Speech at Queen’s University Belfast to mark the 20th Anniversary of the visit of President Bill Clinton to Belfast

Speech at Queen’s University Belfast to mark the 20th Anniversary of the visit of President Bill Clinton to Belfast


Great Hall, QUB

President Clinton is someone who continues to greatly inspire me  – from his Presidency through to his work at the Clinton Foundation.

Like myself, he was a recovering lawyer and then dedicated himself to inspiring change around the world.  He embodies any definition of leadership and service to humanity.  He took up the President John F Kennedy mantra of asking us all to do what we can for the betterment of our world. 

I continue to work on realising my potential and purpose through my work as a peace builder at the Centre for Democracy & Peace Building and in my social entrepreneurial work with Young Influencers.

Young Influencers created a vision 2030 – “that by 2030 NI will be one of the greatest places in the world to live, work, create and visit.”

20 years from now will be 2035.  I will be almost the age that President Clinton was when he first came to Northern Ireland. 

So tonight, I thought it would be more appropriate to consider what someone who is 20 might say of the Northern Ireland we have created by then.

Well as chance would have it, I do know someone who will be 20 in 2035, my 3-month-old nephew Ollie.

I imagined the letter that Ollie might write to President Clinton on the cusp of his 90th birthday to thank him for the 2035 Northern Ireland in which he now lives.

So here it is, Ollie’s letter to President Clinton dated 30th November 2035:

“Dear President Clinton

I hope this letter finds you and Mrs President Clinton well.

It is hard to believe that 40 years have passed since your historic first visit to Northern Ireland – the first of any U.S. President to my home.

My great-grandfather Bernard, who I am told was a proud Derry man, used to say: “20 years is a long time looking forward, but nothing looking back.”  Being 20 I know what he means! And I’m sure Mr President you truly understand it!

I wasn’t born the first time you came to Belfast in November 1995 to light the Christmas tree for peace.  My uncle Conor has told me that he remembers that night vividly.  At that time he was growing up in Surrey, England.  And that it was that very night as they watched images from Belfast on TV that my granny & grandad told him, my uncle Stephen and my mum that they were moving back home to live in Northern Ireland.

They came home to a place where “peace came dropping slow”.  But it is a place they love and the place they still call home. 

Belfast today in 2035 is an incredible place.

The old ways of ‘labelling’ and seeing difference as a threat are definitely a relic of the past.  We proudly celebrate the British, Irish and Northern Irish of our entwined identities and the many other cultures and identities that make up our 2035 Northern Ireland.

This pride means Northern Ireland is now a driving force on these islands.  Our politicians, business and civic leaders set the agenda on both the UK and Irish stage.  The Prime Minister of the UK is of course a proud Derry man and the new Taoiseach is from just outside Ballymena.  We understand our role as global citizens.

Stormont re-opened as the ‘Rory McIlroy Golf Club’ and our politicians now sit in the stunning ‘People’s Assembly’ designed by young designers from across Northern Ireland in the dynamic Titanic Quarter.

As you know, all our political parties came together during the ‘decade of centenaries’ to create a ‘Vision 2030’ to build a legacy rooted firmly in our young people and the future.  And working together they have achieved that vision.

At the heart of the Vision 2030 were the 3 C’s: compassion, co-operation and collaboration. 

The principle of compassion ensures that we are compassionate in our approach to each other and we used it to reframe all our conversation, discourse and debate.  We are now a citizen lead society and this has assisted in making us one of the ‘equality centres of excellence’ in the world.

It has made us a people at peace with ourselves.  We have learned to be a lot more gentle on ourselves and each other. 

The principle of collaboration resulted in our reputation amongst economists as the ‘Hong Kong of Europe’ for our ability to act as a hub for international inward investment into the UK, ROI and European markets.  We are also the launch pad for start-ups, innovators, entrepreneurs and creators. 

Our schools, colleges and universities work in tandem with business, commerce and emerging technologies to ensure we maintain the most highly skilled, educated and knowledge based work force in Europe. This of course is lead by Queen’s University Belfast and Ulster University – leading the world in research, innovation and ideas. 

