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A Homecoming that will generate many returns

Delegates attending a welcoming reception at the residence of the U.S. Consul General in Belfast, Elizabeth Kennedy-Trudeau.


By Maria McCourt

Friendships were cemented, connections were made and fifty of Belfast’s most incredible ambassadors were honored at the 2018 Belfast International Homecoming which took place over three days at the end of November.

The fifth annual business and investment conference for the Irish and Scots Irish diaspora saw a host of champions gather for the event which this year placed the theme of “Game On!” at the heart of its deliberations and celebrations.

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Encompassing for the first time the Belfast Basketball Classic, featuring colleges from across the United States, the sporting theme was kicked off at the Welcome Reception hosted by Ulster University on Wednesday, November 28.

Addressed by Homecoming host, Howard Hastings, Ulster University provost, Professor Raffaela Folli, and Gareth Maguire of the Sport Changes Life Foundation, the event set the scene for three days of entrepreneurship, investment, sports and development discussions.

New York biotech investor and entrepreneur Mark Goldstone led the charge at Thursday morning’s Entrepreneurship Symposium hosted by Ulster Bank.

The gathering, which also featured an address by the co-founder and CEO of ECLYPSE LLC in Chicago, Cathal O’Flaherty, saw delegates “speed-dating with start-ups” before embarking on a city center investment showcase.

Here, the U.S.-based MRP opened up its European headquarters to visitors, highlighting its growth and development in the city as proof of Belfast’s many and ever increasing strengths.

Thursday also saw the Homecoming Legal Symposium at the Royal Courts of Justice, a crucial part of the annual event attended by leading legal lights from across the globe.

Amongst those addressing the symposium was Professor John Feerick of Fordham University in New York, a tireless champion of peace and prosperity in Ireland.

Professor Feerick, who helped craft the 25th Amendment to the United States Constitution, also addressed that evening’s reception hosted by the U.S. Consul General Elizabeth Kennedy-Trudeau.

Friday’s business and investment conference looked at a host of key issues, moderated by a stellar line-up which included Nicholas Malito, President of the Irish business Organization in New York; partner at Think People, Emer Hinphey; Deirdre Murphy, Counsel with Seyfarth Shaw LLP Boston, and Sean Moynihan, Principal, The Moynihan Group. The issue discussed included tourism, philanthropy, sports as an economic driver, and attracting and keeping talent. All provided much to consider for delegates and speakers alike.

Introductory speeches from Lord Willie Haughey OBE, one of Scotland’s leading entrepreneurs and businessmen, and Joe O’Neill, CEO of the booming Belfast Harbour, drove momentum for the rest of the day and discussions from Brexit and young enterprise to investment and urban regeneration.

The business of the day was concluded with a gala banquet at the Europa Hotel which featured the inaugural Belfast Ambassadors Award, recognizing fifty of the city’s tireless champions from home and abroad.

Belfast Ambassador and New York State Senator, Tim Kennedy, told the conference he could see a real resurgence in the city and was “struck by the need to feed the fire with U.S. investment” whilst Chris Kane of Osborne & Co spoke of “the power and potential of linking people and place.”

“As I looked over the diverse international guests attending the event, I was gratified to see so many of them really engaged in looking at ways to realize our shared ambition of building a better Belfast,” he said.

“It was heartening to see our U.S. visitors all confirm that they too have seen the true potential in Belfast.

“As a city full of opportunity, exuding innovation and creativity all over the place. It was even better to hear them provide encouragement, and to really buy into Be Brilliant Belfast!”