Reflecting on the Belfast/Good Friday Agreement with Secretary Hillary Rodham Clinton

Marking the 25th anniversary of the Belfast/Good Friday Agreement, the Washington Ireland Program welcomed Secretary Hillary Rodham Clinton to an exclusive event at Custom House this month

On Sunday, April 16, 2023, the Washington Ireland Program (WIP) hosted former Secretary of State, Hillary Rodham Clinton, at the Lanyon Lounge of Belfast’s historic Custom House building, the new headquarters of WIP. The evening provided a unique opportunity for WIP alumni, supporters, and distinguished guests to connect and commemorate the twenty-fifth anniversary of the Belfast/Good Friday Agreement, celebrate the program’s accomplishments, and to reflect and engage in vital discussions on the role of peacebuilding and reconciliation in Northern Ireland.

The guest list included senior figures such as Secretary of State for Northern Ireland Chris Heaton-Harris, Democratic Congressman Richie Neal, who represents Massachusetts’s 1st congressional district and is the current Chair of the House of Representatives’ Ways and Means Committee and Jayne Brady, Head of the Northern Irish Civil Service. 

Also present were members of the WIP Board, representatives from WIP’s sponsors including Bank of America, AIG and the Irish Government, alumni from each year of WIP’s Emerging Leaders Program including four serving MLA (Claire Sudgen, David Brooks, Emma Little-Pengelly, Nuala McAllister) and other friends and supporters. 

Members of the Management Team for the WIP Class of 2023, Aoife McGeough and Mícheál Gallagher were in attendance, as well as two representatives of the Class of 2023, Andrew Martin and Grace Boyle. The Management Team and Class of 2023 are due to head out to Washington D.C. in June, where they will undertake eight weeks of leadership training and work placements with prestigious U.S. organisations. 

The event commenced with a welcome from WIP’s Executive Director Nicola Skelly, who expressed their gratitude to the attendees for their unwavering support and dedication to the program. She emphasised the critical role WIP plays in empowering and preparing the next generation of leaders from Northern Ireland and Ireland to champion peace, reconciliation, and cross-community collaboration.

The main event of the afternoon was an insightful fireside chat between Secretary Clinton and Sharon Haughey-Grimley, a WIP Class of 2003 alumna who completed her placement with Clinton during her time in the US Senate. Their conversation delved into various topics, including the peace process, the Good Friday Agreement, the role of women in these processes, and the impact of the Washington Ireland Program.

Reflecting on the peace process and the Good Friday Agreement, Clinton emphasised the importance of women’s participation, citing academic research that revealed peace negotiations and settlements involving women were more likely to endure for longer periods. She commended the work of activists like Monica McWilliams and encouraged the continued inclusion of women in peacebuilding and political dialogues globally.

Clinton also discussed the history of the Washington Ireland Program, praising its dedication to promoting peacebuilding and reconciliatory efforts on a cross-community basis in Northern Ireland, as well as fostering cross-border relationships between Northern Ireland, Ireland, and the United Kingdom. She described WIP as one of best programs of its type, highlighting its crucial role in nurturing future leaders committed to collaboration, inclusivity, and progress.

The event served as a powerful reminder of the ongoing work and impact of the Washington Ireland Program in fostering understanding, collaboration, and positive change in Northern Ireland and Ireland. It also highlighted the importance of continued dialogue and engagement on the pressing issues facing the island of Ireland.

With the support of individuals like Secretary Clinton and the dedication of the WIP community, the Washington Ireland Program will continue to foster an environment where future leaders can thrive, making a lasting impact on peacebuilding, reconciliation, and progress on the island of Ireland and around the globe for years to come.

Check out the gallery below for more pictures from this event!

The Washington Ireland Program supports, inspires, and develops leaders from a wide range of communities and backgrounds who are committed to building a future of peace and prosperity for Northern Ireland and Ireland.

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