Irish Bellwethers: Mirtn Muilleoir on Belfast Opportunity
This week on bellwether hub. We are thrilled to have the former Lord. Mayor of Belfast and current. Head of the Belfast Media Group Martina Muller talking about all of the opportunities coming out of Belfast in Northern Ireland. Belfast has gone from being one of the most bombed cities in Europe of the nineteen nineties. Right up to one of the great success and potential stories of this decade to great interview. We loved having him. We recorded it in a bar. You'RE GONNA love it stay tuned? I'm Jim Frawley. And this bellwether do welcome to bellwether. Thank you for joining in the month of March. We are doing a number of interviews. The whole entire month of March. This year is focused on the brightest. The best the most wonderful people from A little island just to the west of Europe known as Ireland. It is a big big Irish holiday month and so very excited about all of the guests that we're going to have This month talking about all the exciting things that are going on both in Northern Ireland in the Republic of Ireland. And there's really so much to go on so much to talk about so much to get excited about and I'm very excited to kick this with one of my favorite people over there. A person who is tireless and has worked for many many years working for the benefit of of the town of Belfast. And we are very apropos. I think having this in a restaurant and a bar to talk to the one the only Martina Muller thank you for being here Martine. Jim Thanks for the opportunity to appear on your globally famous Podcast as well. I know that because I listened to it. And I'm three thousand miles where it's great to be here in the second greatest city on earth which is the city of New York wonderful to be here and Fitzpatrick Hotel because John Patrick. The owner the entrepreneur behind fancher has gone west in search of work helped others and created a A business which has made a big impact On this Saturday on of course he's he's given back to Ireland so an appropriate. Ps to be. Even though I'm off the drink until after the Boston marathon and you're still nice whether it'd be at stereotype. Nice to be here it's popping. Sammy say that's I. You mentioned The small island of Ireland. But there's a wonderful wonderful English artists called Conrad are concerned. He likes to say that. Ireland is a small island but sits atop a continent of culture on that certainly the way I used to be prayed to be from that. Irish artistic cultural progressive tradition. Now that is a beautifully said now. Does this drive most of the work that you do that kind of philosophy of Ireland sitting on top of a multiple cultures? Because I feel like everything. You're doing with Belfast. Which I assume. Belfast is your favorite city ahead of New York. Well I absolutely but you know another area for jobs. Colony said Ireland without. Its people is nothing to me. So you know the the bricks and mortar. A Belfast and the river are wonderful. But it's it's the people on what gets me up in. The morning is trying to work for a better quality of life for people to work for social justice against injustice. I lived through tough times in Belfast. As a child I think almost everybody and Belfast suffers from some sort of form of post traumatic Stress Syndrome. F F. You've my age when I was twelve. I remember of the shootings applaud on the endure. Shortly after Good Friday ninety seventy my mother's best friend Martha Mother Twelve. Children was shot dead Often that's our neighbor grew eleven was shot and the is by a British soldier was blinded all her life and yet that was that was that was normal of course was abnormal. But what we consider normal so to come through those years of of bitterness and tears and heartbreak and have an opportunity the wonderful gift of longevity to have an opportunity to the other side to try to Involved in reconciliation pace bowling and of course the perversion of justice. Everyone what a what a wonderful privilege to have long enough to be involved in that. So that's what keeps me going? That's a big. There's so much to unpack from that entire That attire commentary. But so we are at A. I feel a pivotal point for Northern Ireland. We could talk about brexit. We could talk about twenty years since the peace agreement. We could talk about a whole generation of people that have grown up without the violence. Do you feel like that. Is Changing the face of Belfast Northern Ireland in general How much do you think the peace? Because you really can't talk about Belfast. Without talking about violence of course has the piece just completely pivoted where you're going as a as a city. Well we'll absolutely the gift apace was the greatest gift that my generation ever received. I mean I was involved and poetical frontlines. Nine hundred ninety four and I was absolutely amazed when the ceasefire scheme because it was my opinion just locked in a really dark tunnel that there was no way and that every day there's someone on our side of his term or someone a nurse aide died and that gives you a reason to go back the next day and to continue to engage in this Stealing yet daily that we were in which was trying to right wrongs but being being blocked and nowhere so Kudos to to those and government British government. John Hume Gerry Adams but ultimately irish-america because they're irish-america. It'd be no peace process so there is America I wouldn't be here talking about the important role of Different individuals and small business for example in building pace solidify solidifying a piece but not concrete onto the pace. So we have a lot to be thankful for but I suppose when I look at the change. It's being driven by young people. Young people who've came of age twenty years after the ceasefires twenty years off the Good Friday Agreement but here really writing an opening an entire new chapter for for all our people. How much do you