Politicians from across the community spectrum have joined business and civic leaders in Northern Ireland in a peace-building initiative.
Twenty-five leaders from different sections of society have been selected for a fellowship programme run by the Centre for Democracy and Peace Building.
The programme will involve the participants engaging with policymakers, academics, business representatives and other public figures on social, political and economic challenges facing Northern Ireland.
The fellowship is supported by some well-known names from the region’s business sector, including Allstate NI, FinTrU, Devenish, Fujitsu NI and Ulster Carpets.
The programme is also supported by Ireland’s Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade and the Irish-American Partnership, as well as local academic institutions.
Now in its second year, the six-month programme will see the fellows undertake workshops and training in Belfast, Dublin and Oxford.
The fellows were unveiled during an event at Parliament Buildings in Belfast on Tuesday.
The chairman of the Fellowship Advisory Programme, John Healy, from Allstate NI, addressed the event.
“This is an incredible group of talented participants selected for this year’s fellowship programme,” he said.
“As we begin the second cycle of this programme – and the first without the political institutions in place – it is critical that these fellows are well equipped to provide leadership skills to tackle and navigate us out of the significant number of problems we are facing here in Northern Ireland.
“The chosen 25 candidates will be joined by a group of business, political and civic society leaders throughout the next six months, who will assist with the formation of the strategic leadership tools and techniques required to overcome the obvious hurdles in front of us.
“We need to invest in our potential game-changers right now and this fellowship is a purposeful way of making that happen.”
Karise Hutchinson, professor of leadership at Ulster University and vice-chairwoman of the Fellowship Advisory Board, said: “Given our troubled past in Northern Ireland, and the current political paralysis, we often neglect to be ambitious for the future.
“The fellowship programme seeks to continue the conversation about what good leadership is, one that explores the possibilities of what a forward-thinking society looks like.
“As we move towards the 25th anniversary of the Good Friday Agreement, this is a prime opportunity for renewal and to help develop those ambitious young leaders that will be taking on these challenges.
“I am proud to be supporting the launch of this year’s fantastic programme alongside my colleagues on the advisory board.”
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