Strengthening UK-Ireland ties

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Thought provoking speakers and a series of superb historical venues were the highlights of the ‘Gathering’ of the IWF UK and IWF Ireland members in Dublin last week (7th - 9th June). The main theme was “Strengthening Connections in a Disrupted World’ and a wide topical and cultural agenda was packed into a day and a half.

A welcoming reception at the National Gallery of Ireland was hosted by IWF Ireland President Margaret Sweeney and IWF UK Chair Julie Goldstein. Later art experts showed us some of the Gallery’s treasures including works by Caravaggio and Vermeer. Next morning, we were at Trinity College, Dublin founded by Elizabeth 1 in 1592. We sat at tiered wooden desks, where generations of students had carved their initials, to hear Professor Jane Grimson, Fellow Emerita and Pro Vice Chancellor, to talk about the huge difficulties in realising the potential for using IT in health care. The UK is not the only country that has failed IT health programmes. Obstacles include privacy issues and the “explosion of knowledge” that is making it hard to keep up. Dr Michelle Cullen, MD of Accenture, spoke about empowering girls and women to become the future leaders of the digital era. Both sessions stimulated challenging question and answer sessions from IWF members.

The stunning surroundings of Iveagh House, once the home of the Guinness family and now home to the Irish Foreign Office, was the setting for a discussion about Brexit. Speakers included Catherine Day, former Secretary General of the EU Commission, and Sarah Tiffin, deputy Ambassador at the British Embassy in Dublin. The UK’s vote for Brexit as described as “devastating” given the longstanding economic and emotional ties between Ireland and the UK. More positively, much of the subsequent round table discussions centred on practical ways of continuing and building on the relationship between our two countries.

The finale to the day was a splendid dinner in what used to be the Irish House of Lords and is now the Bank of Ireland. It was hosted by Helen Nolan, the Bank’s group secretary. The Bank’s John McGrath, gave us a highly entertaining, whirlwind history of the building and indeed shenanigans of the old Lords themselves in the in the eighteenth century. Looking to the future, we were delighted to round off the evening with an address by our guest at the event IWF president Teresa Weintraub. The gathering was fascinating, it was fun and to cap it all we had a heatwave in which to enjoy exploring the beautiful city of Dublin. Whatever the challenges ahead, this event was an overwhelming IWF success. Thanks to Shelly in Dublin and Liz in London and the working groups of both IWF Ireland and IWF UK for delivering such a great event.

Sue Cameron

Dublin June 2018

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