The Worldwide Ireland Funds Annual Conference held in Northern Ireland
for first time in almost 40 years signalling the organisation’s ongoing
commitment to the Peace Process.
Day One – Wednesday
For the first time in our history, the annual conference of The Worldwide Ireland Funds was held in its entirety in Northern Ireland. It was an important opportunity for the organization to reinforce its support – both historical and current – of the ongoing Peace Process in Northern Ireland.
120 delegates gathered in Belfast from 22 cities around the globe. The Conference began with a welcome dinner held at historic Hillsborough Castle hosted by Northern Ireland Secretary of State Theresa Villiers. She welcomed delegates to the beautiful castle and gardens and thanked The Ireland Funds for their work in Northern Ireland.
Kieran McLoughlin, President & CEO of The Worldwide Ireland Funds and John Fitzpatrick, Chairman of The American Ireland Fund addressed those gathered and officially welcomed them to the 2014 Conference. A highlight of the evening was a piano performance by musician Claire Bowes. At 15, Claire was blinded in the 1998 Omagh bombing. She had benefited from services provided by The Ireland Funds after the tragedy and now had the opportunity to thank donors for their commitment and the difference they had made.
Day Two – Thursday
Under sunny skies, a welcome lunch was held at the beautiful Culloden Estate where the Conference was based. Supporters were welcomed by Kieran McLoughlin who provided an overview of the three days to come. He introduced John Fitzpatrick, Chairman of The Ireland Funds; Shaun Kelly, Belfast native and recent New York Dinner Gala Honoree and Caitriona Fottrell, Director Ireland. They each spoke about the importance of the Promising Ireland Campaign and the donors’ upcoming visits that afternoon to outstanding projects that had benefited from the Campaign.
Supporters then broke into small groups that visited 12 projects in the Belfast area. The 174 Trust, Cinemagic, SOS Bus, Ardoyne Holycross Boxing, Play Resource, the Integrated Education Fund, East Belfast Network Centre, the Lyric Theatre, Queen’s University, Linen Hall Library, Young Social Innovators and Young Enterprise Northern Ireland showcased their work and difference that The Ireland Funds Promising Ireland Campaign had made. Most importantly, it was an opportunity for donors to see the tremendous results of their philanthropy and relationship with The Ireland Funds. For the projects, it was a chance to extend their heartfelt thanks to donors. â€¨
Donors then traveled to Stormont, the Parliament Building of Northern Ireland. They were welcomed and hosted by First Minister Peter Robinson and deputy First Minister Martin McGuinness. Both politicians praised The Ireland Funds and their investment and commitment to Northern Ireland and the Peace Process. Their speeches were followed by the Forge Integrated Primary School Choir. Guests were encouraged to explore the halls of the grand and historic building that is now the seat of the devolved Government of Northern Ireland.
Day Three – Friday
Delegates gathered for an afternoon of insightful discussions of the state of The Ireland Funds and the unique nature of Northern Ireland. Having now seen first-hand a selection of projects in the area, delegates came with questions and comments for the afternoon’s Plenary session.
Kieran first spoke to the group on the restructured Grant Round, Young Leaders growth, Board renewal, and an overview of the state of The Ireland Funds including endowment and growth of chapters. He also highlighted the 4-star rating of The American Ireland Fund in recognition of its governance, efficiency and transparency. He shared that $172 million had been raised so far towards the $200 million goal of the Promising Ireland Campaign and the organization had tripled the amount of grants during the course of the Campaign.
Caitriona Fottrell, Director Ireland, then spoke about the grant making process of The Ireland Funds. She explained the state of the nonprofit sector in Ireland and the enormous challenges faced by nonprofits due to the economy, the closing of the other two largest grant making organizations, and the rigorous but welcomed standards of accountability now being demanded. She explained the structure of grant making of The Ireland Funds and how examples like Music Generation are able to translate a philanthropic investment into public good through government partnership.
She highlighted the Grant Round and how it was a key information resource for The Ireland Funds in understanding the state of the sector across Ireland. The Flagship Grant Round was explained and how these larger grants will complement the Small grant round to invest in larger initiatives. Over 200 organizations had applied in 2014 and the quality of applications had been impressive.
The meeting then focused on Northern Ireland and the extraordinary transformation that has taken place in the society from the founding of The Ireland Funds in1976 to present. Kieran McLoughlin noted the remarkable devolved government that was now in place but that the Peace Process was ongoing. The Peace Walls across Belfast have grown in height and length and only 7% of children are attending integrated education. These are the opportunities that Ireland Fund supporters can address through their support and he reminded donors that the move from Peacekeeping to Peace making to Peace Building is a process, not an event.
Two panels spoke on the Political and Social developments of Northern Ireland and Economy and the Peace Dividend of Northern Ireland.
