On 18 April 2019 Ulster University gave an Honorary Degree to Congressman Dr Richard Neal for his services to contribution and promotion of peace in Northern Ireland. The Chair delivered the encomium for Congressman Neal at the event. The degree was conferred upon him by Vice-Chancellor and President of Ulster University, Professor Paddy Nixon at a ceremony attended by Speaker of the United States House of Representatives, Nancy Pelosi. As a supporter of the University’s John Hume and Thomas P O’Neill Chair in Peace at the Magee campus and its work since 2015, Congressman Neal addressed students and staff.
The event took part as part of a larger Congressional delegation visiting the border and seeking to gain greater insight into the state of the peace process and Brexit in particular.
On 16 November 2018, the Chair hosted a seminar on the Magee Campus that focused on “Civil Rights: Lessons from Ireland and US”. It was a timely seminar in that it considered over 50 years on what had been achieved in since the civil rights movements in the US and also in Ireland.
The main speaker at the seminar was Andrew Williams, Director of HECUA. HECUA (Higher Education Consortium for Urban Affairs) trace back to the 1968 unrest in North Minneapolis following the assassination of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. The urgency and turbulence of the situation prompted Ewald (Joe) Bash, National Youth Director of the American Lutheran Church, and Joel Torstenson, an Augsburg College sociology professor, to build a unique program for college students to understand the nature of the urban crisis. INCORE, under the management of the Chair, partners with HECUA each year to teach and place US students in Derry-Londonderry each year.
To this end, Andrew made the perfect speaker to reflect on the ongoing challenges, particularly in the US, with regard to race. A black person is killed by the state or state-sanctioned violence in the US every 28 hours noted Andrew. One of the most striking quotes Andrew spoke to and developed was ““…because white men can’t police their imagination, black men are dying” (Claudia Rankine, Citizen: An American Lyric).
On the day Professor Paul Arthur, Professor Emeritus of INCORE and Ulster University, also shared his views and personal experience about the civil rights movement in Northern Ireland. He responded to Andrew’s talk noting that rof Paul Arthur says three words that stuck out were “wounded justice”, “indifference” and “mid-wife”. The hope lies in the growth of civil society that can be the “mid-wife” entrenching civil rights.
As part of the Donegal Diaspora Awards, the Chair hosted a lunch and discussion with former Governor O’Malley, one of the 2018 recipients of the Donegal Diaspora Award. Governor O’Malley served as the 61st Governor of Maryland from 2007 to 2015, and was also previously the Mayor of Baltimore from 1999 to 2007. The Governor addressed senior business officials and local politicians . The group was also addressed by Tom O’Neill. The event provided a fascinating insight into the current state of US politics.