Ambassador Catherine Campbell welcomes SLIP

Four SLIP members visit Sierra Leone to celebrate 25 years since SLIP was founded:

The delegation comprising Fr. Austin Healy CSSp, Mr. Frank Roden, Geraldine and Jim Owens returned from a most informative, enjoyable and consequently worth while 2 week trip on the 17th November.  They travelled to many parts of the country including Bo, Kenema, Pendembu, Makeni, Sewafe, Yengema, Koidu and Freetown.

When they visited Freetown they were kindly invited by Ambassador Campbell for dinner at her residence.  They were joined for the occasion by 2 members of the Spiritan congregation Superior Fr. John Fella and recently ordained Fr. Emmanuel Bureh.

The Ambassador congratulated SLIP for continuing to support links between the 2 countries. Discussions were wide ranging, with the visitors who were ‘old handers’ in Sierra Leone telling stories of past experiences and exploits while the Ambassador also shared some stories of her immersion into her new post in recent months.

The Ambassador posted  congratulations to SLIP on the Twitter account, details of which can be found on the link below:

Congrats @followSLIP on 25 years of SL-Ireland partnership – lovely evening celebrating anniversary visit to SL

SLIP congratulates Sr Mary Sweeney- PDSA 2016

News Published on 

2016 Presidential Distinguished Service Awards for the Irish Abroad Recipients announced by Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade, Mr Charles Flanagan, T.D.

The Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade, Mr Charles Flanagan, T.D., has announced the names of the recipients of the Presidential Distinguished Service Award for the Irish Abroad for 2016.

The Presidential Distinguished Service Award was established by the Government following the 2011 Global Irish Economic Forum as a means to recognise the contribution of members of the Irish diaspora and the first awards were made in 2012.

Nominations are made by Irish communities abroad through Ireland’s network of Diplomatic Missions.
Announcing the recipients of the 2016 Awards, Minister Flanagan said:
“I am delighted that once again we have the opportunity to recognise some of the finest members of our diaspora for their contribution to Ireland, the Irish community abroad and Ireland’s reputation. In the ever changing world we live in, this remarkable group of individuals have been a constant beacon for Ireland and the values we hold dear.
“This year, for the first time Awards will be presented in the category of Science, Technology and Innovation, reflecting both the important place of this sector in our dynamic economy and Ireland’s track record of achievement in this area. Receiving an Award in this category is Garret FitzGerald who, in his role as a globally recognised research physician and scientist, has continued to be an active member of our diaspora and is closely engaged in facilitating scientific endeavour in Ireland.
“This year’s recipients also include the late Sir Terry Wogan who will receive a posthumous award. Through his long and universally acclaimed broadcasting career, he always reflected all that is good about Ireland and the Irish community in Britain.”
Minister for Diaspora Affairs and International Development, Joe McHugh T.D, added:
“This year’s Presidential Distinguished Service Award recipients signify the breadth and richness of our diaspora. They include those working with the most marginalised and vulnerable, those who have become the voice for those who have none.
“Through their work as community activists for many years in New York, Brendan Fay and Kathleen Walsh D’Arcy have secured rights and recognition for LGBT members of the Irish community. And, in the very challenging environment of Sierra Leone,
Sr. Mary Sweeney has worked tirelessly for local communities and most recently she has played a significant role in coordinating a response to the Ebola epidemic.”

The full list of recipients of Presidential Distinguished Service Awards in 2016 are:

Arts, Culture and Sport
Angela Brady (UK)
Terry Wogan (Deceased – UK) – presented posthumously

Business and Education
Robert Kearns (Canada)
Gerald Lawless (UAE)

Charitable Works
Norman McClelland (US)

Irish Community Support
Nora Higgins (UK)
Brendan Fay (US)
Kathleen Walsh D’Arcy (US)

Peace, Reconciliation and Development
Martin Von Hildebrand (Colombia)
Sr. Mary Sweeney (Sierra Leone)

Science, Technology and Innovation
Garret FitzGerald (US)

The Awards will be presented later this year by President Higgins.

