Boston's Leary visits North schools
By Máirtín Ó Muilleoir
November 4, 2009
The head of the Irish American Partnership board has made his first visit to an Irish medium school in North Ireland.
Boston's Joe Leary was given a guided tour of the 560-pupil Coláiste Feirste in West Belfast by senior teachers and got to meet with pupils, who learn all their subjects through Irish, at the school for 11 to 18 year-olds.
During his recent visit, Leary was also welcomed to an integrated school in Belfast (where Protestant and Catholics learn together) in by prominent unionist community leader, Baroness May Blood.
The Irish American Partnership, which is devoted to supporting education across Ireland, presented Baroness Blood with a donation for five fledgling integrated schools in the North.
"It was a wonderful experience," said Leary.
"I was here to learn how Belfast has grown, how it has changed, so I can carry that message back to our 3500 active donors so that we can support the city and Northern Ireland even more."
The non-profit IAP's focus is on primary schools across the 32 counties of Ireland.
"We're tapped into a rather extraordinary respect and honor for Irish heritage and education on the part of our donors and this visit, where I gave a check to the schools May Blood recommended, is proof of that," said Leary.
As president of the partnership, Leary chaired one of the plenary sessions at the recent Irish Echo "Gateways To Tomorrow" conference in Boston that was aimed at forging stronger ties between the U.S. northeast and Ireland's northwest, especially counties Derry and Donegal.
Leary believes benefits will flow from that initiative and similar events.
"Networking events as successful as the Gateways conference are very worthwhile," he said.
"You never know when a friendship or introduction is going to pay dividends, especially at that level where there were so many Boston businessmen, and so many people to help us understand northwest Ireland," Leary said.
May I congratulate Mairtin O’Muilleoir for this article which highlights the fine work of Joe Leary and the Irish American Partnership. Joe is a good friend who is totally dedicated to making a difference in the lives of Irish people both North and South regardless of their religious or political preferences. Through his Irish American Partnership, he has raised and donated vast amounts of money to many worthy causes in Ireland. I have discussed the situation in the North with Joe and I think we agree that the key to the success of the peace process lies not with past generations or even the present one. It’s success or failure will ultimately depend on the next generation and succeeding ones. Therefore, it only stands to reason that those who truly want to see a lasting peace in Ireland should be concentrating their efforts and their charitable donations on “cross community, youth oriented programs” such as the ones supported by the Irish American Partnership. Congratulations and Best Wishes for continued success to Joe Leary for his tireless work on behalf of the Irish people and to Mairtin O’Muilleoir for bringing public recognition to those efforts.