I have benefited from a world class education – which focused on developing the potential of each child and their creative,technological, artistic, innovative and intellectual abilities.  As a result I have secured an apprenticeship with Elon Musk’s SpaceX project which is opening its ‘Mars Coordination Centre’  in Northern Ireland next year, to manage the one million people who are now living there, as he promised back in 2015.

We’ve utilised our proud NI diaspora around the world who are our brilliant  Ambassadors in every continent on earth. 

And that’s where the third principle of co-operation has really come to help. We have used our economic prosperity to develop world-class infrastructure.  Apparently it used to take two and half hours to travel from Belfast to Dublin, now it takes an hour.  It’s also hard to believe that just 20 years ago the motorway from Belfast to Letterkenny via Derry didn’t exist!

As you know, the island of Ireland now generates all of its electricity through renewable energy harnessing the wind and tide from the Atlantic. 

Our relationship with the U.S. is one of the great examples of co-operation – economically, socially and culturally.  We also had a great Fourth of July Party this year to celebrate 240 years of the U.S. Consulate in Belfast.  My uncle Conor assures me that the parties there were always legendary and that the Consul-General’s for Northern Ireland were always the elite of the U.S. State Department!

Of course it would be remiss of me not to mention our continued sporting prowess – Ireland winning the 2023 Rugby World Cup on home soil was one of the best days of my childhood, The U.S. haven’t won the Ryder Cup in my lifetime mostly thanks to Rory and the entire ‘Team Europe’ who come from NI!  And is there a boxer in the world rankings who isn’t from here?!  They epitomise how we proudly punch above our weight.

So our Vision 2030, our principles of compassion, collaboration and co-operation make this a great, welcoming place to live, work, create & visit and one of the most dynamic and innovative countries in our 21st Century world.

On that cold night in Belfast 40 years ago you helped our people believe in themselves. Believe that they had a better future.  Thank you for giving us the gift of hope.  Our home is your home.  Thank you  for all you have done for us, Mr President, and for helping to make the place I call home, well, home.

Yours truly


Ps – good luck to Chelsea in the 2036 Presidential election!

An Invisible Tribe: Improving our relationships and public discourse

Remarks by Eva Grosman (CEO, Centre for Democracy and Peace Building), Europa Hotel Belfast, 27 November 201relationships5.

Eva was speaking having been presented an inaugural ‘Spirit of WIP’ Award at the WIP Ball by WIP Alumna and Junior Minister, OFMdFM, Emma Pengelly MLA.

An Invisible Tribe: Improving our  and public discourse

Almost every day of my working week I interact with ministers, MLAs, business and civic leaders and other remarkable individuals, who took part in the Washington Ireland Program.

WIP’s values are very much aligned with what I aspire to: humility, empathy, respect and integrity

Being a change agent, working among people like you, often feels like being part of an invisible tribe.

When Seamus Heaney passed away, Gary Lightbody wrote a wonderful piece to honour his hero.

He talked about Heaney as a Chieftain of an “invisible tribe” – a tribe of people that touch others on a level that beds deeper into our souls and hearts.

People of profound light, love and kindness that simply and maybe even without their knowledge make us and the world around them better. People that make us feel safer, happier, stronger, more centred and less confused.

The Washington Ireland Program is like of a boot camp for the members of the “invisible tribe” – a school of better living for the warriors of good.

I was asked to share with you and idea for brighter 2016. So, I thought why not focus on improving a quality of our relationships and quality of public discourse.

I’m sure that you all watched CSI Miami or one of the similar programmes. I’m sure that you are well aware that every human contact leaves a trace. And it goes beyond the DNA.

While encountering others we leave not only physical, but also emotional traces. Someone said that“people often forget what we said, but they never forget how we made them feel.”

In recognising qualities of good leaders, we are now moving from IQ to Emotional Intelligence and from Emotional Intelligence to a Cultural one.