think the This generation is teaching the older generation because the older generation. When you grow up in Belfast was that's not something you forget. How much are they learning from the younger generation on you know peace going forward is important piece? Going forward is good for business. It's good for society. It's for everything moving forward. How much are you learning from that from that generation? Well you have to remember that I turned sixty recently. So generation was heavily influenced by the black civil rights movement in the states on you know such great operation Ferrari Shimmer marijke not an Irish American. I'm from a different Different situation different country. Different Time on there was a black civil rights leader called stokely Carmichael. This wonderful saying we are the leaders. We've been waiting for and what I feel about. Today's young people who are on encumbered by the baggage. We who are future focused here. Bright here on base is that they understand. They are the leader snapping waiting for nuisance. Ask Him for permission to change the world to do things differently. And if you go to the Belfast. You know it's Cliche that a young people are our greatest asset. But you know they really are. They're they're determined to get away from from the Orange and green of the pastor determined to make the city more diverse determined to get what they're entitled to the tick. What is rightly there's to Have a An entirely new year and Balfe off the city which is synonymous with with division and violence. But which hopefully Ni- on I think accepted as a beacon around the word to those who believe that intractable conflicts can be solved. You look the Belfast. Where not only kids have trouble but hundreds of years of conflict in trouble and warfare where it ended ended by A really exemplary peace process is this peace process. What keeps you optimistic for the future. And do you feel like the peace process is enough to keep Belfast to continue growing with these people in places next generation? What I mean with all of these pieces of a puzzle coming together? What makes you most optimistic about? The Future of Belfast. Well I think I think the two things are the young people but also the new communities here have arrived and before the ceasefires of the nineties before the Good Friday Agreement. We didn't have really any other. What they refer to as ethnic minorities. The Irish are are newcomers but now I be really fabric. Filipino community fiber and community from Kurla in India. Her Catholics who made their home and and and Belfast. We of course how the European Communities read from the from Poland Then we have a strong African Community and is well. We are still the most white part of the island of Ireland so we haven't really enjoyed the PS of genes that that Portland or Dublin. Cork galway are bound the slow. How enjoyed but that change is very good. Because we need reimb- Ooh Society. We need everybody involved. Not just the orange green off the past so those two things Gimme enormous. Hope the young people with our thirst for change but also these new communities and and our job as those who are in civic leadership are want to make a difference as to ensure that that that that this isn't a passive process. You don't set back on a peace process and say That's done at happen of its own accord. It's actually just like business. You have to get engaged. You have to push the you have to make change happen. And we're really look in and Belfast and the north of Ireland. We're really lucky that there are so many people that and different ways wanted to contribute to build stronger and better society which is a good transition then into the business aspect of Belfast Northern Ireland. Because we have a peace process But there are still division within Belfast between Catholics and Protestants but you have new communities coming in. What's your message for? People looking to invest in Belfast. I know on on when I was there in October. The story was very bright about real estate opportunity and business opportunity and and entrepreneurs and we saw all of these great presentations. What's the message for investors on what to look for in and Belfast? What I think that there is enormous talent in Belfast. On on globally when companies are looking to invest of course issues. There's location there's feel ability of office. Space there's taxation regime but ultimately there's talent you won't prosper and I do think we have an enormous pool of talent much of it leaving the minute to go to Canada Australia to Scotland to England. And they want to stay on. They want to make a better living at home so I think that's the first thing in terms of off the ability of Belfast. To create and one of the reasons we are attracting so many US companies because allstate of Chicago has their liberty of Boston. Is there a Cassandra of California's? There tycoon. Was there as well with lots of smaller companies. Like Tyson of of also a Boston. We had the New York Stock Exchange and we have the Chicago Mercantile Exchange which is sort of a peace process of its own and on those companies came to Belfast. Because they saw the opportunity and then maybe the next five years are pregnant with possible that there's going to be as much opportunity in the next five years as was and the five years following the Good Friday Agreement when really people were domestic They were building for the future. They were telling the sale. It's talent to salad. They were saying to people come in and on be partners with US. We thank Lost our way a little bit. Our government collapsed for all sorts of understandable justifiable reasons. But it was almost impossible to say to someone. In Cleveland or California Coleman Put put put Pitcher shingle here And vast here when we were able to government which could partner you but I am fiery pleased that I'm sure no coincidence. But I left