18th June, 2015

The Worldwide Ireland Funds Conference 2015

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Wednesday June 17

The 2015 Ireland Funds Worldwide Conference welcomed more than 180 donors and supporters to Killarney, Co. Kerry for the 2015 Annual Conference. The Conference was the largest-ever coming together of The Worldwide Ireland Funds and representatives from 11 countries in which the Funds are active, were present.  In attendance at events throughout the Conference were Amb. Dan Rooney, co-founder of The Ireland Funds; Kevin O’Malley, US Ambassador to Ireland; Kevin Vickers, Canadian Ambassador; Chairman of The American Ireland Fund John Fitzpatrick and Chairman Emeritus of The American Ireland Fund Loretta Brennan Glucksman. An Taoiseach Enda Kenny was welcomed as the guest of honor at Friday’s Gala Dinner.

The opening evening on Wednesday was held at Dromquinna Manor in Kenmare. Supporters from around the globe who had arrived in Kerry made their way to the beautiful lakeside space where they were welcomed by President & CEO of The Worldwide Ireland Funds. The relaxed evening was a chance to gather together in anticipation of the full days ahead.  Former An Tanaiste and longtime friend of The Ireland Funds Dick Spring, who hails from Kerry, took the podium and shared many of the special aspects of the area for those who were visiting for the first time. The evening’s highlight was a moving performance by Zena Donnelly, a young singer who had participated in the programs of Cinemagic, an Ireland Funds-supported initiative. The delegates expressed their delight with a standing ovation before retiring back to their hotels for a night’s rest.

Thursday June 18

Thursday morning brought delegates together at The Europe Hotel, which served as the hub of the 2015 Conference. Lunch was served as all 180 delegates listened to John Fitzpatrick, Chairman of The American Ireland Fund, officially open the Conference. He expressed his thanks to supporters’ extraordinary generosity and all they were accomplishing for Irish charities through the Promising Ireland Campaign. He noted in particular, the Young Leaders Society and lauded them as the future of The Ireland Funds.

US Ambassador to Ireland Kevin O’Malley then welcomed those gathered. He spoke about the “shared economic engine” between the US and Ireland and the important  role The Ireland Funds play within that engine.  Ambassador O’Malley also acknowledged the Irish student tragedy in Berkeley that had taken the lives of six students on J-1 visas who had been working in the US. He thanked the Board of Directors of The American Ireland Fund that had approved a $100,000 grant just the night before to assist the Irish Immigration Pastoral Center in San Francisco in its immediate and ongoing work with the students’ families & friends.

Kieran McLoughlin then introduced a short film on the Kerry Gaelic Athletic Association (GAA) that was followed by a short speech from Micheal O’Muircheartaigh, a national GAA hero who is known as the “voice of the GAA.” He spoke movingly of the work and impact of The Ireland Funds and reminded those gathered that they were present for far more than an ordinary conference, they were present for a coming together of care.

Finally, Director Ireland Caitriona Fottrell provided an overview of the day’s activities to delegates before they broke into groups to hear from a selection of the over 800 organizations assisted by The Ireland Funds Promising Ireland Campaign.

Representatives from eight organizations, all of who had received Flagship Grants or significant funding from The Ireland Funds, eagerly met with the delegates and donors. Over the course of the afternoon delegates had the opportunity to learn more about Music Generation, Foroige – Network for Teaching Entrepreneurship, Fighting Words, Women for Election, National College of Ireland’s Parent Child Home Programme, Playhouse Derry, Social Entrepreneurs Ireland and the Little Museum of Dublin. Interactive presentations ranging from the crafting of creative writing with Fighting Words to a musical performance by 40+ young people from Music Generation, captivated the donors and provided an up-front chance to speak to the organizations that had benefitted from their generosity.

Thursday evening, guests travelled to Muckross House, the childhood home of Ireland Funds’ founder AWB Vincent. The stunning space which was gifted to the Irish state and is now enjoyed by the public and stands as one of Ireland’s most beautiful homes.  Guests were welcomed by ther performance art of Macnas and enjoyed drinks on the lawn as the sun began to set on what many said was the best day of the 2015 summer so far.