Cultural Intelligence is the ability to cross divides and thrive in multiple cultures.

It is something which we continuously improve and develop. We do this through our experiences, but also with knowledge shared by other people whom we trust – and who trust us; via networks such as Washington Ireland Program.

President Clinton spoke last year at the Riddel Hall, here in Belfast about the need for new creative networks of cooperation – cooperation between public, private and community sectors.

To achieve this we need leaders who can cross boundaries and cross cultures, leaders who can communicate effectively and build diverse networks necessary to solve “wicked” problems. We need leaders who don’t just shy away from difference but gravitate towards it. Those are the leaders with Cultural Intelligence and these are the members of the invisible tribe.

Being a member of the invisible tribe it’s not only a privilege – it is also a responsibility. We have to lead with our words and our deeds.

So let’s think about the words – words are powerful – they can start arguments, even wars, and they can bring forgiveness and peace; words can hurt and words can heal.

George Orwell in “Politics and the English Language” said that “the great enemy of clear language is insincerity. When the general atmosphere is bad, language suffers.”

With elections coming up, both in the Republic of Ireland and here in Northern Ireland we have a perfect opportunity to challenge and change the quality of political discourse. Perhaps we can focus on positive agenda, positive ideas and our shared future.

On Thursday, 21 January WIP and the Centre for Democracy and Peace Building will be hosting a workshop in partnership with Twitter to develop a campaign to re-frame conversations and to challenge folly, evasions and hatred in our political and public discourse.

The project will be underpinned by a sense of hope, possibility and respect, as well as sense of a personal responsibility.

We have to be good stewards of our gifts. We have to protect our time, avoid too much noise and be ourselves and at our best as often as we can. We shouldn’t let people pull us into their storms, but we should pull them into our peace and joy.

We have to collectively be bold enough to raise standards of everyone around us, so I invite you to join us in this new project. We will need to tap into your talents, ideas and networks.

So let’s make 2016 a call to arms for the invisible tribe. Let’s work hard, play hard, do some good and hope for a “great sea-change”.

And most of all – let’s think before we speak.

Female entrepreneurs make colossal contribution to commerce – Pengelly and McCann

Junior Ministers Emma Pengelly and Jennifer McCann today addressed an event to mark Women’s Entrepreneurship Day at the Lyric, Belfast.

The Breakfast was hosted by the Centre for Democracy and Peace Building and Ulster Bank and included students embarking on the working world, those starting up a business, established business owners, employees and stakeholders.

Speaking at the event Junior Minister Emma Pengelly said: “We have to break down the hurdles that many women encounter in bringing their talent, determination and skills to the fore for the benefit of all the citizens of Northern Ireland. Throughout history many of our key moments have been dominated by men, now is the time for women to write the future. Let us change this world for the better. We must harness our collective intelligence, passion and compassion to make positive changes that will shape this world for good. 

“I want women to step up and realise their full potential. Judging from the energy and enthusiasm of those here today I know we are well on the way to building a better future for all women in Northern Ireland.” 

Junior Minister, Jennifer McCann added: “Today’s event on Women’s Entrepreneurship Day recognises the colossal contribution women make to commerce. 

“Commerce like politics needs diversity, fresh ideas and contributions from a wide range of people. We must not frustrate or waste the talents of women; instead we must harness talent and inspire women. 

“We must all work hard to eradicate any social or economic barriers women face. If we increase the economic and social opportunities for all women we increase the collective economic potential of society.

“I thank the Centre for Democracy and Peace Building and Ulster Bank for making today’s event happen. Events like today will excite women empowering them to be confident, ambitious and our future entrepreneurs.”

The Centre for Democracy and Peace Building launches EU Debate NI

CDPB launches EU Debate NI

Following negotiations with EU members, the British Government has committed itself to holding a referendum on the question as to whether the UK should remain a member or leave the European Union. This referendum will take place before the end of 2017.

This referendum is of huge importance to the Northern Ireland.

