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US Congress invited to invest in a forward-looking Northern Ireland that is reaping peace dividends

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Queen’s University Belfast

14th Mar 2024

A highly influential audience of leading lawmakers and industry leaders have been urged to invest in the opportunities that 25 years of peace has created in Northern Ireland through Queen’s University Belfast.


Secretary of State for Northern Ireland, Chris Heaton-Harris, was in attendance alongside Congressman Richard Neal, who was hosting the event, as well as Jonathan Powell, former Downing Street Chief of Staff, under British prime minister Tony Blair, during the Good Friday Agreement negotiations, and former Irish ambassador to the UN David Donoghue, who was a key figure in peace negotiations over 25 years ago.


The Congress event included an in-conversation segment with US Presidential Envoy, Congressman Joe Kennedy III, and two budding women entrepreneurs from Queen’s University Belfast, Emma Stephenson and Khaula Bhutta.


Heading up the delegation and speaking to the packed room, Queen’s Vice-Chancellor Professor Sir Ian Greer said:


“I’m delighted to speak to members of Congress about the economic opportunities that Queen’s and indeed Northern Ireland has to offer them, as we reap the dividends of peace 25 years on.


“A constant and stable presence in Northern Ireland over the last 180 years, through seismic political, constitutional, and societal change, Queen’s alone has been the catalyst for hundreds of start-up companies, forming part of the university’s £3.2 billion contribution to the local economy. This shows the fertile economic landscape that is post-conflict Northern Ireland and the opportunities to be seized.”


Congressman Kennedy said:


“Queen’s University is a preeminent institution with its history, present and future critical to Northern Ireland’s success because it’s an extraordinary organisation that is educating the next generation of leaders, not just in Northern Ireland but around the world. The discovery that is taking place there and the innovation that is taking place there is going to drive discovery, help create cures and solve problems.”


The event, organised by Queen’s in partnership with Irish American Congressman Richard Neal, was attended by representatives from the US Government and industry.


Congressman Neal, who holds an honorary degree with the University, talked about the role the University has played in Northern Ireland as well as what the future looks like.


Congressman Neal said:

I am so grateful for the role that Queen’s and its academics have played in enabling people to have honest conversations – bringing many different sides of the conflict together, not just in an academic sense, but also in what’s the future going to look like.

I think the genius of the people who live across the north of Ireland has been profound and we are reminded how well they’ve done in America when they’ve come here. The entrepreneurship, creativity, innovation, generationally, means they are really well-placed for the future.”


This event is part of a series of events to mark St. Patrick’s week, with Professor Richard English from The Senator George J. Mitchell Institute for Global Peace, Security and Justice at Queen’s leading discussions around the findings of academic research conducted at the university which provide a greater understanding of the promise and pitfalls of peace-making in the 21st Century.