Irish-US relations celebrated at Golden Bridges Awards
20 November 2017
Inishowen flood relief campaigner Declan Houton, organiser of the ‘Homes for Donegal’ fundraising campaign, has claimed the prestigious Person of the Year Award at the Golden Bridges Awards Luncheon in Boston this week.
The Nerve Centre’s John Peto was also among the winners as he received the Education award for his Fab Foundation project that develops local young people’s skills in digital manufacturing while the Vice President of Campsie based Bemis Company Inc, Marty Scaminaci, received the award for Commerce.
The Awards were part of the Golden Bridges Conference, the climax of the joint Derry/Strabane Donegal trade mission to Boston and seek to honour those forging transatlantic partnerships between Ireland and the US.
Speaking at the event at the Seaport Hotel in Boston, Mayor of Derry City and Strabane District Council, Councillor Maolíosa McHugh, who presented the Education award to Neil Gershenfeld on behalf of John Peto, congratulated all the winners.
“The Golden Bridges awards were a fitting climax to our week long trip in Boston and a great way to honour the dynamic relationships being forged in the various community, business, education, arts and culture initiatives in Ireland and the US.
“I was particularly pleased for the local winners among the honourees who have carried out tireless work to improve the lives of people on both sides of the Atlantic and maintain the close ties between our regions.
“The Golden Bridges Conference that preceded Friday’s awards was an ideal forum to showcase our region, share ideas and discuss how best to progress the transatlantic relationship between Boston and the North West of Ireland.”
Among the other Golden Bridges honourees were Director of the NI Bureau Norman Houston who received the Peace and Reconciliation award, Maureen Coyne Norris from the Maine Irish Cultural Centre who was recognised for her services to the diaspora while The Dave Burke Award went to Bob Collins of the Ancient Order of Hibernians.
Representative Mary Keefe from Worcester, MA received the services to Irish American politics award while the award for Irish Literature went to Dr Kelly Matthews, Associate Professor of Literature at Framington State University.
The morning’s conference saw officers from Ulster University, Letterkenny IT and the North West Regional College join representatives from Harvard in a panel discussion on the benefits of a strategic alliance between the three further and higher education providers in the region and the increasing partnerships with Boston-based colleges.
Delegates heard from Derry City and Strabane District Council Chief Executive John Kelpie and Donegal County Council Chief Executive Seamus Neely who discussed Ireland's role as America's Best Friend in Europe.
Officers from both Councils also discussed 'Driving Tourism to the North West through World Class Events' and 'Helping Start-ups Survive and Thrive'.
The North West delegation, which included 15 local companies and was led by Mayor McHugh and Leas Cathoirleach of Donegal County Council, Councillor Noel Jordan, returned to Ireland on Saturday and work will begin this week on building on the strong connections made during their week in the US.
Follow up projects include a first ever trade and investment delegation trip to Pennsylvania in the summer following a successful meeting with Mayor of Philadelphia Jim Kenney last Monday.
The packed week long itinerary included a meeting with the President of the Worcester Chamber Tim Murray, Irish Consul-General Fionnuala Quinlan and members of the Massachusetts House of Representatives.
Several networking engagements took place including an Ireland North West Showcase event and an Invest NI Breakfast with Ireland’s Ambassador to the USA Daniel Mulhall and key influencers in the Boston area.