Fordham Law Professor John Feerick ’61 will receive the inaugural Belfast Homecoming Ambassador Medal and deliver a speech on the U.S. Constitution and the 25th Amendment during the fifth annual Belfast Homecoming Conference, held Nov. 28-30 in Northern Ireland.
Feerick, the first born of Irish immigrants from County Mayo, Ireland, will be one of 50 outstanding individuals honored at the Homecoming Banquet on Friday, Nov. 30. The awards banquet will recognize members of the global family, such as Feerick, who have gone the extra mile for Belfast and local heroes who are building international bridges to the diaspora. In addition, Feerick will speak during the Belfast Homecoming Conference’s Legal Symposium about his scholarship on U.S. presidential succession and his longstanding ties to Belfast on Thursday, Nov. 29.
For the past quarter century, Feerick has played an important role in bringing together people from Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland. While dean of Fordham Law, Feerick organized skills training at Fordham for citizens of different traditions in Northern Ireland in the mid-1990s, joined President Clinton’s November 1995 delegation to Belfast, Derry, and Dublin and secured an agreement between Fordham Law and a leading academic institution in the North (Queen’s University Belfast) and the South (University College Dublin). Since the Belfast/Dublin Summer Program’s founding in 2001, more than 600 Fordham Law students have studied international law and conflict resolution in Ireland with their Irish peers.
“To me, the Belfast Homecoming Ambassador Medal represents a tangible expression of the wonderful relationship that exists between Fordham Law School and Ireland,” said Feerick, who served as the Law School’s dean from 1982 to 2002. The medal is also significant, he added, because offering assistance in resolving seemingly intractable disputes in Northern Ireland provided him “meaning beyond words” and allowed him to realize a dream held by his parents of a more peaceful culture for Ireland.
Earlier this year, Fordham Law held an event marking the 20th anniversary of the Good Friday Agreement, which quelled decades of sectarian conflict in the Northern Ireland. While Northern Ireland is often praised for its scenic beauty, its people also possess a similar splendor, according to Feerick. He recalled meeting numerous judges, lawyers, and citizens there over the past two decades who were dedicated to conflict resolution in the legal system, schools, the workforce, and communities of the country. Fordham’s “grassroots” efforts contributed to transforming the North from a society of conflict to one of peace, Feerick said.
Feerick’s contributions to Northern Ireland symbolized the convergence of three key aspects of his life, said Professor Michael W. Martin ’92, director of the Belfast/Dublin Summer Program. Those three aspects were: Feerick’s goodness and service-minded ethos; his passion for his parents’ homeland, the island of Ireland; and his extraordinary facilitation skillset honed as a private lawyer before he moved to academia.
Niall Murphy, a partner with KRW Law LLP, the largest human rights practice on the island of Ireland, nominated Feerick for the Belfast Homecoming Ambassador Medal. One year prior, Murphy informed the American Bar Association in a letter recommending Feerick for the ABA Medal, the organization’s highest honor, that Feerick’s Belfast/Dublin Summer Program “builds community, trust, and understanding, and, in a not-so-small way, contributes to peace-building in the North.”
“As a citizen of Ireland, much less a practicing lawyer, I am indebted to Professor Feerick for the patience, skill, experience, wisdom and human dignity that he has invested in our society, at a time when the impartiality of an international jurist was so greatly needed, when our peace was embryonic, fragile and in need of safe hands and honest integrity,” Murphy wrote to the ABA in 2017.