Each June, the coming together of supporters from around the world marks a special time for The Ireland Funds. 2016 marked a particularly important milestone with the celebration of the 40th anniversary of The Ireland Funds and their annual conference.
Over 170 delegates and supporters representing all 12 countries in which The Ireland Funds are active made their way to Dublin for four days of celebration and a chance to witness first-hand the impact of their philanthropy.
- An opening night at Fitzpatrick Castle, owned and operated by American Ireland Fund Chairman John Fitzpatrick and his family. Donors convened for the first event of the Conference to greet old and new friends and cheer on Ireland as they defeated Italy in the Euro 2016 Football Championships.
- A day spent visiting a selection of the over 3,000 projects that have been supported by The Ireland Funds. A lunch at Facebook’s European Headquarters was held followed by additional opportunities to hear from non-profit organizations who had been profoundly impacted by the philanthropy of Ireland Funds’ donors.
- The presentation of The American Ireland Fund AWB Vincent Literary Award to Novelist Emma Donoghue. She was presented with the award by Marie Heaney at an event in the Mansion House in Dublin attended by writers, actors and artists including John Banville, Marina Carr, Stephen Rea and Peter Sheridan. In a wonderful gesture of philanthropy, Emma donated her $25,000 prize to United Nations refugee relief efforts.
- A Plenary session at Farmleigh where delegates heard from Ireland Funds leadership, Kieran McLoughlin and Caitriona Fottrell, on the state of The Ireland Funds’ impact. Guests were welcomed by the Earl of Iveagh and heard from an esteemed panel that included Senator George Mitchell, Ireland Funds Board Director Trevor Ringland MBE, John Concannon of Tourism Ireland and Ireland Funds Board Director Caroline Kennedy of Kennedy PR and Brand. The panel spoke about Ireland in the context of the 100 year centenary celebration of the 1916 Easter Rising and the Battle of the Somme. As the plenary was held on the morning of the Brexit results, it provided donors with a unique opportunity for discussion with the panel on the vote’s impact for Ireland and Northern Ireland.
- The inaugural meeting of the Global Leadership Network, (‘GLN’). Established as the next level of leadership for select Ireland Funds Young Leaders, its aims are to foster, promote and encourage philanthropy. The meeting was attended by delegates from Melbourne, San Francisco, New York, and Dublin. The GLN launched ‘The Space Between’, a global lecture series aimed at educating younger donors on the virtues, and necessity, of philanthropy.
- A Young Leaders’ session where Spirit of Ireland Awardee Mark Pollock spoke on his life, his resilience, and his personal leadership. The Young Leaders were also addressed by Loretta Brennan Glucksman, Chairman Emeritus of The American Ireland Fund and Olympic Medalist and Global 5K Patron Sonia O’Sullivan was in attendance to kick off the Global 5K to be held in September of 2016. The Young Leaders discussed their fundraising goals and learned that they were over halfway to the two year goal that had been established just six months earlier at the Young Leaders Summit in NYC.
- A Gala Celebration at Trinity College Dublin where US Vice President Joe Biden was warmly welcomed along with An Taoiseach Enda Kenny and former President Mary Robinson. President Robinson had been the very first speaker at The Ireland Funds Gala in 1976 and so it was significant to have her speak 40 years later at the anniversary. Vice President Biden spoke candidly to the evening’s guests about the personal aspects of the visit he and his family had made to Ireland that week. Both he and Taoiseach Enda Kenny expressed their deep appreciation to The Ireland Funds’ donors and praised The Ireland Funds for their unwavering commitment to Ireland’s nonprofit sector over 40 years. Virtuoso flutist Sir James Galway performed with children from Music Generation to a standing ovation.
- The attendees split into groups and fanned out across the city to enjoy some of the best cultural and historical offerings. Some enjoyed a relaxed afternoon of golf at Portmarnock while others visited The Little Museum of Dublin, Glasnevin Cemetary, EPIC Ireland, and the National Library of Ireland. Several of the destinations were grantees of The Ireland Funds and it was another opportunity for donors to hear words of thanks from those supported.
- A closing evening at Teeling’s Distillery in Dublin where, after four days of The Ireland Funds Conference, guests bid their goodbyes to one another and reflected on all they had seen and learned about the 40 years of The Ireland Funds work and the results of their investment and generosity.
+ Irish Central ++ The Ireland Funds celebrates its 40th year with Vice President Biden
The Worldwide Ireland Funds took their annual conference to Dublin this week and it turned out the timing could not have been better.
It just so happened that Vice President Joe Biden was in town and his attendance at the Friday night gala dinner, also attended by Prime Minister Enda Kenny was a great coup for the organization.
Biden was deeply emotional in his remarks and deeply personal. Coming to Ireland with many members of his family fulfilled a dream for the Vice President who spoke eloquently of his Louth and Mayo roots and the long journey home that descendants of the Blewits from County Mayo and the Finnegans from County Louth had made to rekindle those same roots.
It was an emotional moment as Biden, the descendant of two shoemakers, Owen Finnegan and Patrick Blewett, returned to the land they had left and that he returned to as Vice President of the United States. Perhaps the anti-immigrant force out there might reconsider their sentiments if they knew more about such amazing stories.
Then there was the minor matter of Brexit which struck like a thunderbolt across the British and Irish horizon. It was the focus of conversation at every Ireland Fund event and being on the ground and understanding the Irish reaction was invaluable.
The key question on how it will impact the Northern Ireland peace process and the US investment in Britain and Ireland was thoroughly discussed at a plenary session before the 300 delegates by Senator George Mitchell, hero of the peace process among others.
Then there was the Irish victory over Italy in the European championship which unleashed a delirium of celebrations throughout the land.
Ireland Fund members, gathered in Killiney Castle, the property of the family of Ireland Fund president John FitzPatrick on the night in question were able to join in the celebrations too.
Word was the roar when the Irish scored the key goal could be heard back in Dublin City.
The 200 attendees from 19 different countries reflected the power of the Diaspora, especially the American component, where 85 percent of the funds are raised.
Like the Irish soccer team itself which featured a black goalkeeper the son of an American immigrant to Ireland and several English-born players the Ireland Fund membership is a unique wordwide mix unmatches by any other Irish organization. No fewer than nineteen delegates had come from Australia where a burgeoning Ireland Fund is building. From London came Elgin Loane, Owner of the irish Post the flagship of the irish community there while former Ireland Fund chairwoman Loretta Brennan Glucksman headed the American delegation. Singapore, China, Canada, Europe were among the other reps present, making for a truly global feel.
It was the 40th Anniversary of the Fund and the evident price if raising over half a billion dollars for Ireland over that period was well reflected. CEO Kieran McLoughlin and newly re-elected Chairman John FitzPatrick were adamant that the best times for the organization lie ahead despite its amazing contribution.
A clear indicator of that was the lunchtime visit to Facebook headquarters in Europe in what used to be a decrepit dockland area but which now has been transformed.
The connection with Facebook and the new emphasis on seeking different sources for fundraising for Ireland such as Silicon Valley was very clear.The Ireland Fund continues to grow and at such uncertain times such as Brexit and an American election that could bring its own upheaval, the fund remains a solid beacon for Ireland in a sea of sudden instability.
As Joe Biden stated, the fund has become the worldwide flagship of Ireland doing its job of promoting and helping the country across the globe. There could be no greater compliment than that.