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Friday 22 September 2017

US Secretary of State John Kerry 'deeply honoured' to receive prestigious Tipperary Peace Prize

Secretary John Kerry. Photo by Mohammed Elshamy/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images
Secretary John Kerry. Photo by Mohammed Elshamy/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images
Ralph Riegel

Ralph Riegel

US Secretary of State John Kerry admitted he was “delighted and deeply honoured” to receive the prestigious Tipperary Peace Prize at a gala ceremony today.

Mr Kerry (72) arrived to accept the award in Tipperary amid tight security by both armed garda units and the US Secret Service.

Access to the event, at the Glen of Aherlow in south Tipperary, was strictly by invitation only.

Mr Kerry, who flew into Shannon Airport this morning, was welcomed to Ireland by Foreign Affairs Minister Charlie Flanagan.

Both later staged a bilateral meeting at which UK’s ‘Brexit’ or exit from the EU dominated discussions.

Mr Flanagan focused on the implications for the Republic and Northern Ireland of any ‘hard Brexit’ which could involve changes to cross-border trade arrangements.

The Northern Ireland peace process was also discussed.

The US had repeatedly urged the UK to remain within the EU.

However, migration and the ongoing crisis in Syria were also raised.

Mr Flanagan, speaking in advance of the Tipperary discussions, said he was delighted by the visit.

“While I have had the opportunity to meet with Secretary of State Kerry on several occasions, this is my first opportunity to welcome him to Ireland, and to the beautiful Glen of Aherlow, for bilateral discussions," he said.

“We will be discussing developments in the Northern Ireland peace process, and I am pleased Secretary Kerry will be joined at the meeting by Senator Gary Hart, his special envoy to Northern Ireland.”

“We will also talk about the exit of the United Kingdom from the European Union and will be discussing developments in the Middle East, specifically in Syria.”

“As regards bilateral issues between Ireland and the US, I intend raising the issue of immigration reform in the United States, including relief for the undocumented Irish in the US and greater opportunities for Irish citizens to migrate to the US.”

Mr Flanagan attended the awards ceremony where Mr Kerry received the prestigious Tipperary Peace Prize.

However, five Irish peace groups had opposed the award presentation amid criticisms of US foreign policy, particularly in the Middle East.

The Massachusetts politician was presented with a special piece of crystal by master craftsman, Fred Curtis, who designs the award each year.

Mr Kerry has been US Secretary of State for the past four years and, in 2004, was the Democratic presidential candidate.

The prize ranks as Ireland’s outstanding award for humanitarian work.

The award scheme was founded in 1984 and has been given to some of the world’s leading politicians, civil rights campaigners and charity workers.

The decision to found a peace prize was sparked when a group of locals realised that the World War I song, ‘It’s a Long Way to Tipperary’, written by Jack Judge, had left Tipperary internationally associated with conflict.

For the past 32 years, the Tipperary Peace Convention has worked to honour those who devote their lives to ending conflict and promoting human rights.

Pakistani teen Malala Yousafzai was the 2013 recipient.

The 2011 award winners were President Mary McAleese and her husband, Sen. Martin McAleese, for their outstanding work to promote peace and

reconciliation in Northern Ireland.

Other award winners over the years have included US President Bill Clinton, former South African President Nelson Mandela, Live Aid founder Bob Geldof, former Pakistani President Benazir Bhutto, former Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev, the late Sen Edward Kennedy, former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani, and Afghan human rights campaigner, Dr Sima Samar.

The inaugural recipient of the award was the late Sean McBride.

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