Category: Archive

Gateways conference binds Bay State, Ireland’s NW

February 17, 2011

By Staff Reporter

The gathering included a Wednesday evening reception, the inaugural “Gateways to Tomorrow” conference Thursday, organized by the Irish Echo in conjunction with its sponsors, and the third annual “Golden Bridges” awards luncheon hosted jointly by the Irish Echo and the Boston Irish Reporter.
Addressing the opening session of the Gateways conference, Conor Murphy congratulated Irish Americans for helping to develop “an inclusive peace process and putting equality and human rights at the heart of the (Good Friday) agreement.
“This unflagging friendship and practical help and support is beyond value. I hope that the political, economic and community leaders from Massachusetts can be part of this ongoing effort, now, and in the future, as a result of our conversation here.
“The U.S. has played a central role in this effort over the past decade and more. In fact, the recent appointment of the U.S. economic envoy to Ireland, Declan Kelly, reaffirms that strong link and demonstrates the continued support of the U.S. in building the peace and economic growth based on equality and fairness.”
“I want to pay special tribute to the Irish Echo for the role it has played as an important voice and strong advocate for human rights and equality and an inclusive peace process over the past decade,” he said.
Fairness would be a vital watchword for the power sharing executive, Murphy added.
“Our Executive has set a program for government which reflects local needs and aspirations. These are premised on the fundamental principles of equality and fairness, an end to decades of political discrimination, partnership and power-sharing.
“The All-Ireland architecture of our political institutions is also critical. Our All-Ireland bodies and structures have played a pivotal role in ensuring that we act in the best interests and to the mutual benefit of all the people of Ireland,” he said.
“The momentum of change is unstoppable. Support at home and here in the U.S. for this change is unstoppable also. Our priorities and energies in government are focused on economic growth and delivering a progressive social reform agenda.”
The MP for Newry and Armagh urged the standing-room only opening session of the conference to “harness a new socio-economic partnership” between Boston and northwest Ireland.
“This will be a mutually beneficial relationship where civic society, our business sector, academic and political institutions can come together and create new opportunities and investments,” he said.
In a message of support released on the eve of the conference, congressional Friends of Ireland chairman, Rep. Richard Neal, said the U.S. was resolved to “stabilize and underpin the peace by creating jobs and growth for communities which suffered the most during the Troubles.”
Other speakers at the conference, which focused in particular on Derry and Donegal, included General James Cullen, the founding president of the Brehon Law Society, Mary Louise Mallick, First Deputy Comptroller of New York State which has pledged $30 million of state pension funds for investment in Northern Ireland and Massachusetts Senate President, Therese Murray.
Murray told the conference that those driving the economic rebirth of the North must avoid the pitfalls encountered by Boston in the past by ensuring their plans serve the less well-off.
“In our zeal to focus on business development, we lost sight of some of our most vulnerable and socio-economically depressed citizens,” she told the standing room-only welcome reception at the World Trade Center.
“I am pleased to hear that you have taken note of our mistakes we made here in Boston and that you have included in your regeneration plan (for Derry) a requirement that ensures your most vulnerable citizens will not be left behind while the city moves forward.
“Providing avenues for these citizens to take their lives in a different direction, retrain for the jobs that the city is trying to attract, only makes it a more desirable place to set up shop.”
Murray said Derry – which she visited in May of this year – “was on the cusp of a new dawn” and that Boston wished to be a partner in its future.
“I believe that, especially in this economic downturn, the strength of partnerships between people, between businesses, between cities and countries prove to be the most beneficial. And what better cities to be partners than Boston and Derry – two cities connected by history. Two cities that can learn from and benefit from each other. Two cities that are instilled with the same determination of character and passion for the future.”
Mary Louise Mallick told the conference that the New York State was keen to put its pledged $30m investment to work in disadvantaged areas of Northern Ireland.
“We are long-term investors handling about $118 billion of private equity,” she told a conference session entitled “The Opportunities of Regeneration.”
“We are also would like to invest in accordance with rules of economic justice and are looking at the underserved areas of Derry and Belfast. It’s the view of Comptroller (Thomas) DiNapoli that this investment can also help continue the peace process.”
However, she acknowledged that the fund was “having trouble finding projects” suitable for investment and said her office would welcome help in identifying appropriate ventures.
“I know the company we have appointed does want to talk to people and its Comptroller DiNapoli’s desire to see some results reported by the end of this calendar year.”
DiNapoli and Mallick traveled to Belfast and Derry in May 2008 in part to attend the Invest Northern Ireland investment conference.
“Our view of both cities was summed up by Comptroller DiNapoli when he said, ‘Belfast hums but Derry sings,” Mallick told the conference.
Also speaking at the conference were Consul General of Ireland in Boston, Michael Lonergan, Derry entrepreneur Garvan O’Doherty and James Barnes, Community Development Director in the City of Lawrence, Massachusetts which has enjoyed strong links with Northern Ireland since the beginning of the peace process.
The conference was also addressed by software pioneer, entrepreneur and philanthropist, John Cullinane, who said that northwest Ireland was perfect for “telementoring and telemedicine”-based industries.
Cullinane said the rural nature of the region would give it an edge in trying to promote telementoring by veterinarians.
“The thought occurred to me, literally, this morning, at 4 a.m. why not start with student veterinarians as a way of getting around the healthcare industry? They could demonstrate the concept of using smart phones, such as their Blackberries, to link back to their schools and/or experienced veterinarians with pictures of the animal’s problem and to be telementored, as to what to do,” Cullinane, who was deeply involved in efforts by Belfast City Council in the mid-1990s to forge economic ties with the U.S., said.
“This could include treatment of family pets. It would be a kind of an electronic ‘all creatures great and small.’ Thus, maybe, the northwest of Ireland could use this idea to make telemedicine and telementoring a practical reality. This could lead to northwest Ireland becoming a world leader in telemedicine and a node in the virtual day. One thing I learned on my many trips to Northern Ireland is that when its people recognize a good idea they are extremely good at implementing it. Maybe, this is one,” Cullinane concluded.
A full round-up of the conference deliberations, including photographs and the text of speeches, is available at www.irishecho.com/conference.

Other Articles You Might Like

Sign up to our Daily Newsletter

Click to access the login or register cheese