Preserving the link between Irish Americans and the drumbeat of their homeland would reap benefits for Ireland, Moët Hennessy USA chief, Jim Clerkin, has told a Belfast audience.

Picking up the “Spirit of the Diaspora Award” at the recent annual Belfast International Homecoming in the Titanic Museum, Clerkin told his audience that he remained “fiercely loyal” to his Northern Irish roots.

Now, president of the $1.6 billion U.S. arm of the luxury goods company LVMH, Clerkin started his career with Guinness in Belfast.

“I feel obliged as a member of the diaspora to help Northern Ireland and Belfast in particular,” he told 200 guests at a business luncheon highlight of the Homecoming.

“I believe that it is imperative for people as fortunate as myself to share any insights or experience in order to advance this important agenda.

“To quote Mary McAleese, the former Irish President who hails from Belfast, our diaspora spirit ‘marches to the beat of two quite different drums, one from the old homeland and one from the new.’”

Clerkin urged the power-sharing Executive at Stormont to foster closer working relations.

“We all need to continue working together to invest in Northern Ireland’s reconciliation and lasting peace,” he said.

“We all need to be fiercely loyal to each other and to remain connected at home and in the diaspora.”

In his role as head of Co-Operation Ireland in the U.S., the Rostrevor, County Down native takes students from the North to his New York headquarters each year.

“As a member of the diaspora, I see it as very important to connect the ambitious young men and women from Belfast with Irish America — and vice versa.

“I, therefore dedicate this award to all the Irishmen and Irishwomen, North and South, living in the diaspora. May their spirit keep on beating the drum of the homeland.”

Over 600 people took part in activities during the Belfast International Homecoming where guests included John Lahey, President of Quinnipiac University in Hartford, CT, President of the Irish Network USA, Steve Lenox, as well as the Mayor of West Allis, WI, Dan Devine, and New York-based businesswoman, Suzanne Aquino.

This article first appeared in the Irish Echo. For more stories, visit their website