The Office of Public Affairs of the Embassy of the United States of America and the Ireland United States Alumni Association were delighted to host Mary Harney in conversation with Áine Lawlor at UCD’s Sutherland School of Law on Wednesday May 20th. It was standing room only in the lecture theatre where IUSA members, members of Women for Election and guests gathered to hear one of Ireland’s most prominent politicans discuss her career, passions and life after politics with Áine Lawlor as a consummate host asking questions and engaging the audience in the Q and A that followed.

Mary Harney in conversation with Áine Lawlor

Mary Harney in conversation with Áine Lawlor

IUSA President Siobhán Byrne Learat welcomed all present and introduced Harney and Lawlor following a few words from event sponsors Cross Country Consulting and a warm greeting from Niamh Gallagher of Women for Election. Those present were delighted to hear Harney speak frankly about her life in politics including some of her best days and worst days, her relationship with key party members and government ministers and her experience as a woman who was active in politics since the 1980’s. Harney also reflected on the peace process and spoke candidly about her role as minister for health, offering insights in to how current issues with the health service might be addressed were the clinical champions who are working towards reform fully supported.

Her honest insights into political life and how it has changed over her career were fascinating; from how politicians are represented in the media to the fact that their personal lives and those of their families are now deemed newsworthy. Harney also offered sage advice for those considering a career in politics, advising that to stay the distance, it was worth running  and engaging on more than a single issue, that it was one of the most difficult and demanding jobs but also one of the most thrilling and worthwhile. She also shared the quote that “the worst day in government is better than the best day in opposition” – adding that it wasn’t her original. Questions from the floor covered everything from her opinion on the referendum on the age of Presidential Candidates to what advice she would give for someone considering starting out in politics.

L-R: Professor Paul O' Connor, Siobhán Byrne Learat, Áine Lawlor, Niamh Gallagher, Ambassador Kevin O' Malley, Mary Harney, Cross Country

L-R: Professor Paul O’ Connor, Siobhán Byrne Learat, Áine Lawlor, Niamh Gallagher, Ambassador Kevin O’ Malley, Mary Harney, Roderick Carmody.

Following the event guests were welcomed into the foyer of the impressive Sutherland School of Law to enjoy refreshments and further conversation and both Mary Harney and Áine Lawlor stayed on for further informal conversation. The Office of Public Affairs of the Embassy of the United States of America and the Ireland United States Alumni Association are most grateful to Harney and Lawlor for giving of their time so generously and graciously, to Prof. Paul O’ Connor and the Sutherland School of Law for being so accommodating and to Cross Country Consulting for their sponsorship and support.

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Mary Harney is a former Government Minister (Department of Environment, Department of Enterprise and Employment, Department of Health and Children) and was the first woman Deputy Prime Minister and leader of a political party in Ireland.

She retired from politics in 2011 and is now a director of a number of private companies and a business consultant. Harney chairs the steering group of a 22 country European Sustainable Healthcare project that recently produced a White Paper “Roadmap to Sustainable Healthcare”. The project is sponsored by Abbvie. She is a member of European Board of “Vital Voices”, is a board member of the Hospice Foundation of Ireland and is chair of Amber, a research centre in Trinity College Dublin.

The Prominent Alumni Lecture Series (PALS) is a joint initiative between the U.S. Embassy and the Ireland United States Alumni Association that highlights Irish alumni who have participated in U.S. government sponsored educational and professional exchanges over the past 60 years who have gained prominence in their field of work or study. Previous PALS speakers have included Minister Frances Fitzgerald, Minister Leo Varadkar, Alice Maher, An Taoiseach Enda Kenny, Gay Byrne and Shane de Blácam.

This event was kindly supported by CrossCountry Consulting.

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For more, visit their website here.

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