Given the significance of the referendum, the Centre for Democracy and Peace Building (CDPB) is launching an “EU Debate NI” programme.

The EU Debate NI will examine the potential consequences, specifically for Northern Ireland, of the UK deciding to remain in or leave the European Union. It will stimulate, through stakeholder consultation and engagement, discussion of issues that should inform the debate.

The initial consultation will draw on a briefing paper developed in partnership with academic experts from Queen’s University Belfast and University College Cork. The paper sets out questions to be considered about the consequences of the outcome of this referendum for Northern Ireland. The questions cover political and constitutional issues, key policies such as free movement and agriculture, trade and funding.

Speaking at the launch at the Great Hall, Queen’s University Belfast, Chairman of CDPB Lord Alderdice said:

“In or Out; Yes or No; whatever the result, it will arguably impact more on Northern Ireland than any other part of these islands. And yet, until now the debate in Northern Ireland has been overshadowed by other concerns. Consent is the basis of democracy and we want the decision of the people of Northern Ireland – whatever it is – to be based on ‘informed consent’. That is why we want to encourage a serious community conversation about the EU Referendum.”

David Phinnemore, Professor of European Politics and Head of the School Politics, International Studies and Philosophy at Queen’s University Belfast added:

“The EU referendum will be hugely important for Northern Ireland economically, politically, possibly even constitutionally. It raises a range of issues that simply have not featured in the wider UK debate so far and which need to be thought through, discussed and debated well in advance of citizens casting their vote to remain in or leave the EU. Today’s event is a first in stimulating that much needed discussion and debate.”

Conor Houston, CDPB Programme Director said:

“The EU Referendum is one of the most important decisions in a generation for people in Northern Ireland. The consequences of both remaining in and leaving the EU will have an impact on the daily lives of all the people here. This is why it is of vital importance that we have collective debate and it is essential that this debate is informed. We want to have an inclusive debate which engages everyone in Northern Ireland and includes our views in the UK wide debate.”

For more information please visit www.eudebateni.org.


Towards A Better Future Conference Report

The Centre for Democracy and Peace Building and Belfast Policing and Community Safety Partnership have been working for some time with DoJ and OFMDFM and other regional statutory, community and voluntary organisations in tackling hate crime.

As part of this work it became clear there was a need for greater connection and alignment between central/local government and the front line work being undertaken to tackle hate crime.

Taking into consideration the ongoing concern about increasing levels of hate crime, it was felt that the “Towards a Better Future Conference 2015” could provide an opportunity to:

  • Share learning from regional, national and international best practice
  • Showcase local good practice to a wider audience
  • Develop our understanding of the issue
  • Explore the potential for a strategic framework to connect the work at all levels

With representatives from over 65 local, regional and national organisations, the “Towards a Better Future Conference 2015” generated two days of thought provoking, challenging and inspiring discussion.  The conference format was specifically designed to connect communities with the issue of hate crime with conference sessions taking place in community venues across Belfast as well as the main conference session in Belfast City Hall.



Female Business Experts Mark Women’s Entrepreneurship Day With Special Mentoring Breakfast

TEN Northern Ireland female business experts will host a series of mentoring sessions this week to mark Women’s Entrepreneurship Day.

Hosted by the The Centre for Peace and Democracy and Ulster Bank at the Lyric Theatre in Belfast on Thursday November 19, the Business Breakfast is part of a series of global events.

Running across 144 countries worldwide Women’s Entrepreneurship Day celebrates the unwavering positivity women bring to the global economy, as well as empowering and supporting future generations.

Northern Ireland Ambassador for Women’s Entrepreneurship Day and CEO of The Centre for Peace & Democracy Eva Grosman said: “The breakfast event this Thursday will bring together influential business leaders, entrepreneurs, change-makers and social innovators to empower over 120 women in business and inspire the next generation across Northern Ireland.

Speakers at the event include media consultant Sarah Travers, Junior Ministers Emma Pengelly MLA and Jennifer McCann MLA, Shauna Burns from the Commercial Banking section at Ulster Bank and a special keynote address from a high profiled legal expert.

