The Washington Ireland Program Class of 2023 was launched at a special event in Washington, DC on Thursday, March 16.
Taoiseach Leo Varadkar, US Special Envoy to Northern Ireland for Economic Affairs Joe Kennedy III, and Head of the Northern Ireland Civil Service Jayne Brady were on hand for the launch event.
The new Washington Ireland Program class will see 30 high-potential emerging leaders from Northern Ireland and Ireland venture state-side this summer as part of the prestigious transatlantic program.
For almost three decades, the Washington Ireland Program (WIP) has played an important role in post-conflict Northern Ireland and Ireland by bringing together leaders from a wide range of communities and backgrounds for outstanding leadership and skills-development programs. WIP’s aim is to support, inspire and develop leaders who are committed to building a future of peace and prosperity for Northern Ireland and Ireland.
The WIP Class of 2023 have already demonstrated their leadership potential, have a strong track record of service, and are committed to building a bright future for the island of Ireland. A third of the students come from economically disadvantaged backgrounds and will receive full scholarships to participate.
WIP now counts over 800 Alums who have consistently delivered on their early promise. They include Leo Varadkar (WIP 2000), the youngest Taoiseach in Ireland’s history; Claire Sugden (WIP 2010), who was appointed at the age of 29 as Northern Ireland’s Minister for Justice; and other rising stars like artist Adrian Margey, Queen’s University Belfast Heaney Fellow, Tara McEvoy, and tech entrepreneur Aidan Corbett.
Previous students have had work placements in the offices of then-Senators Barack Obama, John McCain, and Hillary Clinton.
Prior to his arrival at the White House, the Program has been applauded by President Joe Biden in 2016 as an example of the “special” relationship between Ireland and America.
Notable Program alums also include six Stormont representatives including David Brooks MLA, Matthew O’Toole MLA, and the outgoing Patricia O’Lynn MLA who took part in a panel discussion at the launch event sponsored by Honeywell.
Speaking at last week's launch, Taoiseach Varadkar said: “The Washington Ireland Program was a very formative experience for me. It has grown substantially since I participated in 2000, but the steadfast values of leadership and service have remained. The lessons young people learn and the experiences they gain, give them the tools they need to make a positive change in society.
“I’ve had the pleasure of seeing participants take elected office, gain positions of responsibility, lead successful businesses, and advocate for those without a voice.
“WIP is making a real difference, and I am proud to announce the incoming Class of emerging leaders.”
Special Envoy Kennedy said: “The Washington Ireland Program is an integral part of the special relationship between the United States, Northern Ireland, and Ireland.
"The United States is dedicated to Ireland’s growth, prosperity, and peace. As we approach 25 years of the signing of the Belfast/Good Friday Agreement, The Washington Ireland Program ensures that we have the leaders who are ready to shape the next 25 years of the relationship between the US and the island of Ireland.
“The leadership skills these young people will learn is vital to unlock the potential of Northern Ireland and Ireland. What we need now, more than ever, is young people who embody the program’s values of humility, respect, service, and co-operation.”
Honored to speak with dynamic young leaders from Northern Ireland and Ireland at @WIPLive class launch. These leaders—all born after Belfast/Good Friday Agreement – are the innovative leaders that will shape the next 25 years of peace and prosperity in Northern Ireland.— Joseph Kennedy III (@USEnvoyNI) March 16, 2023
Brady added: “We look to the younger generations to bring fresh perspectives on the issues we face. The Washington Ireland Program, supported by the Northern Ireland Bureau, gives our emerging leaders the skills they need to prepare them to take on the big challenges that lie ahead.
“Peace has brought prosperity and economic development to Northern Ireland that 25 years ago was largely unthinkable. It is these young people who will devise the plans for another 25 years to make Northern Ireland a great place to invest, work, and live.”
Nicola Skelly, Executive Director of the Washington Ireland Program, said: “We are thrilled to launch the WIP Class of 2023 today in Washington DC with our special guests. Over the year ahead, these emerging leaders will develop their leadership skills through personal development, policy debate, work placement opportunities and service. They will have unparalleled access to global leaders through our Speaker Series and will be challenged to develop ambitious ideas to shape the future of the island of Ireland.
“The relationships these young people will build with each other, and the broader WIP community will be formative in their lives, and we are proud to be part of their leadership journey.”