Belfast Memorial tree marks start of Freedom of City programme for healthcare workers
Lord Mayor Alderman Frank McCoubrey has planted a tree in the grounds of Belfast City Hall to commemorate those who lost their lives during the Covid19 pandemic, and to pay tribute to healthcare workers and frontline staff.
The maple tree has been planted on the east lawn alongside a memorial stone with the inscription – ‘This tree was planted by The Rt Hon The Lord Mayor of Belfast, Alderman Frank McCoubrey, on behalf of Belfast City Council on 27 May, 2021 to commemorate those who lost their lives during the Covid 19 pandemic and to pay tribute to healthcare workers and frontline staff’.
The planting of the memorial tree marks the beginning of a programme of events for the Freedom of the City for Frontline Workers, which will culminate in a concert taking place this autumn (subject to any Coronavirus Restrictions) along with the official Freedom of the City ceremony.
Alderman McCoubrey said he was “honoured” to be planting the memorial tree. “It is a huge honour for me as Lord Mayor to be part of this permanent memorial to mark the enormous contribution made by our healthcare and frontline workers throughout the pandemic,” said Alderman McCoubrey. “This is a small gesture of our appreciation as a city but one which I hope demonstrates the enormous admiration of the people of Belfast for all those who worked so tirelessly to care for the sick and most vulnerable in our society during a time of immense challenges.”
“It’s also fitting that we reflect on the many lives lost and the sadness experienced by families across Belfast and beyond who have been most impacted by the pandemic, through the loss of a loved one. My thoughts are with them today,” he added.
The Freedom of the City programme will focus on music, complementing Belfast’s bid to become a UNESCO City of Music. A number of bursaries are being made available to local musicians, and together with other artists, they will develop a music programme working alongside groups from across the city. The groups will be encouraged to tell their Covid experiences and stories through music, and will collaborate with others to create a ‘Mix the City’ composition which will be the makings of a Belfast Album, released later this year.
Alderman McCoubrey said: “There is no doubt that open spaces and nature have played a crucial role in helping everyone get through the pandemic, and supporting positive mental health; the same can be said for music. Belfast has strong musical roots and that’s something we want to focus on and build on as we look ahead to our recovery journey post-Covid, and music and the arts will undoubtedly play a big part in that.”
The last recipients of the Freedom of the City of Belfast were US President Bill Clinton and Senator George J. Mitchell. They were awarded the honour in April 2018, just three months after Sir Kenneth Branagh became the 82nd recipient, in January 2018.
Other well-known recipients of the honour in recent years are Van Morrison, Dame Mary Peters and the poet, Michael Longley.