political life in the end of January and they formed a government on the ninth of John. You're a wonderful happening because now you have this. This joined up Partnership what you need so for business to prosperity large international business. And he's an active engaged. Supportive Akaba Ottesen. I am I think we have that night. So you know Brexit as a calamity but Michel Barnier that wonderful lead negotiator for the EU the European Union he said I am offering Northern Ireland. Something which no one else all of Europe is that as part of the EU and economic terms but how friction treated with Britain and he has created and we can seize the opportunity and despite our grit heartbreak at being expelled against our wealth. European Union despite that he has created a an opportunity for us and my view to really have the best of both worlds if we played right over the next years so time of of awesome opportunity five years and brexit very complicated. How much does so of Northern Ireland plays a right Northern Ireland's and a fantastic position is Northern Ireland capable of playing their cards without getting into the details of brexit. How much of it is actually dictated by Northern Ireland? If I'm a business owner looking to move over my operation How do I see the opportunity for myself or do I see some uncertainty that makes me want to maybe wait five to ten years? Well no no. Man is an island onto itself and it requires. The government requires the European Union. And the the the the European leadership requires. The American government requires bettys govement. Everyone needs to agree that. Want to seize this opportunity. And they want the the north to continue to prosper and do well But I think those docs are an rule. there's riskiness. Just there is but you know the first mover look at the advantage. And that's what we saw. When allstate was the first company in after the Good Friday Agreement on have prospered two. And a half thousand people nigh Some of the the the the the most sophisticated as software engineering and the entire else did global operations taking and Balfaas who of course is risking it by thinkers alterable reward on. You have to remember that even in terms of tourism and Tourism Investment The North is only half the GDP of tourism which the Republic of Ireland toss. So there's there's a huge yard effort groups in a half the tourism in terms of GDP that Scotland so there is a huge opportunity. But you know it's going to be there for those who sees it. I think some people realize deiter. This week I'll be meaningless. Our our dear friends and the controller's office in New York Step Hillard invested thirty million dollars in north Belfast off pension funds belonging to a New York New York state workers. I think they're ready to do more because they they see that. Ni- I Things are better aligned than ever before. So you've got investors ready to go. You're already using them. What if you have a particular area? I know technology big for Belfast. There are few specific industries. That are big for Belfast. If you were talking to investors or if you're talking to New York State or pension funds or anybody where are you looking for investment today in Belfast? And where do you see the biggest opportunity well as it happens? I'm also here raising some money for my own business. Which is a a media business traditional media business newspapers which are trying to move more towards New Media Social Media with a a pay for view Website with more activity with our advertisers. Around which media? And that's how he's willing to small-scale is boots. I represent what's happening in a much larger scale. Where are the opportunities well? Belfast is the second youngest city in Europe. What does the youngest today Dublin? Those young people Have a high standard education and also are thirsty and hungry to do better. The opportunities are in office isn't enough gray office for the for the companies coming in the off. The opportunities are obviously and tourism because tourism has enjoyed a revival and renaissance. But there's more to go. Two million North Americans visited counted as well. But everybody Borrego's I suppose visited Ireland as tourists last year that figure will continue to grow and more and more are checking Balfaas who tourism as well software engineering With died and of course movie making because the second biggest The the the biggest studios on the island of Ireland Ireland Belfast. Game of thrones was me at their. Then you superman prequel was made. They're on they're just Investing and another forty five thousand square feet of studio space so the those opportunities I think assistant and capital investment and new business. And really leveraging the talent we have and I do hope and people come they. They looked at dirty as well because the new government as a an unparalleled commitment to invest as well to improve infrastructure to double the size of the university and the Grit City of Dara. So now is the opportunity for people to come in and partner partner. Those that is taken done a notch the opportunity for those who've done well and business in America to invest in the NASA emmys which are ninety five percent of our businesses and the north of Ireland. Probably across the. There's not opportunity as well and that's one of the things that I've been trying to do here through the New York Foss Conference to say to people to a smaller skill. Why Not Partner with a company Balfaas. Why not be an with an SME in Belfast? Why not find a way to get back to Ireland mega-profit Annette and enjoy that business? Experience as it were. I'm we have. We've had some success in that. So you're seeing a lot of opportunity especially in the younger set. Are The kids staying in Belfast tourism? Coming in you're talking about. The opportunity are the opportunities in these kids who are thirsty for business and thirsty for entrepreneurship at thirsty