our entrepreneurs. We see the commitment, the dedication of our highly skilled, and highly educated workforce.
This city has a lot to shout about.
As Mayor I pledge to follow the example of previous Mayors, and use the Mayor’s office to promote the twin pillars of prosperity, business and community – at every available opportunity I have.
I know the importance of relationships which stretch across the spectrum from Catholic to Protestant, from unionist to nationalist, from Irish to British and those who identify as neither. Our cultures, our many identities are a subtle tapestry woven right across this great city and as its first citizen I pledge to you all that I will be a Mayor for everyone.
We do not all think the same.
We do not all act the same.
We live our lives according to our individual needs.
Yet we are the stronger for our diversity and difference.
So to Belfast, the north, the rest of Ireland – Reconciliation between nationalists and unionists is essential for our future together, for a new beginning.
As Mayor I will reach out the hand of friendship and do my best to help build a future we can all be proud of.
For the people of this city, this Council is creating a rights-based society.
And we saw that rights-based society on the march in Belfast city centre on Saturday last.
It was carrying a rainbow flag for marriage equality.
Unionists were there, nationalists were there, as were many nationalities.
Those on the march represent the future – a new Ireland and a better society, and in my role as Mayor of this great city I will do my best to play my own part in a city council that is leading from the front.
The best and most worthwhile goals are never easily achieved, and in the words of Nelson Mandela ‘It always seems impossible until it’s done’.
I look forward to working with each and every one of you in this Chamber, to continue this great City’s development into the 21stCentury.