The Ireland Funds 2011 Conference was the largest gathering of supporters in the history of The Ireland Funds. Dromoland Castle was the site for 300 donors and friends to gather from June 22 – 25.
Over the course of the four days, they saw examples of The Ireland Funds’ work and learned of how the Promising Ireland Campaign was ahead of its goal to raise $100 million for Irish charities.
Day One – Wednesday June 22 – A Welcome to Limerick
Supporters arrived from the US, Ireland, Great Britain, France, Australia, New Zealand, China and Canada and were welcomed to the Limerick home of Irish philanthropists JP & Noreen McManus.
The Ireland Funds WineGeese Society was honored to induct its newest members in such beautiful surroundings. Wines from notable WineGeese vineyards were served with dinner. It was a superb and gracious welcome and a wonderful start to the 2011 Conference.
Day Two – Thursday June 23 – Seeing the Need and the Innovative Response
Supporters gathered at Dromoland Castle for lunch and the first full day of activities. Rugby legend and Ireland Fund donor Keith Wood addressed the group and spoke of his partnership with The Ireland Funds in progressing his own philanthropic goals in Ireland. President and CEO of The Worldwide Ireland Funds Kieran McLoughlin welcomed those gathered and gave an overview of the particular needs in the Limerick area that they would be seeing later in the day.
The Conference then set out to the first of the day’s project visits: Mary Immaculate College in Limerick. The Ireland Funds have been longtime partners with the school in their work to provide access to education in the Limerick area. College President Peadar Cremin welcomed supporters and they heard first-hand of the role the college had played in the lives of those who had benefitted.
The group then traveled to the Limerick Enterprise Development Partnership (LEDP). LEDP is housed in the former Krups factory that once employed hundreds of people in this particularly challenged area of Limerick. Upon its closing, local businessmen came together create the partnership and in 1999 the LEDP began to serve the community with employment initiatives and education. Today, the space is a vibrant home to both for-profit and non-profit organizations and is the hub for over 700 jobs. Supporters heard about LEDP’s work in employment regeneration, skills training, education & community development. The Ireland Funds have given a particular focus to Limerick in light of its acute needs and the LEDP represents the innovation that is much needed in this part of Ireland.
The final stop of the day was at the University of Limerick. After a welcome from University President Don Barry, guests were given the option to attend sessions on educational access, art, and the ancestry-oriented I-Arc project led by Ireland Fund Board Director Pauline Ryan. The Ireland Funds have been supporters of the University of Limerick’s work for many years in the area of education and regeneration.
The day concluded with a very special opportunity to see some of the best of Irish dance and music. Supporters walked across the Living Bridge, the longest pedestrian bridge in Ireland, to the Irish World Academy of Music and Dance. Renowned Irish musician and founder of the academy Mícheál Ó Súilleabháin gave guests an overview of the beautiful space and the academy’s work. Ireland Fund supporters then enjoyed an evening of stunning Irish modern dance culminating in a standing ovation for a piece choreographed by Brendan de Gallai.
Day Three – Friday June 24 – Promising Ireland, Celebrating Together
The third day of the Conference was reserved for discussion and a full report on the progress of the Promising Ireland Campaign to raise $100 million for Irish charities. A plenary session was led by President & CEO of The Worldwide Ireland Funds Kieran McLoughlin with the opportunity for supporters to discuss and ask questions. Finance, communications, governance & transparency and the recent historic events in Ireland were covered and Kieran reported that the Campaign was ahead of schedule at its mid-point. John Ryan a longtime supporter of The Ireland Funds also provided an overview of the new initiative “No Mind Left Behind” to assist disadvantaged students across Ireland gain access to a higher education.
The Ireland Funds were honored to have Eamon Gilmore, An Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade address those gathered.
Speaking to the Conference, the Tánaiste said: “Since the establishment of the Funds, you have seen and contributed to momentous change in Ireland. You were there at the beginning, when many thought the challenges posed by the troubles were insurmountable. Your work gave hope to divided communities across Northern Ireland. You were there to welcome and support the new Northern Ireland Executive when it brought its investment message to the US.”
“The Ireland Funds have worked over many years, with successive Governments, building successful strategic partnerships within the wider global Irish family. “Each and every one of you gathered here today is an extraordinary resource for Ireland and I hope that we can continue to turn to you for your wisdom and your leadership as we seek to regain our reputation and rebuild our economy.”
After lunch, The Ireland Fund Young Leaders – the next generation of emerging philanthropists – broke into sessions to discuss their own plans for supporting the work of the organization in the year to come. They covered the areas of governance, communications, future events, and fundraising targets. All agreed that more opportunities to network and fundraise together in the year to come would be a priority for this key group.
That evening, guests reconvened at Dromoland Castle for a gala dinner and the presentation of the 39th AWB Vincent AIF Literary Award to Irish author Colm McCann. A renowned writer of Irish fiction, McCann's works include Songdogs, This Side of Brightness, Dancer, Zoli and Let the Great World Spin.
The highlight of the evening was the address by President of Ireland H.E. Mary McAleese. She praised The Ireland Funds for their commitment to Ireland and Chairman of The American Ireland Fund Loretta Brennan Glucksman reflected that it was 14 years ago the President had addressed many of those in the room during the early days of her presidency. Loretta reiterated the commitment of The Ireland Funds to the island of Ireland and thanked the President for her commitment as well.
The evening ended with extraordinary performance by Mícheál Ó Súilleabháin and several Irish musicians from the Irish World Academy of Music and Dance who entertained the room of Ireland Fund supporters and special guests.
The party went well into the night (and morning for some!) with the informal gathering of all for a night of songs, conversation and craic.
Day Four – Saturday June 25 – Enjoying the Beauty of Clare, Doonbeg, Glenstal Abbey
Supporters had the day to select from several options to see the beauty of this area of Ireland. Groups golfed at the world-renowned Doonbeg Golf Course, visited the Cliffs of Moher & the Burren, and spent time at Glenstal Abbey in Co Limerick. All were able to enjoy lectures and guidance from local experts who were delighted to share their knowledge of Clare and Limerick’s notable sites.
The last evening of the Conference concluded with a medieval banquet at Knappogue Castle where, much to the delight of those gathered, several guests were crowned as kings and humorous speeches were given.
Speaking of the remarkable gathering of key supporters over the three days in Limerick and Clare, President and CEO of The Worldwide Ireland Funds Kieran McLoughlin said, “This year’s conference and the progress of the Promising Ireland Campaign are a testament to the extraordinary care and concern of our supporters. They are giving not only of their gifts but of their time and talents to make a profound difference across Ireland when it is needed most.”