Press Office
17th September 2016

Note for Editors

The Presidential Distinguished Service Award for the Irish Abroad is neither to be an honours system nor does it confer any legal entitlements upon the recipients.

In order to be eligible for consideration, nominees must be habitually resident outside the island of Ireland and are required to satisfy the following additional requirements:

(i) have rendered distinguished service to the nation and/or its reputation abroad;
(ii) have actively and demonstrably contributed to Ireland and/or its international reputation and/or Irish communities abroad in at least one of the categories listed above;
(iii) have a track record of sustained support and engagement with Ireland and/or its international reputation and/or Irish communities abroad over a period of not less than 5 years.

The scheme is managed by the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade and a High Level Panel was established to make recommendations to Government. This Panel includes: Mr Niall Burgess, Secretary General of the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade (Chair), Mr Martin Fraser, Secretary General of the Department of the Taoiseach; Mr Art O’Leary, Secretary General to the President; and four representatives from the non-Government sector- Ms Sally O’Neill Sanchez, Prof Declan Kiberd, Mr Kingsley Aikins and Fr Bobby Gilmore.
Nominations were made by Irish communities abroad through Ireland’s network of Diplomatic Missions.

2016 Recipients

Arts, Culture and Sport

Angela Brady (UK)
Angela Brady is a Dublin-born architect, TV broadcaster and former President of the Royal Institute of British Architects. She is currently Director of London based Brady Mallalieu Architects. She was made a British Council Ambassador to Vietnam for Innovation and Design and has also worked with the British Council in the Near East. Angela promotes architecture on TV, radio and in publications.
She is very active in the Irish community, particularly among the business networks, promoting Irish business and design talent. Ms Brady also made a significant contribution to the success in Britain of the Year of Irish Design 2015.
Terry Wogan (Deceased) (UK) – presented posthumously
Sir Terry Wogan was a universally-known Irish broadcaster who spent most of his career with the BBC. He passed away in January 2016. Throughout his career, he was a respected and loved representative of the Irish in Britain. The reaction to his death highlighted the significance of his contribution to the community, particularly in the 1970’s and 1980’s.
Sir Terry’s rise to the highest ranks of broadcasting in Britain was recognised when he received a knighthood in 2005.

Business and Education

Robert Kearns (Canada)
Robert Kearns is a key figure within the Irish community in Toronto and has been instrumental in creating the Ireland Park Famine Memorial Park along the quayside in Canada’s largest city. He is now engaged in creation of a new memorial in Toronto, Grasset Park, to commemorate the Canadian medical staff who died administering to the Famine Irish.
Mr. Kearns is a successful business man and member of the Global Irish Network. He has assisted a number of Irish firms enter the Canadian market, including providing free office space for one such company. He chaired the Ireland Fund of Canada for six years and helped raise funds for integrated education in Ireland.

Gerald Lawless (UAE)
Gerald Lawless has had a distinguished career in the hospitality sector in the United Arab Emirates, serving as CEO of the Jumeirah Group for 18 years and is a member of the Global Irish Network. This year he was appointed Chairman of the World Trade and Tourism Council.
Throughout this time he has played a leading role in the emergence of a strong, vibrant Irish community in Dubai. As a prominent member of the wider Dubai business community Gerald has used his position to advance Irish interests e.g. making it possible to “green” the Burj Al-Arab Hotel. He is currently Vice-President of the Dubai Irish Business Network.

