The Political Leaders program, which began Monday and runs until Oct. 5, combines campus lectures and seminars with visits to the Massachusetts Statehouse and, beginning today, to Washington, DC. The participants - from Great Britain, Ireland, Northern Ireland, Scotland and Wales - have the opportunity to discuss professional issues with politicians and public officials, and gain insights into the American political system.
By doing so, said Irish Institute Director Sean Rowland, the UK and Irish politicians can learn how to be more effective in formulating or influencing policy.
"There is little being done to educate and support people entering the political arena," said Rowland. "This program, and others the institute is sponsoring and developing, seek to address that need.
"Thanks to our previous and ongoing initiatives, such as the Northern Ireland Assembly Transition Program, the Irish Institute has gained valuable experience working with Irish and British political leaders," Rowland added. "We look to build on that work and provide something of long-lasting value to those who will be active in their countries' political and civic leadership."
Prof. Marc Landy (Political Science), who crafted the program's academic component, added that the institute is continually striving to support the Northern Ireland peace process, and strengthen the region's socioeconomic development.
"This is a tremendous moment to promote dialogue among the different political leaders, and at the same time extend it beyond Ireland and Northern Ireland," he said. "There are issues of common concern to all political parties and our goal is to get them talking about them.
"These political leaders will see another model of government, from which they may draw some important lessons," continued Landy. "It is easy for us as Americans to take a jaded view of our political system, but it serves as a great example of how diverse views and constituencies can, in the end, come together."
As a prelude to the program, Rowland traveled to Oxford University in England last weekend for a meeting with participants, which included talks on different systems of government, federalism, campaign financing and United States-European Union programming.
On Tuesday, the participants' first full day in Boston, they attended a morning seminar on the United States government given by Assoc. Prof. John Tierney (Political Science). Later that day, they toured the statehouse and held discussions with Massachusetts House of Representatives Speaker Thomas Finneran, and state senators Steven Tolman and Stephen Lynch.
The UK and Irish politicians have also attended seminars on executive development, communication strategies and conflict management during their time at Boston College.
For its final phase, the program shifts today to Washington, DC, where participants will meet with National Security Council European Desk Director Richard Norberg, House International Relations Committee Chief Counsel John Mackey, and staff from the offices of congressmen Richard Neal (D-Mass.) and Peter King (R-NY). Among the topics covered in these and other sessions during the remaining days of the program will be press relations, lobbying, fundraising and House-Senate differences.
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