Irish American Unity Conference (IAUC) President John Fogarty hailed the success of this year’s national convention in Boston, calling it a ground-breaking effort on behalf of Irish America in the encouragement and facilitation of cross-community dialogue in the north of Ireland. This year’s convention brought together members of both the unionist and nationalist communities, including academics, community workers, politicians and political ex-prisoners. Speakers included Dr. Pete Shirlow, Raymond Stewart, Terry Kirby, Bobby Lavery, Matt Morrison, Paul Harkin, Gerry McHugh, Roy Garland, Máirtín Ó Muilleoir, Raymond McCord, Nuala O’Loan and Father Aiden Troy. Participants took part in public and private discourse throughout the weekend, speaking forthrightly and respectfully without diluting their beliefs or holding back their opinions in order to be polite.
Speaking at the close of the convention, President Fogarty said, “In order to move forward and come together, we need to recognize each other’s positions and allow time for understanding, even if we do not agree. Through dialogue we might develop the level of understanding necessary to produce genuine visions of a common future in the north of Ireland that is both inclusive and just. As witnessed in Boston this weekend, the Irish peace process does not simply belong to the political parties, it belongs to the people.”
Though political parties are at the center of representative democracy, it is the belief of the IAUC that political agendas very often slow down or even halt the process of engagement. The honest discourse which was witnessed and participated in at this year’s convention reinforced the notion that ordinary people, motivated by the desire to secure a safe and egalitarian future for all our people, can create a parallel avenue for advancement; can create a situation atmospherically which supports and facilitates the ability of the political parties to interface to the benefit of all.
President Fogarty went on to say, “The IAUC appreciates the difficult and often painful work necessary to bring about true and lasting political change, and we will continue to use our resources to encourage such discussion in the future. Irish America has played such an integral role in the Irish peace process, and we should continue to be used as a tool to lay the groundwork for political and socioeconomic change in Ireland in any way that we can.”