Charitable Works

Norman McClelland (US)
The son of Irish emigrants, Norman McClelland, is a businessman and philanthropist based in Phoenix, Arizona. His philanthropic endeavours have spanned the creation of one of the largest urban parks in the world; through sustained support for the St. Mary’s food bank, to whom he gives 80,000 pounds of food per month; and donating the college of management to Arizona State University; to the building of the Phoenix Irish Centre, Library and Genealogical Centre.
A member of the Global Irish Network, Mr. McClelland is proud of his Scots Irish heritage, with roots in Newry, and works hard to support an open and accepting Irish identity, inclusive of all the traditions of the island.
Irish Community Support

Nora Higgins (UK)
Nora Higgins was born in Milltown, Co. Galway, and immigrated to Britain in 1955. She trained as a nurse in Edinburgh and Glasgow before coming to London in 1960. Shortly afterwards, Nora become a member of the Management Committee of Southwark Irish Pensioners’ Project in South London and has been involved with this organisation ever since.

She is currently Chair of the Southwark Irish Pensioners, one of the largest Irish community organisations in south London. The organisation provides a lunch club and welfare support and outreach to hundreds of vulnerable older Irish people in the area. Ms Higgins has been a tireless campaigner for older Irish people in Britain and spoke about her experiences as an emigrant in the 1950s in a very moving and memorable intervention at the Global Irish Economic Forum in Dublin in 2013.

Brendan Fay (US)
Brendan Fay, a community activist, theologian, filmmaker and public speaker, is Co-Founder of the LGBT group, Lavender and Green Alliance. He was also a founding member of the Irish AIDS Outreach organisation in 1996 which sought to break the silence around AIDS in the Irish community in New York. He has been active on immigration reform (UAFA), civil marriage, AIDS awareness and human rights.
Brendan has been an activist for LGBT rights, and in particular Irish LGBT rights, in New York for several decades, forming the inclusive St. Pat’s For All Parade in 1999 as an alternative to the 5th Avenue Parade. Along with Kathleen Walsh D’Arcy, he worked for years to secure the right of Irish gay groups to march in the St. Patrick’s Day Parade in NYC, a right which was finally won in 2016.

Kathleen Walsh D’Arcy (US)
Kathleen Walsh D’Arcy is Co-Founder of the LGBT group, Lavender and Green Alliance. She is a writer, social worker, community activist and formed the inclusive St. Pat’s For All Parade in 1999 as an alternative to the 5th Avenue Parade. Along with Brendan Fay, she worked for years to secure the right of Irish gay groups to march in the St. Patrick’s Day Parade in NYC, a right which was finally won in 2016.
The daughter of 1920s immigrants from Counties Offaly and Tipperary, she co-edited two fiction collections by Irish women writers, Territories of the Voice (1990) and A Green and Mortal Sound (2001).

Peace, Reconciliation and Development

Martin Von Hildebrand (Colombia)
Martín von Hildebrand is an ethnologist and activist for indigenous and environmental rights who has played a key role in protecting the Colombian Amazon from illegal resource exploitation, principally mining, and in ensuring that indigenous communities living in these areas can exercise their legal and constitutional rights to manage their territories.
Von Hildebrand was born in the US of an Irish mother and a German father. He studied in UCD in the 1960s, as well as at the Sorbonne and has devoted his life’s work to promoting economic, social and environmental rights in the Colombian Amazon. In the 1990s, he founded the Colombian NGO, Fundación Gaia Amazonas which works to empower indigenous communities in the Amazon to exercise their constitutional rights to protect and manage their own territories, to protect the Amazonian ecosystem and support sustainable livelihoods and food security and sovereignty. Mr Von Hildebrand is now working on a project to connect and protect the interdependent ecosystems of the Andes, Amazon and Atlantic Coast of South America, spanning a number of countries including Colombia, Brazil and Venezuela.
Sr. Mary Sweeney (Sierra Leone)
Sr. Mary Sweeney has worked tirelessly for over forty years, often with limited support, in the extremely challenging environment that is Sierra Leone. Through her efforts in establishing the St Joseph’s School for the Hearing Impaired in Makeni, she has given education, skills training and life opportunities to the most vulnerable of people; children with a disability in a developing country. Notably, she remained in Makeni to keep the school open during the brutal civil war in the 1990s, and more recently she has played a significant role in coordinating much-needed support for the Ebola response in Makeni.
Sr. Sweeney has in recent years widened her ambitions and focussed her energies on promoting the development of a curriculum for the training of teachers for special needs education in Sierra Leone.

