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 â€œThough 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 Giantâ€™s Causeway and the Corrymeela Community. The Conference concludes with a Dinner at Mount Stewart House & Gardens.