Tánaiste Leo Varadkar and Biden campaign manager Jen O’Malley Dillon launched the application period for the 2021 Washington Ireland Program (WIP) to a live virtual audience on both sides of the Atlantic on December 10. 

Both Varadkar and O’Malley Dillon have strong connections to the Washington Ireland Program with the Tánaiste securing a place as a participant in 2000 and O’Malley Dillon serving as a current board member at the same time as running Joe Biden's presidential campaign.

During the virtual event on December 10, O’Malley Dillon commented: “I am thrilled to be part of the team launching the latest application process for the WIP Class of 2021.

"These have been really challenging times and the team adapted wonderfully when it became clear that covid was going to force the program to go virtual earlier this year."

She continued: “This program assists in the development of some really fantastic and dedicated young leaders who are committed to public service in their local communities, but also at a higher level when they begin to understand what role they can play with their talents and interests.

“This is also the prime opportunity to reinforce the need to bring forward more young female leaders. This program provides that equal opportunity for those with the ability and ambition to accelerate their development to bring them to the next level.”

“My call is for more young women to take the step forward, get their application into the program for the 2021 intake, and position themselves to take on the future.”

Tánaiste Leo Varadkar said: “One of the most formational experiences of my life was in 2000, when I participated in the Washington Ireland Program.

"Since then, I have been a strong advocate for what it sets out to achieve – developing leaders from all communities and backgrounds on our island. I continue to see many of WIP’s alumni taking elected office and positions of responsibility, leading successful businesses, and advocating for those without a voice in our society. This program is making a real difference and I will continue to support it.”

“Covid has provided an extraordinary challenge for us all, but it has also reaffirmed the purpose of the Washington Ireland Program. We must continue to build the skills of emerging leaders from across our island, to connect them with others, and to help them develop ambitious ideas for our future.”

“It is a pleasure to be asked to launch the search for the new WIP Class alongside Jen O’Malley Dillon and I also wish her every success in her post Presidential bid endeavours.”

Bryan Patten, Executive Director of the Washington Ireland Program added: “It is fantastic when we can call upon Jen and Leo – who are long term supporters, and indeed, shapers of the Washington Ireland Program - to launch the opening of applications for the 2021 intake, they are both great examples of values-driven leadership.”

“There are pressing questions facing all our futures, issues such as social equality, responding to climate change and sustaining our democratic institutions. We are looking for ambitious and driven third-level students who are interested in building their skills and networks, and shaping how we respond to these questions for Northern Ireland and Ireland.”

“Due to the challenges of the pandemic, we will continue to use technology to deliver the 2021 program. Whether students are in Cork or Coleraine, they will be able to gain professional experience, speak with global leaders, and design ambitious ideas to drive our island forward.

"When the restrictions allow, we will also gather the Class for in-person events in Belfast and Dublin, bringing over senior US leaders to spend time with the students. This hybrid program also means that, for 2021 only, the program will be fully accessible to students who are studying part-time degrees, diplomas, and certificates.”

WIP provides participants with the opportunity to work in the likes of the US Congress, high profile companies, and major advocacy organisations. During their 9-month programme, participants take part in a leadership development curriculum, engage in conversations with global leaders across a wide variety of sectors, and connect with mentors to work on personal and professional development.

For the past 26 years, WIP has invested in over 730 emerging leaders across Northern Ireland and Ireland. Due to the global pandemic, the program went online in 2020. The program will continue in a hybrid version in 2021, with remote working opportunities and with in-person events planned with senior US leaders in Dublin and Belfast for 2021.

To learn more about the Washington Ireland Program and how to apply for the 2021 session, visit the WIP website here.