The Shire Reeve's Tale: 10

Last night I hosted, as High Sheriff of Belfast and Chairman of the Health and Environmental Services Committee, a dinner for Edwin Poots, the Minister for the Environment in Northern Ireland and other senior delegates to the Sustainable Communities Conference today in Belfast City Hall. This is what I said:-

Good evening Minister, distinguished guests, ladies and gentlemen.
I would like to begin by welcoming you to Malone House and to this Sustainable Communities conference dinner. As you will be aware, tomorrow’s conference is being delivered jointly by a wide range of partners including Belfast City Council, Belfast Healthy Cities, the Business Services Organisation, Chartered Institute of Environmental Health, the Department of Health, Social Services and Public Safety, the Met Office and the Public Health Agency to name but a few. I would just like to take a moment to congratulate those organisations on coming together to promote such an important theme as Sustainable Communities and on what promises to be an extremely innovative, dynamic and interesting conference.

I note that we have present tonight representatives from the Office of the First Minister and deputy First Minister with whom lies responsibility for sustainable development in Northern Ireland. For those that do not know, the Office of the First Minister and deputy First Minister published a new Sustainable Development Strategy for Northern Ireland entitled ‘Everyone’s Involved’ last year which contains a range of commitments towards sustainable communities. I think that the strategy’s title goes some way to underlining the important role that everyone has to play in creating truly sustainable communities. And, we eagerly await the publication of the supporting Implementation Plan later this year that will provide us with the route map for their creation. I am happy to report, however, that Belfast City Council has already recognised the value of sustainable development having included within our corporate plan a commitment to act sustainably and promote the principle of sustainability in all our activities.

I am aware that not all of you are able to attend tomorrow’s conference and so we have invited some of our eminent speakers to provide brief synopses of their presentations as part of this evening’s function. Accordingly, I am delighted that we have present Bairbre de Brun (MEP) who will provide a European perspective, Tony Juniper campaigner, writer, environmentalist and sustainability adviser, Professor Tim Lang, Professor of Food Policy, City University London and Sustainable Development Commission Commissioner and Diarmuid O’Donovan, Senior Lecturer in Social & Preventive Medicine and Director of Public Health at the Health Service Executive, West Galway. You are all very welcome.

Belfast has been particularly well placed to benefit from the EU due to the dynamism of its dedicated EU Unit, which was established in 2003 and led by our European Manager, Laura Leonard, who is with us tonight. I am particularly glad to see Bairbre back again on the Auld Sod. I remember her well when she was Minister of Health, Social Services and Public Safety. I asked her a question in Ulster-Scots and she was the only Minister to reply in that language. So Céad mile fàilte, Bairbre, A hundert thoosand walcomes, A hundred thousand welcomes. I would invite you, Bairbre, to begin our proceedings. Go raibh maith agat, thank ye, thank you very much.

To be continued

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