Barbara Stephenson’s “old friends” reception


It was a pleasure to be among many guests for an after work reception at Ardnavalley, for former US Consul General, Barbara Stephenson, who is over for a visit from her Deputy Chief of Mission post at the US Embassy in London.

Ambassador Stephenson served as US Consul General in Belfast from 2001-2004. Indeed, she arrived within only a few weeks of 9/11. I remember her leading a 3-minutes silence ceremony at Belfast City Hall at the time.

I didn’t expect her to remember me, as I was serving as an Alliance Party staffer (policy officer) while accompanying the party leader and general secretary of the day. Yet she genuinely did remember me, and we recalled her parting comments about integrated education.

The ambassador asked about my current job, to which she replied, “That’s great — you’re keeping the work of a shared future alive!”

I knew she was sincere when she addressed all of us later, when current Consul General, Kamala Lakhdhir, described us as “Barbara’s old friends” along with “new friends” that she wanted Barbara to meet.

The ambassador said that it felt like being back home. She said that she was very thankful to see all of us, and how she felt that peace felt more bedded down, certainly less precarious than when she served her post in Northern Ireland.

Then she added that it was pleasing to see so many of us in the room “working for a shared future”, something she wants realised here.

I’ll applaud that, and we all did.

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