Irish Association

President's Report

8th October 2011

For many years it was the custom of the Irish Association to have their Annual General Meeting at the Annual Conference in October. Life has changed, and with the proliferation of Conferences of a similar nature the Annual Conference of the Association is no longer as attractive as it once was.

Our last AGM, which was out of sequence, was prior to the St Patrick's Day Lunch in Belfast on 17th March 2010. We now return to the Autumn AGM.

On 17th March 2010 some fifty members not only enjoyed a good Lunch but also appreciated the after-dinner speaker William Graham. William was the political journalist the Irish News from 1982 until the end of 2009.

Such was the feeling of success at the St. Patrick's Day Lunch that our enthusiastic Treasurer Dr. Donal O'Tierney organised a series of lunches here in the Sandymount Hotel, Dublin.

On 4th September 2010 we were addressed by the former SDLP Member of Parliament for South Down, Eddie McGrady.

This was followed on 15 January 2011, when Charles Lysaght had presented a fascinating talk on the subject of Obituary Writing, and entertained members in a lively question and answer session after his talk. There had been significant numbers present from north and south, and a good opportunity to mingle and chat before the meal.

On Saturday 28th May 2011 our Guest Speaker was His Excellency Julian King, British Ambassador to Ireland, who addressed us on - "Reflections on the Royal Visit"

These Dublin lunches have given the Southern membership, in particular, an opportunity to renew friendships to listen to our guest speaker.

We have continued with our traditional St. Patricks Day Lunch in Belfast - addressed this year by Liam Clarke the political Editor of the Belfast Telegraph. That was the last Irish Association event that the late Dr. Garret FitzGerald attended

We do want to place on record our thanks to Donal and his family for all their hard work and enthusiasm for the Association.

Lest it be thought that we are reduced to a Dining Club - The highlight of the past eighteen months was our Conference "Northern Ireland: Solved - not settled?" Within that overall theme we explored issues such as 'Policing and Justice' as it touches the lives of individuals throughout the Island. We were honoured to have as our principal speakers David Ford, Northern Ireland Minister of Justice and Eamon O. Cuiv, Irish Minister for Public Protection.

We also considered the implication of Human Right legalisation from the perspective of the divergent views of four panellists, Conor Houston, Patricia McKeown, Lady Daphne Trimble and Professor Gerry Whyte.

We looked at the unsettled economic environment with Dr. John Bradley and Brian Keegan, and followed up with contemporary comment from Fintan O'Toole and Ed Curran. The Belfast writer Glenn Patterson was a much appreciated after Dinner speaker to conclude the Conference.

While numbers may not have been as good as in previous Conferences the response of those who attended was very positive. The Council wants to learn from the experience of each event as we seek to adapt to an ever-changing world.

2010 concluded with our traditional Christmas Reception, in the Ulster Reform Club, where we heard about the work of the Tyrone Guthrie Centre at Annaghmakerrig, County Monaghan.

We were addressed by our former President, Brian Garrett, Chairman of the Board, and Dr. Pat Donlon, the Director of the centre. Annaghmakerrig is a residential workplace for artists the former home of Sir. Tyrone Guthrie - which facilitates creativity within a welcoming and homelike environment.

On Thursday 10 March 2011 we joined with the University of Ulster for the launch of Dr Mary Gethins book "Catholic police officers in Northern Ireland: Voices out of Silence". Speakers included - Peter Sheridan Chief Executive Cooperation Ireland; Dr Mary Gethins and Dr Mary O'Rawe, School of Law UU.

I also represented the Association at the Annual Conference of the British-Irish Association in September 2010 in Oxford, but the highlight for me personally, was to represent the Association at the visit of Her Majesty the Queen to Islandbridge on 17th May 2011.

The passing of Terry Stewart, President 2000 2002, and our staunch supporter Dr. Garret FitzgGrald, in recent months serves to remind us that none of us is immortal and that we should be seeking out a younger generation to carry on the work of the Association.

As a Council we continue to concentrate our minds on the future work of the Association. We need to look at various ways in which we can co-operate with others, and perhaps the joint Book Launch is a good example. We also need to respond to an ever changing constituency, as we continue make reason and good will take the place of passion and prejudice in Ireland, North and South.

Brian Kennaway (Rev)

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