Guests made their way to a majestic tent just outside the house and the evening proceeded with reflections by both Chairman John Fitzpatrick and President & CEO Kieran McLoughlin on the importance of AWB Vincent, or “Billy” as he was affectionately known, to Ireland, to The Ireland Funds, and to so many people gathered that evening at Muckross House.

The evening’s highlight was the awarding of the 2015 American Ireland Fund AWB Vincent Literary Award to BBC Foreign Correspondent Fergal Keane. The award was presented by renowned journalist Olivia O’Leary of RTE. Olivia praised Fergal’s ability to help viewers see the real story through his documentaries and news reporting. She characterized him as a journalist who has never been afraid to think with his heart as well as his head.

Fergal Keane accepted the prestigious award, and its $25,000 prize, by thanking those gathered for the work they supported in some of the places of conflict he has reported from. In particular, he noted that the true heroes of the Northern Ireland conflict had been those who stayed during the greatest days of pain. He stated that without the work of The Ireland Funds, much of the talk of peace in Northern Ireland, would be hollow. Fergal expressed his wish that there were more models of The Ireland Funds in other places of conflict that could emulate the key work done in the name of peace.

Guests left the party to the pounding drums and wild puppetry of Macnas, another Ireland Funds-supported arts initiative, to make their way home and prepare for the next morning’s plenary session.

Friday June 19

Friday morning began with the plenary session led by President & CEO Kieran McLoughlin. He noted the upcoming anniversary of the organization’s 40th anniversary and paused to look back at the history of The Ireland Funds with the retrospective film that had recently played at the New York Gala in May.

Kieran gave an overview of The Ireland Funds Promising Ireland Campaign and announced that as of the Conference, the goal of $200 million campaign had not only been reached six months ahead of schedule, but had been exceeded by $4 million. Those gathered responded with enthusiastic applause at the accomplishment.

Over the course of the plenary the vision of The Ireland Fund was presented, the timeline of the next Campaign (2020-2026) and the working program that would bring the Funds to that next stage of growth, were discussed. The structure of the Young Leaders, the need to grow the endowment and global growth were each discussed in detail as well.

The benefits to Ireland and Irish causes worldwide are the bottom line and Kieran spoke about the investments that were needed to The Ireland Funds’ infrastructure to deliver those benefits with more impact and efficiency.

Caitriona Fottrell, Director Ireland took the podium and spoke about the forty-year track record of trust and the network that delivers unique benefit to Irish charities. She spoke about the evolution of the organization from being a reactionary grant maker to a much more strategic granter. Caitriona spoke about the rich resource of information that was available to The Ireland Funds from the 1,000 organizations that were applying for funding and how support that was not simply financial could be extended to charities.  She shared that an upcoming impact report was beginning which would review the impact that The Ireland Funds had made over the last 40 years and what the future could be in telling the story of philanthropy in Ireland.

Kieran concluded their plenary presentation with the vision of fundraiser Scott Nichols,  “Movement….to organization…to institution.”

A panel of Ireland Funds leadership that included Dr. Maurice Hayes, former head of The Ireland Funds Advisory Board; Helen Lambert, Chairman of The Ireland Fund of France; Gene McQuade, American Ireland Fund Board Director; Ronan Foley Chair of The Ireland Funds in Ireland and Caitlin Duffy, Director of the Young Leaders in Ireland. They spoke about the relationship of Ireland to the international community, the state of Northern Ireland, the role of business in philanthropy, the business climate in Ireland, Ireland’s corporate philanthropic prospects and finally the bonds felt by the younger generation of leadership to Ireland and Irish culture.

The floor was opened to those attending and discussion was held around the profile of the organization, the opportunity for volunteering, the broadening of the donor base, the potential of the science and tech sector to be more involved, the mission and vision of The Ireland Funds, the challenges in Northern Ireland and the need for The Ireland Funds to lead in developing the philanthropic sector within Ireland. Kieran concluded with the challenge that the 40th anniversary should be the springboard for growth and continued success.

The Young Leaders of The Ireland Funds came together for their own planning session. Ambassador Dan Rooney who co-founded The Ireland Funds in 1976 with Sir Anthony O’Reilly addressed the young leaders and applauded their commitment and vision as those that would carry the torch. Directors of the Young Leaders Caitlin Duffy and Pat Tully then led supporters in a discussion around the past year’s activities and the ambitious plans for the next ten years. The session was particularly bittersweet as it was the last for Caitlin Duffy in her role as Director of the Young Leaders in Ireland as she would be moving back to the U.S. after several years in Ireland.