The first panel consisted of Dr. Maurice Hayes, former Northern Ireland Ombudsman; Peter Sheridan of Co-operation Ireland; Baroness May Blood, patron of Integrated Education Fund; and Ireland Funds Board Director Trevor Ringland. They spoke about the impact of The Ireland Funds’ work over the years in Northern Ireland and how engaging communities and Government to reach beyond their own interests is key. An open microphone session of questions followed where panelists answered questions from the audience around integrated education, sectarianism, the role of the churches, and the Peace Walls. Supporters came away with increased insight thanks to the members of the panel and their unique understanding of Northern Ireland.
The panel on the Economy and the Peace Dividend consisted of Alistair Hamilton from Invest Northern Ireland; Duncan Niederauer, Chief Executive of the New York Stock Exchange; Angela Moore, Managing Director of Ravensdale; and Bill McKiernan Founder of CyberSource and The Ireland Funds Business Plan Competition. The Ireland Funds were acknowledged as facilitators of investment in Northern Ireland and in particular, the Financial Services and IT sectors in Northern Ireland were noted as beneficiaries of US Investment. Belfast was identified as an excellent investment and source of labor. The importance of job development at the local level and the role of women were also highlighted. Questions were answered around micro-economics, the corporate tax rate, indigenous industry, and foreign direct investment.
The Plenary Session ended and a first-ever World Leadership Luncheon was held with the Directors and Chairs of each international chapter represented. The participants approved a program to build and bring closer together all chapters, each of which is growing.
Pat Tully and Caitlin Duffy presented to the Young Leaders gathered at the Conference on the accomplishments of the Young Leaders Society over the past year and gave a city-by-city summary of what each chapter was doing.
That evening, the Gala was held at the stunning Titanic Museum. An Tanaiste Eamon Gilmore was recognized by Kieran McLoughlin at the podium for his final visit to Northern Ireland in his current role. Outgoing Ireland Funds Chairman Hugo MacNeill was honored with the Bird and Bell Award, the highest honor of The Ireland Funds, for his service as Chairman of The Ireland Funds in Ireland. Kieran McLoughlin and John Fitzpatrick alternately addressed those gathered and thanked not only the Conference delegates, but the many special guests representing Government, the arts, and the many local organizations supported by the profound generosity of so many donors in the room. It was announced to great applause that a $1 million grant was to be made to the advance the work of Co-operation Ireland. The gift will enable the organization to advance peace and reconciliation in hard to reach communities of Northern Ireland.
Legendary entertainer Phil Coulter performed for the captivated crowd who sang along, many with tears in their eyes, to songs such as “The Old Man” and his trademark “The Town I Loved So Well.” For many, the song now had new meaning and context after their brief time in Belfast.
The night also marked the 42nd Annual American Ireland Fund AWB Vincent Literary Award. The Award was given to celebrated poet Leontia Flynn who spoke eloquently about the meaning of the award and her awareness of the contributions to literature made by award winners before her. The award recognized her accomplishments in modern Irish literature through her three critically-acclaimed collections of poetry to-date: These Days, Drives, and Profit and Loss.
The evening continued back at the Culloden with an after-party that went until the early morning hours. It was filled with song, camaraderie and the craic that is a hallmark at The Ireland Funds Annual Conference.
Day Four – Saturday
The fourth day of the Conference proved that Belfast could not only roll out the red carpet for its visitors, but could provide seemingly unlimited sunshine as well. Delegates split into two groups to experience the beauty and landscape of Northern Ireland.
One group went to the Ardglass Golf Club where the friendly but keenly-competitive “Ireland vs. the Rest of the World” annual Tournament was held. In 2013, Ireland had taken the title but this year it was the “Rest of the World” that roared back to take the newly-named Glucksman Cup.
The second group departed for the famed Antrim coast with guides from the National Trust who provided private narrated tours of the local area including the Giant’s Causeway. Many delegates had never before visited the extraordinary part of Northern Ireland and they enjoyed exploring this beautiful natural wonder.
The group then boarded coaches to visit the nearby Corrymeela Community. Long-supported by The Ireland Funds for their peace and reconciliation work with both sides of the community and beyond, the Corrymeela Community had never before seen a formal visit from so many Ireland Funds supporters at once. It was a fantastic opportunity for delegates to hear from a project about the sustainable difference made by ongoing Ireland Funds’ funding and support.
Finally, delegates made their way to the Mount Stewart House and Gardens for the Conference’s closing dinner. Mount Stewart is regarded as one of the top ten gardens in the world and the jewel in the crown of the National Trust that now manages it. Private tours of both the house and gardens were given of the property that is still home to Vane-Tempest-Stewart family. Lady Rose Lauritzen along with her husband Peter welcomed The Ireland Funds to their home. The Conference’s concluding comments were made by Kieran McLoughlin, John Fitzpatrick and Dr. Maurice Hayes and served to remind those gathered of the importance of their days in Northern Ireland. The evening’s highlight was the announcement that a donor, who wished to remain anonymous, had pledged $1 million to The American Ireland Fund’s endowment. The gift will help to strengthen and sustain the Fund’s work all across the island of Ireland.
