The Boston College Irish Institute: “A Decade of Dialogue”

On April 13th and 14th the Irish Institute Alumni Reunion Conference brought together several hundred leaders from a wide array of organizations and institutions in Ireland and Northern Ireland. The conference delegates comprised alumni of the professional exchange programs the Irish Institute has designed and delivered over the past ten years. Entitled “A Decade of Dialogue,” the event at Dublin Castle was structured around workshops led by a group of distinguished guest speakers in five broad categories: Government, Education, Policing, Nonprofit Management, and Media/Journalism. The conference will see the publication of the results of an extensive independent survey of past program participants. The survey was intended to help assess the long-term impact of the Irish Institute’s programs. Irish Institute programs are designed with a number of broad and interconnected goals in mind: the programs are intended to improve the practical professional skills of the individual participants, increase networking within and between communities in Ireland and Northern Ireland, increase cooperation between Ireland and Northern Ireland, and finally, to deepen the already strong links between the people of the island of Ireland and the people of the United States.

Professor Thomas E. Hachey, Executive Director of the Center for Irish Programs, to which the Institute reports, explains: “In gathering together Irish Institute alumni from Northern Ireland and the Republic, as well as distinguished leaders from around the United States, the reunion fostered and forged cross-border and transatlantic exchange, strengthened connections and partnerships that have been made as a result of these programs, and truly celebrated the mission and ongoing role of the Irish Institute as an honest broker throughout the island of Ireland.”

The Irish Institute’s work in the past ten years has been made possible by the generous support of the U.S. Congress; the commitment of the U.S. State Department, Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs; and the dedication and enthusiasm of staff at the U.S. Embassy in Dublin and the U.S. Consulate in Belfast. The Irish Institute at Boston College is committed to supporting the peace and normalization process on the island of Ireland by providing a creative space for people from all communities to reflect, at a distance, on their professional and political positions. Since its founding in 1997 it has facilitated more than one hundred programs in a variety of areas including education, civic leadership, community development, business management and entrepreneurship, nonprofit management and fundraising, policing, journalism, and programs promoting peace and reconciliation. The Irish Institute’s work also strengthens trans-Atlantic relationships and increases mutual understanding, by bringing together Irish, Northern Irish, and American peers, to share the challenges and successes they have experienced in tackling social, political, and economic issues. The two-day reunion conference will afford alumni an opportunity to reflect on their experience while on the program in the U.S. and more importantly, to reflect on and discuss how that experience has shaped their personal and professional work, network, and goals.

Conference delegates were addressed by a group of distinguished and innovative leaders including the Governor of Maryland, Martin O’Malley, who offered the keynote remarks. Former Massachusetts Lieutenant Governor, Dr. Kerry Healey, and Chief Inspector Kathleen O’Toole of the Garda Síochána Inspectorate were among those who led workshops over the course of the two days.

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