Leaders creating Global Networks based on shared experiences and trust to better the world around them

Introduction

Eisenhower Fellowships have a long and rich association with the island of Ireland, both North and South, playing a part in the leadership development of 30 Fellows, including some of those directly involved in the Northern Ireland Peace Process. A network of Irish Fellows meets regularly and is committed to playing an active part in the work of the Eisenhower Fellowships both in Ireland and internationally. The Irish Eisenhower Fellowship Network now comprises 30 Fellows and has recently expanded to include 15 US-Ireland Fellows as Honorary members of the Irish Network. The Fellows recently adopted a new ‘constitution’, building on the organisational strengths of the Network.

     

Background

The Irish participation in the Eisenhower Fellowships dates back to the 1960s with the selection of Denis Tuohy (a UK Fellow from Northern Ireland in 1967) and Denis Corboy (the first Eisenhower Fellow from Ireland in 1968). Further Fellowships were awarded at intervals over the next number of years, with individual Irish Fellows participating in the Multi-Nation Programmes. Over time, an informal network of Eisenhower Fellows began to take shape, and it is to these ‘founding’ Fellows that a particular debt of gratitude is owed for their vision in recognising the potential for an all-island Fellowship Programme.

 

        Ireland Single Area Programme (1989)

By the late 1980s, a number of the Irish Fellows had begun to develop the concept of a Single Area Programme for the island of Ireland, providing the opportunity for a group of Fellows from Northern Ireland and the Irish Republic to travel together to the USA to participate in a Fellowship Programme. Eisenhower Fellowships decided that the model for the programme would be the Single Nation Programme that had been organised for the Philippines a year earlier.  It was agreed that a Single Area Programme would take place in the Fall of 1989. The Irish Eisenhower Fellows from Northern Ireland and the Irish Republic, under the leadership of Leslie McClements, Padraic White, Donal de Buitleir, Brian Patterson and Peter McLachlan, supported the selection process and raised a significant contribution towards the overall cost. The objective of the programme was to identify seven emerging leaders from the Republic of Ireland and seven from Northern Ireland, who would travel as a group to the USA for the Eisenhower experience.

 

The Ireland Single Area Programme Fellows are a diverse group drawn from a range of professional fields including: business, government, law enforcement, healthcare, education and the church. They travelled to Philadelphia in the Fall of 1989 for an intensive Fellowship lasting 10 weeks. The programme began with a week’s orientation at the Sugarloaf Conference Centre of the University of Pennsylvania, where the Fellows had the opportunity to learn about the economic, political and demographic development of the USA. The Fellows then embarked on individual Fellowship programmes based on their professional and career interests, although opportunities also frequently arose for smaller groups of Fellows to meet-up while “on the road”. Although principally undertaking individual Fellowships, the Northern Ireland Fellows, together with some of the Irish Fellows, also participated in a seminar on “Conflict Resolution” and the Northern Ireland ‘Troubles’ under the auspices of the University of Virginia. The Single Area Programme concluded with a second meeting at the Sugarloaf Conference Centre where Fellows had the opportunity to share Fellowship experiences and begin to examine how as a group they could harness their shared experience into the future.

 

        Building the Network

The meeting at Sugarloaf unanimously decided that the Irish Fellows should hold a meeting in Belfast following their return home. At this meeting, it was agreed to establish an Irish Eisenhower Fellowship Network with the aim of sustaining contacts between individual Fellows and working to support the Eisenhower Fellowships Programme in Ireland. The Irish Network established a pattern of meeting twice-yearly for conferences, with the location alternating between North and South. The dialogue which takes place in these meetings enriches Fellows’ understanding of the diversity of cultures and political beliefs on the island of Ireland. The conferences are organised around specific themes (eg human rights, equality, economic development, etc) and distinguished leaders from outside the Network are invited to lead the discussion at each meeting. An important aspect of the arrangements that informed these events was to hold them in locations away from Dublin and Belfast. As a result, in the years that followed meetings took place across the island in Donegal, Derry, Galway, Limerick, Newcastle, Cork, Enniskillen, Sligo, Wicklow and Waterford, thus building a greater awareness of place and difference. Many of the Irish Fellows returned to Philadelphia in 1999 to celebrate the tenth anniversary of the Ireland single Area Programme.

 

Through the leadership of one of the ‘founding’ Irish Fellows, Donal de Buitleir, Allied Irish Bank committed funding for 5 years for Eisenhower Fellowships. In addition funding was raised for an initial three Fellowships by distinguished US-Ireland Fellows over the succeeding years, through which friendships and professional contacts were established and sustained between US Fellows and the Irish Fellows. Following the success of this initiative Eisenhower Fellowships have awarded a series of US Fellowships to Ireland which have  been organised and supported by Irish Fellows. The bonds between the US-Ireland Fellows and the Irish Fellows have been strengthened through the formal invitation for the US-Ireland Fellows to become Honorary members of the Irish Eisenhower Fellowship Network.