Supporters left Belfast with a new understanding of the role that The Ireland Funds play in the underpinning of reconciliation and investment so key to seeing the Peace Process to fruition. The four days in Belfast undoubtedly strengthened the global Irish making a difference together.
In The Media
+ Business & Finance ++ A promising future for Ireland
11th November, 2014 –
The Worldwide Ireland Funds Annual Conference took place in Northern Ireland in June for first time in almost 40 years, signalling the organisation’s ongoing commitment to the Peace Process.
Over 120 philanthropists from around the world gathered in Belfast in June to attend the Annual Conference of The Worldwide Ireland Funds. This was the first time in almost four decades that the event took place in its entirety in Northern Ireland. Delegates travelled from 22 cities in nine countries including the US, Australia, Singapore and China. All in attendance are committed philanthropists who are already supporting the charity sector in Ireland, North and South. – View article
+ Irish Independent ++ Philanthropists join forces to help peace process
+ The Irish Times ++ Philanthropists must continue to support peace process
19th June, 2014 –
Head of Worldwide Ireland Funds speaks to NI gathering of 120 philanthropists from around the world Governments, civic society and philanthropists must remain focused on achieving a normalised society in Northern Ireland, Kieran McLoughlin, president and chief executive of the Worldwide Ireland Funds has urged.Mr McLoughlin was commenting as more than 120 philanthropists from around the world gathered in Belfast for the annual conference of the Worlwide Ireland Funds.
Delegates travelled from 22 cities in 9 countries including the United States, Australia,Singapore and China. All are committed philanthropists who are already supporting the charity sector in Ireland, North and South.
– View article
+ Irish Central ++ $1 million gift for peace in Northern Ireland by Ireland Funds
20th June, 2014 –
Belfast: The Worldwide Ireland Funds have given $1 million to the troubled peace process in Northern Ireland as over 120 philanthropists from around the world are gathered in Belfast to attend the Annual Conference. The grant was given to Co-Operation Ireland, for help with programs in the hardest hit areas in both communities.The gift and the presence of the Fund conference in Belfast for the first time ever is a strong statement says CEO Kieran McLoughlin that the peace process must continue to receive American attention and support, McLoughlin President and CEO of The Worldwide Ireland Funds said “Though the Peace Process has slipped from the radar of many, our coming here represents our commitment to doing our bit to bringing it to a successful conclusion. The Peace Process is just that, a process not an event and all of us – governments, civic society and philanthropists -must remain focused on achieving a normalised society in Northern Ireland”.
The Ireland Fund conference attendees were hosted at Stormont Castle on Thursday night by First Minister Peter Robinson and Deputy First Minister Martin McGuinness. Both men praised the work of the Funds and McGuinness stated that without American involvement the peace process would never have succeeded.
Delegates have travelled from 22 cities in 9 countries including the US, Australia, Singapore and China. All are committed philanthropists who are already supporting the charity sector in Ireland, North and South.
Proceedings commenced on Wednesday night at a welcome dinner hosted by the Secretary of State Teresa Villiers in Hillsborough Castle with a piano performance by Claire Bowes who was blinded by the Omagh bombing in 1998.
The $1 million gift for peace is part of the $16 million that the Funds have distributed in grants across the island of Ireland so far this year.
On Friday, there will be a Gala Dinner held in the Titanic Centre at which the American Ireland Fund AWB Vincent Literary Award will be presented to celebrated poet, Leontia Flynn including a €25,000 bursary.
On Saturday, delegates will be taken on a guided tour of Antrim’s North Coast where they will visit the Giant’s Causeway and the Corrymeela Community. The Conference concludes with a Dinner at Mount Stewart House & Gardens. – View article
+ Irish Independent ++ Philanthropists join forces to help peace process
20th June, 2014 –
MORE than 120 “committed philanthropists” from around the world have descended on Belfast to help find ways to boost the peace process.
It is the first time in almost 40 years that the Worldwide Ireland Funds (WIF) has held its annual conference in Northern Ireland.
Philanthropists from 22 cities in nine countries, including the US, Australia, Singapore and China, are meeting to discuss the funds’ priorities – and how their donations can best meet the ongoing needs of communities north and south. The conference comes as the WIF has just announced a $1m (€734,459) donation to Co-Operation Ireland, the all-island peace building charity led by Peter Sheridan OBE.
The conference comes as the WIF has just announced a $1m (€734,459) donation to Co-Operation Ireland, the all-island peace building charity led by Peter Sheridan OBE.
The Co-Operation Ireland donation is part of a $16m block of grants that have been distributed by the WIF across Ireland this year.
Kieran McLoughlin, president and CEO of the WIF, appealed for a renewed focus on peace in Northern Ireland.
“Though the peace process has slipped from the radar of many, our coming here represents our commitment to doing our bit to bringing it to a successful conclusion,” said Mr McLoughlin.
Christopher Moran, Co-Operation Ireland’s chairman, said the announcement by the WIF is “a phenomenal boost” for his organisation and the many grassroots groups they work with on both sides of the border.
– View article