In 1998, the Good Friday Agreement brought a formal end to the Troubles, the decades-long sectarian conflict between British loyalists and Irish nationalists in Northern Ireland. Three years later, with the wounds of the last century still fresh, Fordham Law School brought a group of American law students and professors to Belfast to begin a summer program that would build relationships between Fordham, Northern Ireland, and the Republic of Ireland.
Since 2001, the Belfast/Dublin program has grown, and this summer, it will celebrate its 20th anniversary. On February 12, Fordham Law School hosted a reception that brought together nearly 100 alumni and faculty to honor the connections the program has forged, which are stronger than ever. Members of every class of the program, from 2001 through 2019, attended.
“It was a critically important bridge after the Good Friday Agreement that brought together Queen’s University and University College Dublin in the first partnership between a university in the North and one in the Republic to work on a common educational ground that forms bonds and connections that help constitute the fabric of the Agreement,” explained Dean Matthew Diller, addressing the attendees.
Maxwell Sivin ’03 and Glen Gardner ’02 participated in the program during its inaugural year. “We met on the program, and we’ve been friends for 20 years,” said Sivin.
“We had the honor and pleasure of Senator George Mitchell coming into class and talking about the whole peace process,” Gardner continued. To celebrate the program’s anniversary, Mitchell, who was instrumental in negotiating the Good Friday Agreement, will return this summer as an honored guest.
Colleen Corriston, Suzanne Parrish, and Lauren Parra (all class of 2015) met during the 2013 program after their first year of law school. “Leaving 1L year, the Ireland program was such a breath of fresh air,” remembered Corriston. “It really reenergized my passion for the program and for Fordham Law.”
Key to the success of the program is the ongoing role of its founder, Norris Professor Law and Dean Emeritus John Feerick ’61, whose work in Northern Ireland began in 1994.
“John Feerick is not just the brains of the program, but the heart and soul of it,” said Michael W. Martin ’92, director of the Belfast/Dublin Program. “He works every single day with each participant to make sure that the relationship that began in Ireland remains strong.”
Diller spoke about how the program has evolved since its inception and how that evolution has contributed to its continued success.
“The Ireland program is another example of the genius of John Feerick. It works on so many levels for so many different people,” he said. “He has allowed others in our community to step up into leadership roles and develop the program in their vision. It is not just an idea from 2000 that we’ve continued to do over and over again; we have reinvented it a number of times and brought it in new directions.”
In recognition of Feerick’s leadership and vision, University College Dublin will bestow an honorary degree on the former dean, who attends the program every summer and keeps in close contact with all of the Belfast/Dublin alumni.
“As I approach my 84th birthday, I’m starting to think about slowing up a little bit,” joked Feerick.