This week Ireland President Michael D. Higgins presented a Peace Building Award to former U.S. Congressman Bruce Morrison to kick off Drew University’s peace tour in Ireland.
The award comes from Drew’s Center on Religion, Culture & Conflict and reflects the significance of the role that Morrison played in the “Good Friday” peace process.
The center, which was established in 2007, promotes cultural and religious understanding and, with the help of Drew’s Caspersen School of Graduate Studies, launched a Transatlantic Connections Conference in Ireland three years ago. The conference is growing via probing panel discussions, keynote addresses and the peace tour, which recognizes global leaders with the CRCC Peace Builder Award. Past winners include Irish Central founder Niall O’Dowd and Eyewitness Bloody Sunday author Dan Mullan.
This year’s winner helped secure a U.S. visa for Sinn Féin’s Gerry Adams, which facilitated negotiations that culminated in an historic peace agreement in 1998. That happened after Morrison left Congress in 1990 and joined Americans for a New Ireland Agenda.“Basically, Morrison was the one who got Bill Clinton involved,” said CRCC Director Jonathan Golden, who participated in the Jan. 10 ceremony as a prelude to the Transatlantic Connections 3 Conference, which runs from Jan. 13 to Jan. 16. “So, in that sense, he played a pivotal role in the whole peace process.”
As for Higgins, Golden described him as a leader of integrity who is honest and “very involved in justice issues.” The CRCC director added that Higgins has a high regard for Morrison and may have learned of the CRCC through past conferences in Ireland.“Last year, Sinn Féin Vice President Mary Lou McDonald gave the award to the famous journalist Niall O’Dowd,” Golden said. “There was also a surprise visit from the former taoiseach or prime minister. Bertie Ahern just kind of showed up and sat in the back. But people heard that he was there. All of this has contributed to Drew’s growing reputation in Ireland.”
About 200 are attending this year’s conference, which features the likes of Ulster Unionist Party leader Mike Nesbit, Irish historian Turtle Bunbury and Boston Globe journalist Kevin Cullen. Authors Michael Patrick MacDonald and Elizabeth Osta also are speaking. As with 2015’s conference, this four-day event is hosted by the Institute of Study Abroad Ireland in Bundoran, County Donegal.