7th President of Ireland, Chair of The Elders, and former UN High Commissioner of Human Rights Mary Robinson, United States Ambassador to Ireland Claire Cronin, and Executive Producer, Playwright, and Award-winning Actor Geraldine Hughes were feted as the 2024 Nollaig na mBan (Women’s Christmas) inductees to a fellowship that includes luminaries like former President Mary McAleese, Former US Ambassador to the UN Samantha Power, Editor in Chief of Glamour, Samantha Barry and Playwright, Producer, & Showrunner of Derry Girls, Lisa McGee.
Said President and CEO Mary Sugrue, “The Partnership’s reimagination of this old-world tradition remains true to the heart of the holiday—an enthusiastic celebration of women, their strengths, their dedication, and their dreams. For more than a decade we have proudly reclaimed Nollaig na mBan as an opportunity to recognize women’s leadership and its indelible impact in our communities and our world.”
In a frank and warm conversation with media powerhouse and Irish native Samantha Barry, Editor-in- chief of Glamour, Mary Robinson discussed President Biden’s trip to Ballina, climate change, immigration, and the importance of women leaders in public life. “I’m not just encouraging individual women, I’m encouraging critical masses of women in senates, in parliaments, that’s what’s needed,” she said, continuing, “I would love to see a world where more women were in high office.”
United States Ambassador to Ireland Claire Cronin spoke about her journey to and time as Majority Leader of the Massachusetts House of Representatives. Responding to BBC News’ Caitríona Perry’s description of her as ‘the most powerful person you may have never heard of’, Ambassador Cronin said, “There was a bit of fanfare when I was named the Chair of the Judiciary Committee... but I’ve always been a worker, it’s in my nature. When mentoring young Reps that came in after me I’d always say, be the workhorse, not the show horse.”
More than 800 attendees came to the event series, with conversations led by CNN journalist Donie O’Sullivan in Boston, and BBC News Washington’s Caitríona Perry in Washington, D.C. In conversation with O’Sullivan, honoree Geraldine Hughes said, “The definition of success for me is the ability to give back. It gives me so much joy to go home [Belfast] now, to go back to the schools with integrated education, and the Goliath Trust – they are my focus now.”
These celebration events were well-characterized by Caitríona Perry in Washington, who said “So many women like myself have decided to wear the green today, because I think Nollaig na mBan marks an end to Christmas and a celebration of all that hard work, but also it’s like a kick-off to the St. Patrick’s Day season!”
In honor of these vanguards of womens’ leadership, the Irish American Partnership donated grants totaling $30,000. $10,000 was gifted to the Mary Robinson Centre in Ballina, Co. Mayo. The Centre is Ireland’s first Presidential Library and Museum which will serve as a permanent reminder of female leaders in Ireland’s history and will be an educational resource for students across the Globe.
$10,000 was donated to Scoil Eoghan in Moville, County Donegal, the homeplace of Ambassador Cronin's forebears, through the Partnership’s hallmark O’Neill School Grants program, and another $10,000 was sent to the Integrated Education Fund in Northern Ireland, in honor of Belfast’s own Geraldine Hughes.
These programs were selected for their transformative impact on young people and and communities and further the Partnership’s priority campaigns: targeted impact grants to schools, university access scholarships, supporting cross-community initiatives, integrated education and peace and reconciliation initiatives in Northern Ireland, and education centers for homeless youth.
“We are committed to supporting young people across Ireland on their educational journey, investing in Ireland’s future as we have done for almost 40 years,” said Chairman of the Partnership, Michael T. Clune, at the Chicago reception.
For more on these events please visit www.irishap.org/events-digest