The twentieth anniversary of the Good Friday Agreement provides an opportunity to celebrate progress in Northern Ireland and reflect on the work that remains. The Partnership has been standing side-by-side with Northern Ireland for twenty-five years, supporting schools and community programs seeking to advance the ideals of the Good Friday Agreement. Originally, the Partnership would give equal grants to controlled and maintained schools to purchase books and school equipment. These Protestant and Catholic schools were often located just around the corner from one another, yet were a world apart—separated by barbed wire fences and mutual distrust. However, as Northern Ireland evolved, embracing integrated schools and shared education, the Partnership grew with it. Today, the Partnership annually gives a grant to the Integrated Education Fund while also continuing to support schools of both traditions.
The Partnership supports numerous community development organizations such as 174 Trust, the Northern Ireland Human Rights Fund, Children in Crossfire, Youthlink NI, the Ulster American Folk Park, and the Pushkin Trust. These programs do amazing work in bringing communities together and building trust, compassion, and a shared future. Twenty years ago, when the Good Friday Agreement was signed, civil society was overshadowed by violence. Now, it has been given the space to flourish, with truly remarkable results. The Partnership is proud to support these initiatives.
In the past five years, the Partnership has given 58 schools grants for cross-community activities. These grants are transformative in impact, as the Principal of Millburn Primary School in Derry attested:
“On behalf of Millburn Primary School I would like to take this opportunity to thank the Irish American Partnership members for your very generous intervention in providing a bursary for our school. It is of crucial importance that our children are provided with opportunities to consider their own and the identities of others, developing a culture of respect and mutual understanding in our Province. This investment in the education of our children undoubtedly provides a firm foundation on which these and future generations can become active contributors in the development of a successful, sustainable blueprint for Northern Ireland, as a whole.”
-Mrs. Sharon Lamont, Principal