Political and Civic Leaders graduate from prestigious Fellowship programme

Fellows attended sessions online and in Belfast, Dublin, and Oxford as part of the programme backed by prominent Northern Irish business leaders

Leaders in civic society, business, and politics in Northern Ireland have graduated from the Centre for Democracy and Peace Building’s prestigious new Fellowship programme at a ceremony held at Hillsborough Castle.

The Fellowship aims to support, develop, and build the capacity of Northern Ireland’s political and civic leaders, with its first programme concluding at the Hillsborough Castle graduation ceremony. Through collaboration across the political, local government, business and civic society realms, the Fellowship seeks to spark new conversations that realise Northern Ireland’s potential for progress and innovation.

This year’s Fellowship gave 22 mid-career leaders the opportunity to engage with leading policymakers, business leaders, and public figures, and sought to develop their understanding of how to tackle pressing social, political, and economic issues here. The programme’s Advisory Board, which includes prominent Northern Irish business leaders, curated sessions seeking to re-imagine leadership in Northern Ireland, with Fellows also attending sessions at the internationally renowned Blavatnik School of Government at the University of Oxford and the UCD Michael Smurfit Graduate Business School in Dublin.

Featuring a video address from Irish Foreign Affairs Minister Simon Coveney TD, the graduation ceremony gathered esteemed business and political leaders from the UK & Ireland to mark the end of the first Fellowship programme. Attendees also heard from John Healy, Fellowship Advisory Board Chair and Vice President of Allstate NI, Professor Karise Hutchinson, Advisory Board Vice Chair and Professor at Ulster University, and others including Fellow Dominic O’Reilly.

The Fellowship is delivered by the Centre for Democracy and Peace Building (CDPB), working with key stakeholders and facilitators from the business sector and leading academic institutions. The programme is supported by Allstate NI, Devenish, FinTrU, Fujitsu NI, Ulster Carpets, the Irish American Partnership, and the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade.

Irish Minister for Foreign Affairs, Simon Coveney TD, said:

“Congratulations to the Fellows who have graduated from this programme. The pandemic has continued to create uncertainty for all of us, and it is a great achievement to have brought it to this milestone.”

“The Fellowship has provided participants with opportunities to talk about key issues that are important to their communities and the space to think about the kind of leadership that’s needed to work through them. I am glad that my department’s Reconciliation Fund has been able to support this important work.”

“At times, it’s so easy to focus entirely on differences and divergence. When we spend time with each other, we can recognise the greater agenda of things where we’re all working to the same goals. I would like to thank both the Fellows and the Centre for Democracy and Peace Building for their extraordinary work in these challenging circumstances.”

John Healy, Managing Director at Allstate NI and Chair of the Fellowship Advisory Board, said:

“I was thrilled to speak at the Fellowship graduation ceremony in what was a special ceremony held at Hillsborough Castle. This event celebrated the success of the first Fellowship programme which we hope will give our mid-career political and civic leaders the knowledge, skills, and relationships they require to lead Northern Ireland into the next decade.”

“This year’s Fellows have been a credit to themselves and their organisation throughout the programme. Their open-mindedness, diligence and determination led to invigorating conversations on the collective challenges we face in Northern Ireland and beyond. On behalf of the Advisory Board, I would like to thank them for their hard work over the course of this year’s Fellowship, and I look forward to seeing what each Fellow is set to achieve as their career progresses.”

Karise Hutchinson, Professor of Leadership at Ulster University and Vice-Chair of the Fellowship Advisory Board, said:

“It has been both an honour and a privilege to serve as Vice Chair of the Advisory Board for this year’s Fellowship programme. When we set out in this journey, we wanted to start a new conversation in Northern Ireland, one that explores the Spirit of Possibility and the new, innovative method of thinking we need to meet the challenges of today. With thought-provoking discussions throughout, each Fellowship filled me with optimism that Northern Ireland’s future leaders can navigate us through the complexity we are facing in the years to come.”

“I was very proud to congratulate this year’s Fellows at the graduation ceremony, and I wish them all the very best as they continue to work for their organisation or community.”

Dominic O’Reilly, Centre for Democracy and Peace Building Fellow, said:

“Since the start of the Fellowship programme in September, I have found myself developing and growing in ways which I had not anticipated, learning and unlearning, challenging, and validating. While each Fellow comes from a diverse background, we all share a common goal and purpose: to make this place we each call home better, for everyone.”

Julie-Anne Corr-Johnston, Centre for Democracy and Peace Building Fellow, said:

“I am very proud to be a graduate of the first Fellowship programme. I have formed what would be unlikely friendships and have grown to value difference. Each event, speaker, and discussion throughout this year’s Fellowship has continually shown the value of collaboration to address the challenges we face in Northern Ireland.”