Ministers and Dame Mary present Black Santa cheques

Tuesday February 8th 2011

First Minister Peter Robinson, the Dean of Belfast, the Very Rev Dr Houston McKelvey, and Deputy First Minister Martin McGuinness at the Good Samaritans' Service on February 6.Donations from the Black Santa Christmas Sit-out were presented to more than 180 charities and community groups in St Anne’s Cathedral, Belfast, at a special Good Samaritans’ Service on Sunday February 6.

The presentations, totalling £220,000, were made by Dame Mary Peters, HM Lieutenant for Belfast, the First Minister, Peter Robinson, and the Deputy First Minister, Martin McGuinness.

The Dean of Belfast, the Very Rev Dr Houston McKelvey, told  the large congregation: “I am delighted to welcome our three guests to what is perhaps the most representative gathering in the province of those who give voluntary service and raise funds for charities.

“At a time when state funding is under threat due to the economic situation, I feel that the presence of the First and Deputy First Minster will convey to this particular congregation that the local administration is concerned and is supportive of the contribution they make to our entire community.”

The Dean paid tribute to ‘the personal and political journeys’ both Ministers had taken to enable the peace process to reach its current state. “It has the overwhelming support of all the people of Ireland,” Dean McKelvey said. “For 30 years, prayers for peace were offered daily in this cathedral. I regard the personal and political journeys taken by our First Ministers to be part of God’s response to those prayers.”

Each Minister, after presenting cheques to a particular group of charities, gave a short address, and both were applauded by the congregation.

Dean McKelvey said of the annual Good Samaritan’s Service: “This is one of my favourite services even though the arrangements for it are greater than any other we organise. I am most indebted to my wife Roberta and Lyn Spence, a staff member, who for the past 10 years have ensured that the presentations are well organized.”

The presentation on February 6 was the Dean’s last as Belfast’s Black Santa, as he has announced that he is to retire later this year.

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