Governments, civic society and philanthropists must remain focused on achieving a normalised society in Northern Ireland, Kieran McLoughlin, president and chief executive of the Worldwide Ireland Funds has urged.
Mr McLoughlin was commenting as more than 120 philanthropists from around the world gathered in Belfast for the annual conference of the Worlwide Ireland Funds.
Delegates travelled from 22 cities in 9 countries including the United States, Australia, Singapore and China. All are committed philanthropists who are already supporting the charity sector in Ireland, North and South.
The Worldwide Ireland Funds are a philanthropic network across 12 countries that have raised over $480 million for worthy causes in Ireland and Irish causes around the world. It was founded as the Ireland Fund in 1976 by Sir Anthony O'Reilly and Pittsburgh businessman Dan Rooney, a former US ambassador to Ireland. It has supported more than 3,000 organisations.
Mr McLoughlin said that though the peace process had “slipped from the radar” of many people, the visit of the philanthropists demonstrated their commitment to “doing our bit” to bring the process to a successful conclusion.
"The peace process is just that, a process not an event and all of us - governments, civic society and philanthropists - must remain focused on achieving a normalised society in Northern Ireland, " he added.
So far this year the fund has distributed $16 million to support various projects in Ireland, while on this trip the fund is donating $1 million to Co-operation Ireland. Its chairman Christopher Moran said the grant was a "phenomenal boost" for the organisation.
“This will enable us to significantly enhance our cross-community programmes and it also complements Co-operation Ireland’s role in helping facilitate the normalisation of formal relationships between the UK and Ireland,” he said.
The Worldwide Ireland Funds in the face of the economic downturn in Ireland has striven to maintain philanthropic interest in Ireland.
In 2009 it launched the Promising Ireland Campaign to raise $100 million for charities experiencing an increased demand for their services at a time of a major reduction in resources. It actually doubled its goal by raising £200 million.
Fund delegates were welcomed at a dinner hosted by the Northern Secretary Theresa Villiers at Hillsborough Castle on Wednesday night. Pianist Claire Bowes who was blinded by the Omagh bombing in 1998 gave a performance during the function.
Delegates today visited several of the organisations and projects the fund has supported over four decades.
These included Ardoyne Holycross Boxing Club, Cinemagic, Integrated Education Northern Ireland, the Linen Hall Library, Queen's University, the Lyric Theatre and Young Enterprise Northern Ireland.
First Minister Peter Robinson and Deputy First Minister Martin McGuinness entertained delegates to dinner at Stormont Castle tonight while tomorrow, fund members will discuss how to "best meet ongoing need in Ireland North and South".