By Susan Falvella Garraty
WASHINGTON DC — Plans for the U.S.-Ireland Business Summit in Washington are in the final stages. This year’s meeting between US and Irish business and political leaders in the Ronald Reagan Building from Sept. 4th through Sept. 6th will occur when many will be recalling the events of Sept. 11th in 2001.
Originally the summit was planned for Nov. 1st of last year, but was postponed because of the terrorist attacks.
One year later, organizers hope President George W. Bush will be able to address the 400 invitees from the biotechnology, information, and financial services industries.
The concept of an American–Irish trade and investment summit started during the Clinton administration and paralleled the White House’s intense focus on the Irish peace process.
Subsequent summits in Pittsburgh, Pa.,
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(1996) and here in Washington (1995) brought some of Northern Ireland’s political adversaries, including former British Secretary for Northern Ireland Sir Patrick Mayhew, Sinn Fein President Gerry Adams, and UUP leader
David Trimble together.
While working to bolster business connections, once avowed enemies found themselves working together on behalf of economic prosperity.
“Since September 11th, the U.S.-Ireland Business Summit has taken on a greater significance, as industry sectors and national economies face serious challenges and look for expanding opportunities,” said the summit
chairperson, Susan Davis.
President Bush’s senior advisor on Ireland, Ambassador Richard Haass said he hoped that he will be joined in addressing the conference by President Bush and Secretary of State Colin Powell along with several cabinet members.
“I think we’ll be able to spread the speaking duties out amongst the three of us,” said Ambassador Haass.
From Ireland, the Tanaiste Mary Harney will be the senior government official to attend. The Dublin and Belfast governments have each given $50,000 to help pay for the summit, although organizers will be pressed to keep the costs for running the program within the budget.
The US-Ireland Business Summit has now organized into a nonprofit, tax deductible organization. Depending upon the results of this year’s collaboration, the structure is now in place to rejuvenate networking between U.S., Irish and Northern Irish business leaders.