An Taoiseach, Enda Kenny, T.D. was the guest of honour at Gala Dinner on Friday evening.  Kieran McLoughlin and John Fitzpatrick both addressed those gathered and shared the remarkable news that had been announced earlier in the day at the plenary session: that The Ireland Funds had reached and exceeded the $200 million goal of the Promising Ireland Campaign, six months ahead of schedule. Over 800 outstanding organization had been assisted by the Campaign and thousands of lives affected by the profound generosity of Ireland Funds’ donors. A roar of cheers and applause rose from the audience at the announcement. John reminded the audience that, “The Ireland Funds are all about hope. Hope for peace, hope for education, hope wherever it is needed.”

An Taoiseach Enda Kenny came to the podium and congratulated supporters of the Funds on exceeding the $200 million goal of The Ireland Funds Promising Ireland Campaign by, “Tonight is an opportunity to say thank you. Thank you for your generosity, for your skill, your care and for the magnificent work that you do on behalf of our country and our people. It is not everyone that can say their work changes lives, but The Ireland Funds can say this.”

The evening continued with an extraordinary performance by Ireland’s treasured performance group The Chieftains. The energy they bring to the stage has been enjoyed for over 52 years by audiences worldwide and was appreciated by the Conference guests as they listened the traditional Irish music of Paddy Moloney and The Chieftains.

Afterwards, the 180 friends made their way to the legendary after-party that is traditionally held on the Friday night of the Conference. Cigars, craic, and great conversations were had until the wee hours.

Saturday June 20

Saturday morning was a time to take in the beauty of Co. Kerry and supporters had numerous options to choose from. The morning greeted the guests with yet another day of sunshine. The presence of the sun was particularly welcomed by those heading out to tee-off in Tralee at the “Irish vs. The Rest of the World” Golf Tournament as well as those who elected to head out onto the Lakes of Killarney.

Boats left the dock of the Europe Hotel and toured the waters for which Killarney is famous. Lunch was enjoyed at Lord Brandon’s cottage and guests made their way back to the hotel later that afternoon through Killarney National Park and the Gap of Dunloe by horse & cart.

Other supporters travelled to Churchill House, the home of Ireland Funds’ supporters Fred and Kay Krehbiel to see their magnificent art collection. The collection has a particular focus on Irish landscapes and history and a tour of their galleries and pavilions was greatly enjoyed.

After the day of sun and the conference came to a conclusion with a evening BBQ at the Europe Hotel’s boathouse.  After dinner, the Glucksman Ireland Cup was presented for victories at that afternoon’s golf tournament. Other “prizes” and humorous “awards of distinction” were presented to the delighted of supporters.

The Conference officially came to a close with the camaraderie and accomplishment for which The Ireland Funds are known.  As The Ireland Funds looked ahead to their 40 year anniversary in 2016, there was a sense of pride in knowing a promise had been kept to Ireland through the Promising Ireland Campaign. There will always be need, but those attending had a renewed mission and purpose in addressing those needs, together.

The largest conference ever held by The Ireland Funds had seen the largest-ever announcement of the largest amount ever raised. Yet as President & CEO Kieran McLoughlin reminded supporters, “The story of The Ireland Funds is not told through numbers, it is told through the impact on Ireland.”

In The Media

+ IRISH CENTRAL ++ Worldwide Ireland Fund smashes fundraising target, raises $204 million

Killarney: A promise by the Ireland Funds to shore up  Irish charities in the darkest days of the recession has not just been fulfilled – but doubled and ahead of schedule, the Worldwide Ireland Funds conference has heard in Killarney this afternoon, Friday, Irish time. And so successful is the Ireland Funds initiative, it is becoming a template for other emigrant groups such as the Greeks, hoping to help their home countries.

+ The IRISH TIMES ++ Fergal Keane receives Ireland Funds literary award

BBC foreign correspondent Fergal Keane was on Thursday awarded Worldwide Ireland Funds annual literary award of $25,000.
The ceremony took place at Muckross House, Killarney, once the home of the late AWB “Billy” Vincent whose idea it was to have a literary award.





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