The Ireland Funds Worldwide Conference 2023
Donors from around the globe attended The Ireland Funds Worldwide Conference in Co Kildare, Ireland. The three-day conference welcomed over 200 supporters from the organization’s international chapters.
The gathering was a chance for donors to see first-hand the impact of their philanthropy. They met with projects benefitting directly from The Ireland Funds’ investment including Citywise Education, Sensational Kids and Barretstown. Later, a special panel was held on Local Organisations Tackling Global Challenges. It highlighted projects supported by The Ireland Funds with panelists Michael Kelly, founder of Grow It Yourself; Aoibheann O’Brien, co-founder and CEO of Food Cloud; Adam Harris, CEO of AsIAm; and Peter Sheriden, Chief Executive of Co-operation Ireland whose organizations are applying innovation and unique approaches to global challenges.
A key event of the Worldwide Conference was its opening night celebrating The Ireland Funds’ support of culture and the arts through The Ireland Funds AWB Vincent Literary Award. Edna O’Brien was presented with The Ireland Funds Lifetime Achievement Award in recognition of her contributions to the literary landscape by fellow writer John Banville who won the award in 1975. Previous recipients of the award include Seamus Heaney, Brian Friel, Roddy Doyle, and Eavan Boland, Those gathered were moved by the video message sent by the iconic Irish writer from her home in London. Rounding out the evening’s strong cultural theme, was a stunning operatic performance by Aimee Kearney and Sean Tester from the Royal Irish Academy of Music,
Joe Kennedy III, US Special Envoy to Northern Ireland, began the day by addressing the Conference and thanking The Ireland Funds for its commitment and contribution to the island of Ireland and to Northern Ireland in particular,
This was followed by a panel discussion on the Good Friday Agreement asking the question, “Where to From Here?”. A diverse group of community leaders, Monica McWilliams, Co-founder of the Northern Ireland Women’s Coalition; Debbie Watters, Co-Director of Northern Ireland Alternatives; Liz O’Donell, former Minister of State at the Dept. of Foreign Affairs; Jackie Redpath, CEO of the Greater Shankill Partnership; and Conor Largey, Senior Youth Worker and CEO of Holy Trinity Youth Centre, held a candid and insightful discussion moderated by journalist Tommie Gorman. The afternoon was capped by a strategy session for all Conference attendees which explored the mission, engagement and future of The Ireland Funds as it approaches its 50th anniversary.
The evening brought The Ireland Funds Gala where Paschal Donohoe, Minister for Public Expenditure, National Development Plan Delivery and Reform, addressed over 200 attendees and friends of The Ireland Funds. He spoke at length of the incredible contribution The Ireland Funds’ donors had made to the economy and to Irish society through their ongoing philanthropy.
Monica McWilliams was presented with The Ireland Funds Distinguished Leadership Award in recognition of her dedicated work for enduring peace in Northern Ireland. Monica McWilliams was the co-founder of the Northern Ireland Women’s Coalition, a signatory to the Good Friday Agreement, a former Member of the Northern Ireland Assembly from 1998 to 2003, former chief commissioner of the Northern Ireland Human Rights Association, and a lecturer in Ulster University. She received a standing ovation and spoke of The Ireland Funds being a champion in helping great causes and energizing her own work.
The Ireland Funds Worldwide Conference final day was an opportunity to showcase the beauty and culture of Ireland. Attendees visited Castletown House and the Royal Irish Academy of Music.
The three days in Kildare were a key opportunity to see The Ireland Funds’ strategic investment in the nonprofit sector and plan for a strong future. Most importantly, it was a chance to thank donors and friends from around the world for their ongoing commitment to the philanthropic mission of The Ireland Funds.
Photos: Aengus McMahon, Damien Eagers, Dylan Vaughan