The Shire Reeve's Tale: 8

Tonight I welcome visitors from throughout Europe to the City Hall in Belfast and this is what I will say: Distinguished Guests. First of all, may I say, as High Sheriff of Belfast and Chairman of Belfast City Council’s Health and Environmental Services Committee what a great pleasure it is to see you all in our City Hall, perhaps the finest of our civic buildings and certainly the most visited. Let me express myself in the three languages spoken here, Céad mile fàilte in Ulster Gaelic, A hunert thoosand walcomes in Ullans or Ulster-Scots and A hundred thousand welcomes in English.

Belfast is situated at the mouth of the River Lagan, recorded in the second century of the Christian Era by the geographer Ptolemy. From ancient times this low-lying and swampy place was strategically important since it controlled a ford where the river could be crossed at low tide. Indeed Belfast gets its name from the Ulster Gaelic Beal Feirste meaning “the approach to the sandbank”, which led to the crossing point. At this place a battle was fought in 668 AD between two ethnic groups, the pre-Celtic Cruthin and the Celtic Ulaid, which gave Belfast its first mention in history. The Normans called it Le Forde.

Although in the seventeenth century Belfast was still a small town, she was already on her way to becoming one of the principal ports of Ireland.The building of the White Linen Hall on this site in 1785 was an important step in the establishment of Belfast as the centre of linen trade in the north of Ireland. This set the seal on Belfast’s rapid development during the Industrial Revolution, so that by the end of the nineteenth century she had the greatest shipyards and biggest ropeworks in the world. The continued expansion of the port and harbour facilities was both a condition and a consequence of this industrial and commercial growth.

Nothing was to symbolise the prosperity and civic pride of the new City than the building of this splendid edifice, completed in1906. And therefore I was delighted when Allison Townsley asked us to give you the opportunity to visit our City Hall and have you conference dinner here. As you know Allison works for the Department of the Environment’s Northern Ireland Environment Agency. She and her team are responsible for administering and enforcing legislation which deals with international shipments of waste, more commonly known as the TFS Regulations.

They are an active participant in the European Union Network for the Implementation and Enforcement of Environmental Law (IMPEL), which is an international association of environmental authorities in Europe, and have been involved in a particular IMPEL project involving transboundary movements of waste alongside a number of other EU and several non EU countries. For the last two years participants have been working together to detect and prevent illegal international waste movements.

By working in collaboration with other Member States, Northern Ireland can prevent waste being exported to countries who do not have the environmentally sound waste management facilities to deal with the waste and whose sites do not provide basic health and safety provisions for the individuals working there. The majority of Northern Ireland’s waste export market leaves through Belfast ports. By working with the Belfast Harbour authorities and shipping lines, they have shown you that their work in Belfast leads the way in combating international waste crime. To mark the end of this project Allison and her team organised your one day conference for participants in Belfast from 31 countries across Europe.

I know that representatives include those from Austria, Belgium, Bulgaria, Czech Republic, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Hungary, Republic of Ireland, Latvia, Lithuania, Malta, Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Slovenija, Spain and the United Kingdom. Your English is much better than my use of your languages but I would like to thank you all for coming to see us and I hope you come back again when I say: Vielen Dank, Dank u, Blagodarya, Děkuji,Tänan teid, Kiitos, Je vous remercie, Közönöm, Go raith maith agat, Paldies, Aċiū, Grazie, Takk, Dziękuję, Obrigado, Mulţimesc, Hvala, Gracias,ευχαριστώ (efharisto),תודה (todah). Thank you very much.

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