Shauna Burns, Head of Mid Ulster & Fermanagh Business Centre at Ulster Bank, said: “Ulster Bank is committed to supporting female entrepreneurship and this event has provided a welcome showcase for some best-in-class local businesses.

“I’d encourage anyone who has an idea to talk to us about how we can help turn their ambition into a reality. We have the people and the products in place to support women-led businesses across Northern Ireland and help to foster a culture of entrepreneurship – as we’ll see in the Women-Led Business Category at our upcoming Business Achievers Awards.”

Mentors who will be taking various sessions throughout the morning include Cathy Martin (PR and Fashion), Ellvena Graham (Banker), Jackie Henry (Accountant), Maeve Monaghan (Social Entrepreneur), Maria O’Loane (Lawyer), Nisha Tandon (Arts and Culture), Sarah Travers (Media), Suzanne Wylie (Public Sector), Sue McAllister (Prison Service) and Tina McKenzie (Business).

Find out more about Women’s Entrepreneurship Day on Thursday November 19 by logging on to www.womenseday.org, follow on Twitter @WomensEDay or join the conversation using the hashtag #WomenWOW


Belfast to mark the Women’s Entrepreneurship Day

Northern Ireland will join 144 countries across the globe to mark the Women’s Entrepreneurship Day on the 19th November 2015 as Eva Grosman, CDPB CEO has recently been appointed as NI Ambassador for this initiative.

Women’s Entrepreneurship Day celebrates the unwavering positivity women bring to the global economy, as well as empowering and supporting future generations.

To mark this occasion, The Centre for Peace and Democracy and Ulster Bank are hosting an exciting breakfast event which will bring together influential business leaders, entrepreneurs, change-makers and social innovators to empower women in business and inspire the next generation across Northern Ireland.

Following breakfast and networking at the impressive Lyric Theatre, an inspirational keynote address will be delivered by our special guest. There will be a unique opportunity to partake in our exciting ‘speed mentoring’ sessions, led by some of Northern Ireland’s most successful female leaders.

Guests will also be treated to the first screening of a specially commissioned video, which showcases talented female entrepreneurs from across Northern Ireland, sharing their advice and learnings.

There will also be an opportunity to find out more about some of the organisations who support women in business and female entrepreneurship across Northern Ireland.

Connecting us globally, inspiring us locally.


What: Women’s Entrepreneurship Day

When: 19th November 830am – 1030am

Where: Lyric Theatre, 55 Ridgeway St, Belfast, BT9 5FB

Book your tickets: https://getinvited.to/cdpb/wed/


CDPB launches EU Debate NI

In May 2015, the British Government committed itself to holding a referendum on the question as to whether the United Kingdom should remain a member of or leave the European Union, following negotiations which are currently taking place with other EU member states.

The referendum will take place before the end of 2017.

This referendum is of huge importance to the UK as a state and internationally.

The Centre for Democracy and Peace Building (CDPB) has initiated an EU Debate NI programme. It will be officially launched on 16 November 2015.

EU Debate NI will stimulate, through consultation and engagement with stakeholders, discussion of key issues that should inform debate about the consequences of the outcome of this referendum for Northern Ireland. The initial consultation will draw on a briefing paper being produced in cooperation with academic experts from Queen’s University Belfast.

EU Debate NI will carry out an examination of the possible effects of any decision to remain in or leave the EU on issues including: the Common Agricultural Policy, Structural Funding, the Environment, Peace Funding, free movement of capital, NI’s political influence in the EU, the free of movement of workers, migration, energy, higher education, employment rights, education and training, investment, trade, rights, cross-border cooperation, NI within the UK, the Common Fisheries Policy, free movement of services, relations between NI and Republic of Ireland and many other issues.

If you are interested in contributing to this EU Debate NI project or wish to find out more please contact Conor Houston at conor.houston@democracyandpeace.org
Website: www.eudebateni.org | E-mail: info@eudebateni.org | Twitter: @EUDebateNI

Conor Houston to lead the EU Debate NI as Programme Director

Conor Houston is joining the Centre for Democracy and Peace Building team as Programme Director for the “EU Debate NI”.