for opportunity. Are they staying in Belfast? Or you see them moving out to other areas. Do you see them as the future of staying in Belfast. Because it sounds like it's a small city with a punching well above its weight. Well there's no doubt that there's no small city of its is in America. Which has the American blue chip. Companies that Balfas I'm always cautious about sandy people. You need to stay because you know. It's a big word right there. It's full of opportunity. You need to travel. They got experience. Sixty no see other cultures but we can do to us. Not only will we have some of the young people stay even travel. But don't forget the key to the success of all modern city certainly western cities is immigration is diversity and we need to ensure that we are a magnet for talent as well at other neighbor of yours here. Toronto is regularly by the economists disagree at City on Earth and Toronto and the city of Toronto fifty one percent of the people were not born in Canada. Not just not born in Toronto. Were not born in Canada. So Belfast also needs to bring young young people in Non Chan hold onto all the people we have because young people got to travel. Which is I guess. A shining beacon and example on the benefits of diversity. Belfast is just showing it. And let me well. Yes and and and also you know one of the great things about the higher island of Ireland is a populism As as scribner's up as a a right wing phenomenon which you see put Poland Hungary the threat of it now in Germany as well spin Populism has taken hold in our land the election which was just hailed earlier this month the so-called populist parties that parties you actually hot as slogan we want to take our country back. God God God help us. All they receive less than one percent of the vote so we are lucky that we have turned away props uniquely in Europe To accommodate and to welcome those who. You're doing what the Irish did in this country That they're really just WANNA THEY WANNA battle themselves. They won't go somewhere where they can have security on how the job and having the ability to raise their family so those are some. I think some of the pluses that we can be very proud. Often balfas's is that an Irish capability. Think well it needs to be more of an Irish capability I mean. I think that if you believe as I do that justice needs to roll like a river that The really important thing in life is Martin. Luther King said is the big question is what are you doing for others? F F. that's what gets you up in the morning then at at we have to make it a treat of being Irish that you are generous and welcome that said. I worked closely with the Islamic community. Belfast and I have never imagined community more generous more welcoming more. Bestowing of gifts were refusing to pay for anything so we have a lot to learn. I think from from all cultures but they are known for their hospitality. And that's make sure that there is this hundred thousand welcomes as cad to falter at every turn especially for those who have come through hail and fire from the Middle East in particular To make a to our shores On on on who wants nothing more than to have the same opportunity that the Irish had to fight for in this country which is very well said. And you've been doing the help for others for a very long time with your time in politics with your time and business. I've met you in New York a number of times putting on your your Belfast events and creating partnerships across across the ocean and New York new Belfast. And and all of that. You seem to be everywhere. What can people listening to this? Do for you if you were able to be selfish. What can listeners? Do that would be beneficial to you. And the new Belfast. You envision well you know I think I had a great Great Opportunity wants to serve as the Lord Mirabal Foss for year. People said it was a clerical error but George enormously on on out of Buddhist chaplain at ten chaplains the buys and the Muslims and the rabbi Belfast unsold Buddhist chaplain from from San Francisco. Paul haller. Who is the album of the San Francisco San Monastery? Actually when I when I said to Paul will you be my chaplain British chaplain? He said okay. Okay I'm six thousand miles away but if you think I can do this. I said it'd be very important to me said okay. I'm going to do it because he said I do. Have Grit experience of working with hopeless cases and when I got to know him better Isabel Foss Mon- of course when I got him better he really is big last month out of there and do your best so I don't think it's an issue of you. Know telling people what they have to do. For for for Belfast of the people who and your network the People. You're working with people who are struggling every day to build their business. Duale my only exhortation for what it's worth. I'm no expert on anything as do your for others to you It is an rewarding. You have to put food on the table so make sure you're on your business. Well no one will finally sympathy for you if your business collapses because you've been focusing on other things but find a way find a way to also help others wounded Believe in this discrete saying that we all live in each other shelter on and I have been pulled over in America. By the generosity of Irish America Numata where I've gone on across this country Once a say where I'm from doors are opened. Opportunities are offered offered and accepted So I've learned a lot from generosity of irish-american and their willingness their willingness to to go the extra for people from from from the land of of their far bars so as people do better and their own businesses My messages to worry too much about me. See what you can do to to reach. Oh dealers to make sure that justice does rule Lego River. Let me ask you a question. How many sayings can you just pop off as you're talking? 