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Class of 2018 Arrives in Ireland




September 2017:  The 18th Class of George J. Mitchell Scholars has arrived in Ireland.  The group gathered in Dublin to kick off the year.  A reception was held at the Royal Irish Academy in Dublin, where more than 100 guests turned up to meet the Scholars.  There is always an eclectic mix of people at these receptions, and this year was no exception. 

Spotted in the room were several alums of the program who now live on the island; John & Rae Gallagher (the Doyle Collection is a long-time supporter of the Alliance); execs from Morgan Stanley (sponsors of the Scholarship); and Larry O’Grady of the Department of Education and Skills.  Several representatives of Irish universities, and representatives of Sonru were spotted – Sonru provides the video component of the Mitchell application process, and this has led to US university business for the Irish company. 

Alliance president and founder, Trina Vargo, met earlier with John Deasy, the Government’s envoy to the US Congress.  At the reception were Fianna Fail TD and Education Committee member, Fiona O’Loughlin; Liz O’Donnell, former PD Minister of State and current Director for Policy for MSD (Merck); and former Minister for Education Ruairi Quinn, now the Chairperson for the Institute of International and European Affairs.

Mary Calpin and Paul Hayes, hosts of the annual Mitchell Thanksgiving dinner, were spotted chatting with Neil Leyden and Tara Peterman of RTE, and journalist/entrepreneur Mark Little.

The legal profession was well represented by Supreme Court Justice Donal O’Donnell; Michel Collins, SC; barristers Brian Barrington (also a member of the US-Ireland Alliance board) and Frank Kennedy; and Ruth Shipsey (formerly of Hayes Solicitors; current CEO of Medisec Ireland and also a board member).

Those in film and media included Baz Ashmawy, whose TV show 50 Ways to Kill Your Mammy won the International Emmy Award for Best Non-Scripted Entertainment award. 

Tara Flynn, Carl Austin, Steve McCormack, author Julia Kelly, filmmaker Nick Kelly, Oonagh Desire from the Abbey and many of the Alliance’s Cultur Club members, including Shane Perez and Alan Keane who are behind The Green List.  Screenwriter Conor Ryan’s script for The Secret Market -- a Martina McGlynn/Garret Daly, short -- recently won the  Grand Jury Prize for Best Screenplay at the Rhode Island International Film Festival.  Conor stopped by before heading off for LA for a screening of the short at Irish Screen America Los Angeles. 

Vargo introduced the Scholars and gave guests an update on the US-Ireland Alliance, the Scholarship program and the Oscar Wilde Awards, which will be held next in March 2018 at J.J. Abrams’ Bad Robot.

The following morning, diplomats at the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade briefed the Scholars on Ireland-US bilateral relations, Brexit, the Northern Ireland Peace Process and Ireland’s decade of commemorations. 

The class also visited the Dublin Writers Museum on Parnell Square for a tour of Ireland’s literary history. 

Then the class headed west for a visit with the Benedictine monks at Glenstal Abbey.  Mark Patrick Hederman has welcomed the Mitchell Scholars for nearly 20 years (we can’t thank Chuck Feeney enough for first introducing Patrick to Trina).  Patrick showed the Scholars Glenstal’s Russian icon chapel after Brother Anthony gave a tour of the grounds.  Scholars also met several of the monks for tea and scones and the incredible  Noirin ni Riain sang for the Scholars.  Noirin is part of the family – her son Owen married a Mitchell Scholar!   The Scholars also took in vespers which feature the Gregorian chants of the monks of Glenstal. 

The Scholars wrapped up their weekend with a visit to Kilmainham Jail with Sean MacCárthaigh, Director of Public Affairs at the Arts Council and another long-time friend of the Alliance.