Whatever about our messy and contentious past, the future – as represented by the outstanding Belfast 40 under 40 young people honoured in the Great Hall of Queen’s University Belfast on Thursday past – promises us a rosier future.

In this annual event, the Belfast Media Group brings together 40 people under the age of 40 who are high achievers in their chosen fields – community endeavour, commerce, politics, sport, the arts. To be in the Great Hall for lunch on Thursday was to see the depth of young talent that this city possesses. And while there is much talk, as indeed there should be and will continue to be, of those young people who are left behind by society, on this occasion the spotlight was very firmly on our brightest and our best.

These were our truly privileged young people, not in terms of finance or wealth, but in terms, much more importantly, of talent and tenacity.

Well-travelled, outward-looking, active, dynamic, and assured beyond their years, the 40 honourees spoke of a bright future for Belfast.

Coming from all corners of the city and every walk of life, those recognised gave every indication of being a breakthrough generation for Belfast; the generation which will view the past as prologue for the next chapter in the city’s story.

Among the many qualities this group of high-achievers demonstrated was a willingness to take on the role of ambassadors for the fast-changing city of Belfast.

There was a clear understanding that their role is not just to build their personal careers – and of course we wish them well in that – but to also give back to the city which has made them what they are.

In that respect, the 40 understand the most important lesson of all from this annual salute to the youth of Belfast: to those to whom much is given, much is also expected.

We expect, therefore, to read great things about the contribution of our 40 to Belfast in the years ahead.