Thirty years after EF’s historic Single-Area Program brought together Fellows from Ireland’s North and South, 14 new Eisenhower Fellows arrived in the U.S. from the Island of Ireland in May 2019. Amid the chaos and uncertainty of Brexit, the departure of the United Kingdom from the European Union that threatens to unravel the peace that has held for more than two decades, seven fellows from the South and seven from the North followed in the footsteps of their predecessors from EF’s 1989 Irish Fellows. The 1989 Fellows were the change agents of their day. Several went on to play key roles in the Northern Ireland peace process, culminating in the 1998 signing of the Good Friday Agreement that brought peace and stability to the Island and led to a new level of trust among its people.
Bridging three decades, several of the Fellows spent their six-week fellowship exploring solutions to the myriad uncertainties surrounding Brexit and the social, political, economic and border-control challenges facing Ireland and Northern Ireland. The Philadelphia Inquirer featured the 2019 Island of Ireland Program in a column by Trudy Rubin in early May, highlighting the historic contributions of the 1989 Fellows and the work that remains, now in the hands of the 2019 Fellows.
The Fellows met in Monterey, California for a mid-program retreat and then in Chicago during the last week of their fellowship for a deep dive into Ireland’s past and future. Eisenhower Fellows Paddy Teahon (Ireland ’89) and David Lavery (Northern Ireland ’89), both of whom were instrumental in the Good Friday Peace Agreement negotiations in 1998, spoke about their own fellowship experience 30 years earlier. Katy Hayward (Northern Ireland ’19) and Sonja Hyland (Ireland ’19) addressed the current situation on both sides of the Irish border and how the 2019 Fellows felt a responsibility to continue this legacy in light of Brexit. The evening’s discussions embodied the long-term impact that an Eisenhower Fellowship can have, across decades and borders.