The Washington Ireland Program (WIP) have honoured two of Northern Ireland’s leading advocates for social justice and peace building at their annual Ball.
Minister of Justice for Northern Ireland Claire Sugden MLA and social entrepreneur Lisa Dietrich have been awarded the “Spirit of WIP” awards for their contributions to society and to their respective fields. The awards are testament to them representing the values of WIP; they demonstrate decisive leadership in careers rooted in public service.
Both Claire and Lisa received the ‘Spirit of WIP’ Award, and an original painting by WIP Alumnus Adrian Margey. Claire was presented ‘Dunluce Dreams’ by WIP Board Member Roger Downer, while Lisa was presented with ‘Under Slieve Gullion’ by Chris Lyttle MLA (WIP Class of 2002).
Speaking ahead of the awards presentation WIP’s Executive Director Bryan Patten said: “Claire and Lisa represent WIP’s core values of bold leadership combined with a long term commitment to public service. Both have shown a dedication to their work that goes far beyond normal professional commitments and that typifies the ethos our program works so hard to cultivate.”
Accepting the award, Lisa spoke of the practical experience of peace building – bringing students, parents and teachers together to listen, to share and to understand. She spoke of the risks for all involved to bring about real change – to truly try to challenge your preconceptions, to forgive and to create new bonds. Their innovative Buddy System has created new relationships and understanding between students, families, schools and communities.
Introducing Claire, Roger noted her meteoric rise in politics – being appointed as Minister for Justice for Northern Ireland at the age of 29. Roger also spoke of Claire’s connection with WIP, firstly as a student in 2010 and then as a manager and mentor in 2012.
Accepting the award, Claire thanked all at WIP for the recognition – equating the award as on a par with being elected and being nominated as Minister. Claire described herself as a reluctant Minister – attracted not by the status of the role for herself, but for the impact it could have on her constituents and for the people of Northern Ireland. She challenged all WIP Alums to consider what they could achieve by focusing on delivering change for others.
WIP is currently searching for exceptional college and university students from across Northern Ireland and Ireland to join their Class of 2017, including a summer of personal and professional experience in Washington DC. Applications close on December 1.