Representatives from across The Ireland Funds’ 12 international chapters attended The Ireland Funds 34th annual Conference based at the Culloden Hotel in Belfast, Northern Ireland.
The four-day conference included close to 200 supporters from cities across the world including Ireland, the UK, Europe, Singapore and Australia. Over the weekend, the group paid visits to various peace and reconciliation projects supported by The Ireland Funds in Northern Ireland including 174 Trust, Cinemagic and PeacePlayers International.
A key event of the international gathering was The Ireland Funds AWB Vincent Literary Award which was presented posthumously to Lyra McKee to honor the significant contribution that she made to Ireland through her writing.
President and CEO of The Ireland Funds America, David Cronin, said: “Through her writing, Lyra McKee inspired and challenged us with her insightful work as a journalist and author. Lyra’s talent and ability to connect across generations, prejudice and sectarianism was exceptional. With our own roots and deep connections in Northern Ireland, it is most appropriate that The Ireland Funds AWB Vincent Literary Award this year honors Lyra McKee.”
The award was presented to Lyra’s partner, Sara Canning, with her family and friends in attendance. In her memory, the accompanying award funding ($25,000) will be presented to Fighting Words, a creative writing charity for children and young people in Northern Ireland.
The conference also included sessions that discussed the ongoing investment and long-range plans of The Ireland Funds within Northern Ireland. Former President of Ireland Mary McAleese and Prof. Monica McWilliams, Chairperson of Interpeace (Geneva) were guest speakers. Other speakers included Martin O’Brien (Director of Social Change Initiative), The Baroness May Blood MBE, Peter Sheridan (CEO of Co-operation Ireland) and members of The Ireland Funds Young Leaders: Conor Houston Gareth Quinn and Richard Willis. Panels were moderated by Dearbhail McDonald (journalist, author, broadcaster and Eisenhower Fellow) and Jonathan Ireland (Co-Founder & Partner, Lanyon Communications).
Chairman of The Ireland Funds America, John Fitzpatrick said: “Established during the conflict in Northern Ireland, The Ireland Funds is deeply connected to the North. Through the Good Friday Agreement, the bridge to peace has been built but we must work hard to cement this peace. It is truly a process that continues to require all of our energy, commitment and support. This year’s Ireland Funds conference in Belfast has been an important and productive one, and we are returning to the various geographies around the world with renewed purpose.”
The event was an opportunity to thank donors and friends from around the world for their ongoing commitment to the philanthropic mission of The Ireland Funds. Operating in 12 countries, The Ireland Funds has raised more than $600 million since its foundation in 1976 and has funded over 3,200 charities all over the island of Ireland and around the globe.
Photography: Aengus McMahon