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Vol 38  No 6
November 24, 2005




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Strengthening the Irish connection

By Pamela Gill

Walter Kirwan, vice-chair of the Ireland-Newfoundland Partnership, details learning vacation opportunities.


Partnerships between Grenfell College and its Irish counterparts got another endorsement when Walter Kirwan, former assistant secretary-general to the Taoisech, visited the Corner Brook campus earlier this month.

Mr. Kirwan is vice-chair of the board of the Ireland-Newfoundland Partnership, the public/private entity established in 2001 by the Government of Ireland to co-ordinate cooperation between the two governments and jurisdictions. Mr. Kirwan is in Newfoundland on a Coracle Fellowship in Political Science.

The Coracle Irish-Newfoundland Fellowship program was announced in January 2005 by Dr. Axel Meisen as part of Memorial’s commitment to strengthening links between Ireland and the province of Newfoundland and Labrador. The program is intended to promote exchanges in all areas relevant to the Irish-Newfoundland relationship and will support significant periods of residence by individual fellows.

The Coracle Fellowship initiative draws its name from the sailing craft that was supposedly used by the legendary sixth-century monk St. Brendan the Navigator, who is reputed to have sailed from Ireland to Iceland, Greenland and perhaps as far as the island of Newfoundland. While St. Brendan’s voyage cannot be confirmed, his legendary voyage was replicated in 1976 by the adventurer Tim Severin, and his hardy craft and determination now provide a metaphor to an initiative celebrating the spirit of a province that has navigated the stormy waters of economic survival and cultural identity.

Since his arrival in Newfoundland, Mr. Kirwan has spent a significant amount of time at Memorial University, contributing to university-level courses in the Department of Political Science and delivering guest lectures on subjects ranging from European affairs, Northern Ireland affairs, diplomacy and conflict resolution, and economic policy.

On Nov. 18, he toured Grenfell College and met with a number of employees to discuss ways of increasing the already well-established connections between Newfoundland and Ireland.

“We discussed transportation issues, tourism opportunities, learning vacations and research opportunities in areas such as ocean mapping, coastal zone management and environmental monitoring,” said Dr. John Ashton, principal, Grenfell College.

Mr. Kirwan pointed to opportunities in the arts that Newfoundland and Ireland must build on.

“I see value in an arts and culture exchange for its own sake,” he said. “Both sides have performers, artists and musicians ­ more than in most populations.”

Mr. Kirwan said it should come as no surprise that Newfoundland and Ireland are working towards partnering on these and many other areas.

“Statistically, Newfoundland is the most ‘Irish place’ outside of Ireland,” he said. “Newfoundland is like a long-lost cousin.”


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