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Ambassador Dr. Sinead Walsh says ‘slán’

Sierra Leone News : Irish Ambassador bids farewell to President Koroma
By State House Communications Unit
Jul 29, 2016, 17:08

The outgoing Irish Ambassador to Sierra Leone, Dr Sinead Walsh, has on Thursday July 28, 2016 paid a farewell courtesy call on President Dr Ernest Bai Koroma at State House.
Dr Sinead Walsh has been in Sierra Leone since 2011 as head of the Irish Aid Programme until May 2014 when she took up a new post as Irish Ambassador to Sierra Leone. The ambassador’s work focused on diplomatic representation, assisting Irish companies on trade, consular assistance to Irish citizens and management of the Irish Aid Programme and particularly in Sierra Leone on nutrition for children under five years old as well as women’s rights.

The president thanked Ambassador Walsh for her tremendous work and unique services she rendered during her stay in the country. He recounted the bilateral relationship and work between the two countries on important and critical issues; citing the 2012 multi-tier elections, the unprecedented Ebola outbreak and the support given to the girl child in Sierra Leone. President Koroma expressed conviction that the cordial relationship between the two countries over the years has helped to build a strategy in addressing issues. The Commander-in-Chief stated that the good work of the ambassador will always be remembered while wishing her the best in her future endeavours.

The Irish ambassador thanked President Koroma for his great leadership and the close relationship the two countries have enjoyed over the years. She noted the collaboration and strengthened relationship between the two countries on bilateral relations, governance and priority interventions during her stay in the country.


© Copyright by Awareness Times Newspaper in Freetown, Sierra Leone.

Comment on politics in Sierra Leone

“More time”…to eat? Money and politics in Sierra Leone

06 Jun 2016

Yovanka ARI


Following his look at the street level view of corruption in the country, Jamie Hitchen examines how corruption and politics are increasingly intertwined.

Transparency International’s 2015 Corruption Perceptions Index ranked Sierra Leone 119 out of 168 countries. The country’s position has progressively worsened over the last four years. Also in 2015, 70% of citizens surveyed by Afrobarometer felt that corruption had increased from 2014, with only a third believing that they can make a difference in the fight against it.

Tackling corruption

Ernest Bai Koroma pledged to tackle corruption after his election as president in 2007. He replaced a Sierra Leone People’s Party government that was accused of being a “fortress of corruption” and which faced severe criticism of its record from international partners shortly before being voted from power. Koroma began promisingly with the creation of an Anti-Corruption Act in 2008 and public attacks on graft within government.  But after the unexplained resignation in 2010 of Abdul Tejan-Cole, the widely respected, impartial head of Anti-Corruption Commission (ACC), progress stalled. Under the leadership of Joseph Kamara, increasingly a close ally of the president, the commission successfully prosecuted no high-profile individuals for corrupt activities, leading to accusations that it has been politicised. The decision to appoint Kamara to the position of Attorney General in a recent cabinet re-shuffle does not convey the message that the justice sector will take a tough or proactive stance on the issue.

The fading commitment to tackling corruption was highlighted during the Ebola outbreak. A real-time audit of government expenditure by the Auditor General’s office found that 30% of the money was disbursed without proper supporting documentation. Despite the report being a public document that was presented to parliament – meaning that the ACC could in theory have been expected to investigate its detailed findings – so far no individual has been reprimanded or asked to pay back ill-gotten gains. Procurement mismanagement and inflated contracts have featured prominently in every report by the Auditor General’s office since 2011, but continue to be features of day-to-day government business.