'cause I counted about fourteen in this like twenty minute interview. Well you know I I really. I think a good cliche as much underestimate. It's very impressive. I don't know the spiral impressive or not. But what what what what you know the the the when you've been around for a way you get when you've been running a few corners I think you get to the stage where you You can see through both even see what's really important. You do believe that that every day is a new start you understand imports. A friendship But you understand also the big impact that a successful business can make small business committee. And I've always believed as I've always been big admire off the INC magazine Black Enterprise magazine. That's particularly different. Poss for many my other colleagues at the all. This believed that a small business can do more to transform an uber who'd than one hundred government programs And so so I followed that A follow that route in making a difference and along the way. I must've learned a few a few cliche. Yes that's good very good. We're not against no never against it. We We always wrap a guest with a book recommendation. Do you have a book recommendation for the listeners? Well well you know I always feel you are America as part of just an Irish family. Where from an island of six point six point nine million people but from a family of seventy million from Argentina Australia But the greatest subset of the greatest section of cousins that as as Irish America because with the peace process I spoke without as script gift that we received. is America has is by The grit supporter of our greatest dancers. Musicians are all our great writers and artists to find sanctuary here on your universities in the executive suite. Manny decisions have been made in recent years which have benefited our CHAMARA So for me. No one has done more for Aren Don Arish America. But also your grit raiders. Gridiron shredders and John Gregory Dunne. Hero Harp But the greatest Ari schrader of the malls Pete Hamill and paid homage Coarse Grit New Yorker. Both parents came from Belfast. Is Fathered Asta leg played soccer in tough upbringing in Brooklyn? I wrote a book called a drinking life Drinking life as grit a memoir as ever yet. But it is certainly the number one irish-american Memoir You. WanNa understand the wonder of New York the excitement of New York the magic of New York the opposite Catastrophe which drink can be as well But also growing up memoir repeat Hummel's drinking life and you get an insight into high sch- America and in New York and of course you just get the Joyce. The the the the the wizard was dri of our really great writer. So Pete Hama Drinking Life Perfect. And how could people get in touch? Learn more about you and what you're working on. Well I have a founded project. Website called new Belfast Dot Com. Because everything I'm involved with around this new Belfast. Concept NEW BELFAST DOT COM. On all my contact details there but I published a New York. The Irish Echo really privileged to be the custodian of the Irish Echo which has been around since one thousand nine twentieth Irish Dot Com and in Belfast. We have three community newspapers under the BALFAAS media. Group DOTCOM Dumi and so all of us happy to be contacted and even happier of the meal to meet often see people in and do some work together. That's fantastic and he's always looking for someone to run with as well machine is always A. He's running the Boston Marathon. We're going to follow you on and track you to trick your time. Well we didn't. We didn't talk about high. To Hail we keep ourselves together On there all the stresses and strains and modernise modern eighth but Roman for me is As as my religion and I'm Fi- to stead relatively healthy and be able to run on I. I believe I'm going to enjoy and slow you down on soon. We're going to for a long run here but you know wrong for someone for thirty minutes on you know not on this story but you'll be able to say just higher. They're going to do for the rest of their life as well. And that's yeah we did. We did a nice eight mile run or nine mile run and in Belfast. Which was lovely and he did not tell me that he goes for sprint. At the very end of it lost I lost the run but I look forward to running with you again. I look forward to seeing all of the great things. You're doing. A Belfast. Come to fruition. The next five years I agree with. You're going to be a very exciting time just from where I'm sitting from what I've had the opportunity to see Thanks to the events that you've put on in that. I've been to Belfast. And seeing some of the things in in New York. This is a very exciting time. And that's a ripe with opportunity and I think that's fantastic. Well thank you for coming to Belfast. Each fall we organize the Belfast international homecoming with being so lucky to have so many of our friends from around the world from the Ice Diaspora to commend. But thank you Jim for allowing me to take part in your and your podcast unto to reach a an audience of engaged people on. Good luck with Your Business. All lose you work with thank you very much and more will be on bellwether dot com. I'll put all the links to marchines information and his websites and all of the events coming up and I will put ways for you to get in touch with him so you can fund all of his good ventures and it will be very productive and with that We have a few more great guests coming up this month. All from the lovely island of Ireland And these will great storytellers. I don't know if they'll have as many cliches is Martian but they will definitely have great advice to give so with that. Thank you for listening as always and I will be sure to see you out there. Thank you thank you so much for listening. Now do something for yourself. Bellwether as much more than just a podcast. Join US AT BELLWETHER. Hub Dot com where you can riveting articles view upcoming events and connect with other interesting people. I look forward to seeing you soon.