Thursday 23 November 2017

Ruth Dudley Edwards: Terry's star turn shows the triumph of Ireland Fund

Rich diaspora helping the poor is a winning formula.

Sir Terry Wogan with Ruth Dudley Edwards, who hosted the evening
Sir Terry Wogan with Ruth Dudley Edwards, who hosted the evening
Ruth Dudley Edwards

Ruth Dudley Edwards

Sir Terry Wogan, a founder member of the Ireland Fund of Great Britain (IFGB), was the star speaker on Friday night at the celebration at the Reform Club of its 25th anniversary. In the course of a typically self-deprecating and amusing speech, he spoke seriously about "the wonderful idea" of Sir Tony O'Reilly's that was the IFGB, and of its "magnificent" work for Ireland, which had begun during a difficult period when IRA bombs were killing innocent English people.

The extraordinary success of the Worldwide Ireland Funds is inadequately appreciated in Ireland. In 1976, it was the example of worldwide Jewish charities that inspired the then senior Heinz president, Dr Anthony JF O'Reilly, to set up the Ireland Fund in Boston, in partnership with Dan Rooney (president of the Pittsburgh Steelers Football Team and later ambassador to Ireland).

The purpose was to pursue in Ireland, north and south, the three goals of "peace, culture and charity". These days there are Ireland Fund chapters in Australia, Canada, China, France, Germany, Great Britain, Ireland, Japan, Monaco, New Zealand and Singapore, which between them have raised more than $450m for 1,200 organisations. Sir Anthony remains chairman of the Worldwide Ireland Funds.

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