International donors like the UK’s Department for International Development (DfID) have also sought to engage government on the subject. Following previous initiatives, in 2014 a “Pay No Bribe Campaign” was launched with the support of the president, who urged citizens to “Request no bribe! Pay no bribe!” DfID decided not to channel funds for the Ebola response through government ministries, indicating concern about accountability and transparency. However, DfID’s own showing on that score has been far from perfect. Sierra Leoneans – the beneficiaries – have a right to know why, for example, a treatment centre at Kerry Town was constructed (and subsequently dismantled) at a cost of £85 million; or why only 2% of all funds donated by external agencies including DfID went to local doctors, nurses and burial teams.

In a recent interview with The Economist, the president’s spokesperson, Abdulai Bayraytay, claimed that the installation of two sets of traffic lights in Freetown would help reduce corruption as “traffic police are perceived as being very corrupt”. The comment appears symptomatic of the government’s unwillingness to address the root causes of the corruption “problem”. Police reforms and the punishment of transgressors, rather than a public admission that the government knows what goes on but does nothing, would have been more encouraging to Sierra Leoneans. Of course, promoting this type of reform for government departments is not in the interest of ministers whose lifestyles are far more opulent than their monthly salaries of about US$3,000 could possibly support.

Looking for capital

The government is facing an acute cash shortage. The price of iron ore, the main driver of double digit GDP growth in the years preceding Ebola, remains low; most aid is not channelled through government departments; and internally generated revenues are slight. The Ministry of Defence received only a quarter of its budgetary allocation for the first six months of 2016, a constraint replicated to varying degrees across all ministries.

To the government, Chinese investment looks like an appealing solution. But partially state-owned companies, such as the China Railway Group, are mainly interested in the construction of toll roads and a new airport. These are necessary in the long-term, but far from vital for a country that has serious problems with the provision of water and electricity, prevailing food insecurity and a health sector described by the Auditor General as a “panoply of dysfunction”. Ulterior motives are widely suspected.

If it goes ahead – and opposition has already been expressed by key international donors and partners like the IMF – moving the airport from its current location at Lungi to a new site 38 miles east of Freetown, at Mamamah, is expected to cost at least US$300 million. The Chinese government, it is alleged, have their eye on the Lungi site for a military base; for President Koroma, it would be a way of getting much-needed cash into the system and facilitating a legacy project.  With an election just 18 months away, the All People’s Congress (APC) patronage machine is already grinding through the gears.

Electoral politics

Sierra Leone’s 1991 Constitution limits the president to two terms. It appears unlikely that Koroma will attempt – or find himself able – to change the constitution despite increasingly vocal backing from APC supporters and even those within the party to secure “more time”. The president is aware of the potential consequences for relations with leading international donors and the reputational impact. Legally, he would only be able to extend his term in office if the country were to remain in a state of emergency; but this measure, announced in late July 2014 to contain the Ebola outbreak, is due to be lifted in August 2016.

Perhaps Koroma’s cabinet reshuffle in March 2016, widely interpreted as a political manoeuvre, provides the clearest indicator of what will happen to the presidency. Those who were suspected of contemplating a leadership challenge ahead of the 2018 election were sacked and replaced by individuals with limited experience and in some cases few qualifications other than demonstrable loyalty to the APC. Several of the new ministers may not be well-equipped to provide the strategic, long-term thinking that is required as the country rebuilds post-Ebola, but they will ensure that Koroma’s rumoured successor, Joseph Kamara, has the full backing of the party. The APCs structure and constitution promotes a strong, top-down chain of command. Once a decision has been made by the party’s inner circle the casting of votes to endorse this choice is purely academic.

A popular refrain holds that Koroma is “doing OK” but is let down by his ministers. However, Sierra Leonean journalist Umaru Fofana points out that ultimately “[the president] appoints the cabinet and the buck stops with him”. For Fofana, “the tragedy is that Sierra Leonean politicians, on all sides, are thinking in the 1960s and 1970s. They are trying to undermine democratic principles and values – rather than focusing their energy toward building them. To them, electoral politics, instead of development, is to the fore in whatever they do; everything else has to fall in line behind.”


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