The Iveagh Scholars Programme is a week long experience run by the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade for TY students from the Republic and fifth year students from Northern Ireland. Thirty students are selected each year through an essay/video competition and one entry is permitted from each school on the island of Ireland.
The theme for 2016 was “Honouring our past and imagining our future”. For my entry I decided to write an essay in the form of a letter which was addressed to the future generations of Ireland. In this letter I spoke about Ireland’s rich history as well as the events that are being commemorated in 2016 such as the centenaries of the 1916 Rising and the battle of the Somme and the 60th anniversary of Ireland joining the UN. I then discussed how we can learn from our past in order to build an even brighter future. It was a huge honour both to be selected to represent Newbridge College in the competition and to be accepted into the programme.
The programme took place from the 4th to the 8th of April in the Department of Foreign Affairs offices in Iveagh House on St. Stephen’s Green. The week was packed full of exciting activities, talks and trips. Most of the activities and talks were held in the ballroom where JFK and his wife Jackie were hosted during their state visit to Ireland in 1963. We started off the week with a visit to the printing rooms of the Irish passport office, a Protocol exercise and a tour of Iveagh House and gardens on Monday. On Tuesday morning we met the Secretary General of the Department who invited us into his office, took part in a Consular Exercise and organised a mock press conference. Then some participants, including myself, were interviewed by RTE and appeared on the news that evening. In the afternoon we attended talks by speakers from the UN and the Defence Forces. After that we were put into groups for a trade exercise and had to make a sales pitch to the heads of Glanbia, the Kerry Group, Fáilte Ireland, Enterprise Ireland and the Irish Tourism Board.
On Wednesday we went on a trip to Belfast which was the highlight of the week for me. First we visited the Museum of Orange Heritage and attended a talk held by members of the Orange Order. I thought this was very interesting as it opened my eyes to how we can understand and find common ground with people who have completely different points of view to us which is what diplomacy is all about. We were then invited for lunch at the Irish Consulate and received a talk from the First Secretary there about how our relationship with Northern Ireland has changed and how we have achieved and are maintaining peace on our island. After that we visited the Cupar Way Peace Wall and the murals there. We then went on to visit an inter-faith community centre run by the 174 Trust and talked about healing sectarian divisions and our shared identity as Irish people. The students from Northern Ireland brought a very different dynamic to the trip as the issues we discussed on that day were very relevant to their everyday lives. I learned so much on that day about the importance of tolerance and seeing the positive change that has been achieved on our island in the past few decades made me really proud to be Irish.
On Thursday morning we visited the headquarters of Irish Aid and learned about the different aid projects run by the Irish government in developing countries such as Malawi and Kenya. We also met Charlie Flanagan, the Minister for Foreign Affairs, and were allowed to go into his office and have a look around. After lunch we were divided into five groups and each group was sent to a different foreign embassy in Dublin. My group visited the Brazilian embassy and received a talk from the Brazilian ambassador to Ireland. I thought this was a great experience because before then I didn’t know very much about Brazil as a country or their diplomatic links with Ireland.
On our final morning we were divided into different councils for a model UN exercise and had to represent the country whose embassy we had visited on those councils. I was put on the Human Rights Council and we worked on the Universal Periodic Review. Representing Brazil on this council was challenging but very enjoyable. When our last activity was over we attended a reception hosted by the Minister for Foreign Affairs and the Secretary General where we were awarded certificates of participation and each received gift bags. These included an individual letter written by a diplomat telling us the story of how they got into their career and giving us advice should we choose a career in diplomacy. My letter was from a lady called Isobel O’Connor who is currently serving as the Deputy Consul General of the Consulate General of Ireland to Hong Kong and Macau.
During my week as an Iveagh Scholar I learned a huge amount about diplomacy and the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade that I never knew before. I also developed my public speaking, team work and problem solving skills and met lots of lovely, like-minded people that I will definitely keep in touch with. I am now seriously considering studying International Relations at university. I could not recommend the programme enough to future TYs who are interested.
By Olivia Daly