Gerry Braiden has lived and worked in Glasgow for 20 years. From 2000 until 2017 he was a news journalist and columnist with The Herald and Times Group, specialising in local government, transport, politics, religious affairs and general news. Since 2017 Gerry has been principal policy advisor to Cllr Susan Aitken, Glasgow’s first ever SNP council leader.
Before moving to Scotland in 1999, Gerry worked for a short time in Belfast’s film and television sector. A graduate of the University of Ulster and University of Strathclyde, he attended St Mary’s CBGS on the Glen Road having grown up in the west of the city. He currently lives just north of Glasgow and is a father-of-three.
What, for you, is the importance of our global diaspora and how do you contribute to its success?
The diaspora are life-long ambassadors for Belfast, those who instinctively champion the social, cultural and economic well-being of our city. We tell the Belfast story passionately and we tell it often. For historic reasons, Belfast has perhaps been under-represented amongst the global diaspora. We are certainly more understated. But those of us with a lived experience of the city, who vividly recall the Belfast of the 1970s and 1980s and who retain family and friendship ties, get a tangible sense of increasingly progressive and progressing city when we visit. We don't shy from why we stood out as a city but our experiences make us determined to see Belfast flourishes in the only space it can, the future. As a senior advisor to first new political administration in Glasgow for several generations, I have assisted the Council Leader in developing entirely fresh approaches to how this city does relationships and with whom. We have helped the Ireland-Scotland Business Network (now called Causeway and with a presence in Belfast) get a foothold in Glasgow, completed the delivery of the Scotland's first civic memorial to the Irish Famine and began exploring meaningful partnerships on the island of Ireland. The opportunity to take part in Homecoming and forge connections between my home city and my adopted city is something I advised the council leader to grasp with both hands.
Tell us how you connect to Belfast:
Belfast will always be home. It's somewhere I continue to visit regularly, have a vested interest in its success and continue to monitor developments on a daily basis. Social media has become an excellent tool to share views and ideas, build up new relationships and reacquaint oneself with old ones. As a journalist I was a regular point of contact for both Belfast-based broadcasters and the print media, regularly translating events in Scotland for Northern Ireland audiences. When significant events in Ireland were of a particular interest to Scottish audiences, I would do the reverse. Having a foot in both camps, immersed in and yet distant enough from both cities provides me with a perspective to see challenge and opportunity. Retaining and building upon those connections I have has taken me to the stage where I have a role in nurturing new and mutually beneficial relationships.
You know you’ve got Belfast heritage when…:
Hit 40, realise you actually do like Van Morrison and excitedly shout out the place names in songs in a voice that would shame Jimmy Young.