 

The Irish Fellows continue to play a leading part in selecting emerging leaders from Ireland to participate in Multi-Nation Programmes in the USA. Through this selection process, the Irish Network continues to renew itself and now includes among its number distinguished leaders in business, government, the performing arts, and the social economy. The selection process for Irish Fellows is acknowledged as an exemplar of best practice and now involves extensive search and selection procedures that are robust and transparent, including final interviews in which Fellows from both the North and South participate.

 

        Reaching out beyond Ireland

The Irish Fellows have been regular participants at Eisenhower Fellowship Conferences, both within Ireland itself, the USA and internationally. International conferences were held in Ireland in 1991, involving a two-centre conference in both Dublin and Belfast, and a further international event was held in Dublin in 2008 on the theme of cities in the 21st century. Irish Fellows have also played a significant part in contributing towards the organisation of the highly successful Paris Conference in 2009. Irish Fellows are regular participants in Eisenhower Fellowship Conferences internationally and have attended the meetings in Turkey (twice), Bali, Sydney, Athens, Alicante, Buenos Aires, Paris and Philadelphia, and the Eisenhower Fellowships Fiftieth Anniversary Conference in Philadelphia in 2003. The Irish Fellows are currently involved in developing proposals for strengthening an overarching network of Eisenhower Fellowship groups within Europe.

 

Irish Fellows are and have been active members of the Eisenhower Fellowships President’s Advisory Council, the International Advisory Council and the Board of Trustees.

 

        The Northern Ireland Peace Process

Several of the Irish Fellows made important contributions to the Northern Ireland Peace Process culminating in the Good Friday Agreement. Terry Carlin and Peter MacLachlan from Northern Ireland were early adopters of a process of cross-community conciliation and John Dunlop, 1989 Fellow from Northern Ireland, has consistently confronted issues of conflict and difference in a divided society. In addition, Paddy Teahon, a Fellow from the Republic of Ireland, and David Lavery, a Fellow from Northern Ireland, participated in the Multi-Party political negotiations which led to the Good Friday Agreement in April 1998. Subsequently, in their roles as, respectively, Secretary to the Taoiseach’s Office (the Irish Prime Minister’s Office), and Principal Private Secretary to Northern Ireland’s First Minister, these Fellows contributed to the re-establishment of democratic institutions of Government within Northern Ireland and the sustaining of good relations between the Northern Ireland Administration and the Irish Government.

 

The Irish Fellows continue to make important contributions to public life in Ireland. One of the Northern Ireland Fellows, Tom Frawley, is the Northern Ireland Assembly Ombudsman, with responsibility for oversight of governance and standards within the Northern Ireland Administration. Another Northern Ireland Fellow, Sir Brian Kerr (now Lord Kerr), served as Lord Chief Justice of Northern Ireland from 2004 until his appointment to the House of Lords and, subsequently, the United Kingdom Supreme Court, in 2009. Dan Flinter is Chairman of the Governing Body of the National University of Ireland (Maynooth), Peter Malone is current Chair of the National Roads Authority and Chancellor of the University of Limerick. Other Fellows contribute no less effectively in the private sector and in civil society.

 

        Plans for the Future

In 2009 the Irish Fellows established a Network Development Committee to consider the future organisation of the Irish Network. The Development Committee report was subsequently adopted as a ‘constitution’ for the Network and forms the basis for the Network’s current activities. New features include the establishment of a Network Organising Committee, with responsibility for organising two events each year within Ireland, including the annual Eisenhower Day celebrations. Through this new constitution, the Irish Eisenhower Fellows have re-committed themselves to the Eisenhower Fellowship ethos within Ireland and also to making a sustained contribution internationally. The Network has been enlarged as already indicated by including, among others, the US-Ireland Fellows as honorary members of the Irish Fellowship Network.

 

The contribution of the Irish Eisenhower Fellows was recognised in 2008 with the presentation of the first Distinguished Alumni Award to the Eisenhower Fellows in Ireland. At the same meeting in Philadelphia, Senator George Mitchell, who chaired the Multi-Party Talks which led to the Good Friday Agreement in Northern Ireland, was awarded the Eisenhower Medal for his outstanding contribution to international affairs.

 

Looking ahead, the Irish Eisenhower Fellowship Network continues to build on past strengths while re-envisioning itself for the future. The most recent addition to the Fellowship Network are two outstanding women leaders from Ireland and Northern Ireland, Salome Mbugua and Lourda Geoghegan, who will participate in the Eisenhower Fellowships Womens’ Leadership Programme in the Fall of 2010.

 

The Irish Eisenhower Fellows remain determined to honour the vision of President Eisenhower and to ‘make a difference’.