Conor is a lawyer, influencer, strategist, collaborator, innovator and active citizen. 

He is a graduate of the School of Law at Queen’s University Belfast and obtained his masters in International Human Rights law before studying at the prestigious European Public Law Group Academy in Greece.

In his time as a lawyer he represented clients to the Supreme Court of both the UK and ROI and was involved in high profile and pioneering cases.  He also represented his profession internationally and was the first lawyer from NI to serve on the Executive Board of the European Young Bar Association, which included speaking at a forum for young lawyers at the European Parliament and representing over 36 organisations across Europe.  Conor was the youngest solicitor to be elected to serve on the Council of the Law Society of Northern Ireland.

Conor is a Fellow of the U.S. State Department Rule of Law programme and was UK National Leader in 2015 of Team UK at the Ship for World Young Leaders programme – an international leadership and cross-cultural exchange hosted by the Cabinet Office of the Government of Japan.  The Vice-Chancellor of Ulster University hosted a honorary guest lecture delivered by Conor in recognition of this achievement.

Conor is passionate about youth empowerment and has been involved in the establishment of groups and programmes to promote new models of leadership including Young Leaders NI and Young Influencers.  He has spoken at a number of conferences and events, including the British Irish Association and was Event Manager at TEDxWomen hosted by CDPB at Stormont Castle in May 2015.

CDPB welcomes three exceptional WIP Class of 2015 students

We are delighted that 3 exceptional WIP Class of 2015 students: Lucy Jones, India Fahy and Gary Cooke are joining the CDPB for the Community Service and Advocacy phase of the programme.

For the past 20 years, WIP has supported the peace and reconciliation efforts in Northern Ireland and Ireland.

Identifying young people with a commitment to service and a track record of leadership, we build their skills through work experience, educational opportunity, and hands-on citizenship both at home and in the US.

Through these efforts, WIP is building the next generation of leaders that will achieve a peaceful, stable and prosperous future for Northern Ireland and Ireland.



Lucy is a final year law student at University College Cork, with a passion for International Law. In 2014 Lucy founded “Know Offence”, a campaign which aspires to help students affected by sexual violence. She previously interned for the Office of the Prosecutor at the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia and the Philadelphia District Attorney’s Office. She is passionate about access to justice and has volunteered for the American Red Cross providing legal advice for urban disaster survivors. She also travelled to Mexico City to volunteer for the refugee community centre Casa Refugiados. Lucy loves to debate. She served on the committee of the Philosophical Society and has represented her society internationally. She is currently an oralist on Ireland’s Philip C. Jessup International Law Moot Court team.



India is a second year Law student at the London School of Economics. She is a founding member of the newly formed Integrated Education Alumni Association, aimed at promoting the importance of integrated education to the Northern Ireland peace process. She is focused on empowering young people to shape the future of Northern Ireland, having written a column entitled ‘Class Re-Act’. This culminated in her receiving an Outstanding Contribution to Public Service Award. India remains interested in regenerating Northern Ireland and has helped to organize a number of events on the subject. India also has an avid interest in human rights, having served on both the Youth Advisory Panel and Active Members Sub Committee of Amnesty International UK.



Gary is a master’s student studying Mechanical Engineering with Business. He is currently a member of the Board of Directors for EIL Intercultural Learning and the treasurer for the Mechanical Engineering Society. Gary is a former committee member of the Literary and Historical Society, Europe’s largest student society. He contributed to the society in two different roles: Public Relations Officer for the 159th session and Schools Competitions Officer for the 157th session, for which he received the gold medal for “Outstanding Contribution to the Society”. Gary spent his third year of his undergraduate degree studying abroad in University of California, San Diego. He became actively involved in the UCSD community in his role as “Programs and Marketing Intern” within the International House, with responsibility for a number of community development programs and events.