The IF’s mission is “to be the largest network of friends of Ireland dedicated to supporting programs of peace and reconciliation, arts and culture, education and community development throughout the island of Ireland.” Over the years, I think they have accomplished this in an impressive fashion. They have been around for over 35 years and currently have chapters around the globe. Since 1976 they have raised over $430 million dollars for these great programs and are one of the largest private funding sources for programs on the island of Ireland.

I have been a sponsor of the Ireland Funds for several years now and am constantly impressed with the caliber of the leadership, especially with the Regional Director in Dallas, Netta Blanchard. Netta has been the driving force behind the Dallas chapter for several years now leading them to become one of the biggest contributors to the fund while developing into one of the most well respected. Unfortunately, she is retiring soon, but I know her replacement will exercise the same passion and commitment Netta has shown in her leadership role. She leaves a wonderful legacy within the IF community as well at all those individuals and groups she has influenced in Ireland and beyond.

The annual golf tournament Netta and the Dallas chapter stages is very impressive. They arrange a tournament format that is positioned for some good healthy competition while encouraging great camaraderie and amusement. They have ten teams of American players competing against ten teams of Irish players vying for the Waterford Crystal Celtic Harp trophy. Winners and losers alike enjoy themselves immensely, but needless to say, egos are dashed and inflated over course of the day depending on how the teams place.

For those of you who know me, the arts are held close to my heart, so I know the contributions of the Ireland Funds are making a difference in not just my hometown of Belfast, but the whole of Ireland. Education, arts and culture and community development are key to ensuring the retention of Irish traditions, music, theater and film, which is vital to the people of the Emerald Isle and Irish across the world. I feel fortunate to provide all that I can to such an admirable cause and will continue to do so. My heartfelt thanks go out to the Ireland Funds’ Dallas chapter as well as the entire organization.

I hope that the Irish will come to fully understand all the Ireland Fund has done to contribute financially to their country. I also believe the Irish have so much to contribute to the rest of their world. The Educo Seminars have been so instrumental in my success, which has such support from groups of Irish citizens! If Educo could expand its reach into the American market, so many people would be positively impacted.

Chairman, BNE/INE