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Bound for Ireland

May 27, 2010
This Friday I will be boarding a red-eye flight from Toronto’s Pearson airport. My final destination: Northern Ireland.
Young Ambassador Program participants / Photo Credit: St. Patrick CentreAs I mentioned on Tuesday's Perspectives, I am one of ten lucky candidates sponsored by the St. Patrick Centre to take part in their Young Ambassador Program. The St. Patrick Centre is located in Downpatrick, right next to Down Cathedral and the burial site of St. Patrick, the patron Saint of Ireland. It is an inspiring place that makes many things possible for the people of Ireland and for visitors, as well.
In my research of Northern Ireland, I have learned a great deal of background, not just on the history of St. Patrick, but on the much more recent history and issues concerning Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland today. Northern Ireland and the Republic are currently experiencing a very positive and productive peace process after decades of military, political and social conflict. The turmoil experienced in Ireland is often referred to as 'The Troubles'.
The signing of the Good Friday Agreement in 1998 marked a change for the people of Ireland. The document was created to address the relationships within Northern Ireland, between Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland, and the relationship of both parts of Ireland to England, Scotland and Wales. The St. Patrick Centre is a model for the peace process. It is a place that uses the example set forth by St. Patrick to initiate discussion and reconciliation amongst various groups, such as Catholics and Protestants.
To quote their website:
It is the only permanent exhibition in the World dedicated to Ireland's Patron Saint and one of the top tourist destinations in Ireland. [...] As a non-profit organization we provide reconciliation education programs to thousands of children in Northern Ireland every year as well as running cross border and international youth programs.
Credit: St. Patrick Centre, Northern IrelandThe Young Ambassador Program is a fairly new initiative that began in 2007. I am fortunate enough to be the first Canadian selected to participate in the two week program. I'll be joined by other young adults from the United States, with whom I'm looking forward to sharing this experience.
We've been granted this remarkable opportunity to connect face-to-face with people from Northern Ireland and learn more about its rich history. The aim of the Young Ambassador Program is to forge lasting ties between us participants and Northern Ireland. The hope is that we will take our experiences back home with us and serve as representatives of Northern Ireland's culture and history.
I'm thrilled and honored to be able to represent Northern Ireland in Canada and talk about the work of the St. Patrick Centre. You can follow me during my time there, as I'll be writing blogs and sending occasional video for S+L's Perspectives, daily edition. Your comments are always welcome and appreciated!
See you in Ireland!

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