In June 2010, a hurricane hit the New York-New Belfast conference in the shape of Oorlagh George, film producer and daughter of Terry (of Hotel Rwanda fame).
Fired up and focused, Oorlagh did a job on our New York gathering, button-holing the wealthiest and best-connected business leaders present to seek their financial backing for what was then a hazy plan to make a short film in Killough, Co Down.
A year later, job done, Oorlagh returned to the New York-New Belfast conference with her dad to screen the finished product – a moving, entertaining 27-minute reflection on reconciliation and misunderstanding. A parable, as it were, for the peace process.
I’m thrilled therefore to see The Shore shortlisted for the Oscars this week and wish Terry and Oorlagh every success for their big night in LA on Sunday, February 26.
But more than that, I’m in awe of the ability of Oorlagh, as The Shore producer, to bring to fruition a visionary plan in less than two years.
WHICH is why I think we should commission Oorlagh, admittedly based in LA but with a big commitment to her dad’s home town of Belfast, to implement the Belfast City Council £150m capital investment plan due to be unveiled on February 2.
And I’m only half-joking, because while the Council decision – backed by all parties – to greenlight an effective Marshall Plan for Belfast is a great boost to the city, the devil will be in the delivery.
It was hard-going turning round the oil tanker which is Belfast City Council to focus on a sweeping series of capital investment projects with the creation of jobs and social justice at their core. But harder still will be to get all of the mooted projects over the line – including three separate projects in the Gaeltacht Quarter, a convention centre at the Waterfront, an innovation centre on the former Mackies Springfield Road site, a peace museum at St Comgall’s, opening the Lanyon Tunnels at the Market, and much more.
But councillors will be rightly judged come the next election on how they performed when it comes to tackling the most pressing priority in Belfast today: providing jobs and opportunities in the working class areas which haven’t yet enjoyed the peace dividend they’re entitled to. From Taughmonagh to Turf Lodge, the message needs to go out that the City Fathers and Mothers, to use that antiquated term, are resolved to ending the high levels of unemployment which of course have remained stubbornly and unacceptably high for four long decades and more now.
ON THURSDAY past, I met with the Chief Digital Officer of New York City, Rachel Sterne, before flying back for a City Hall meeting on Friday which approved plans to roll out wi-fi into City Hall itself and its grounds. And not before time.
In the New York City Hall sideroom where I met Rachel, I couldn’t help but notice a large digital stopwatch (above right) which is turned on at the start of every meeting. As you can see, from the picture I took after our confab, I kept my promise to end our meeting before the half-hour mark.
I’m not sure how well garrulous Belfast politicians would take to such a device in City Hall. But perhaps we should put a similar device on the front of the Dome of Delight, a digital timepiece counting down the days it takes us to deliver the £150m investment package from when it is unveiled on February 2 until completion.
Either that or appoint Oorlagh George as project manager!
n You can follow Máirtín Ó Muilleoir on Twitter at @newbelfast