Kyle Martini, a scholar in the Garfield Center for Public Leadership, recaps his experiences on the group’s trip to Ireland and Northern Ireland, led by James Thompson, Ph.D., associate professor of political science. The Garfield Center for Public Leadership at Hiram College prepares students to assume the responsibilities of public leadership by developing expertise in matters of public policy, foreign and domestic, grounded in Hiram’s traditional liberal arts education. 

During the spring break of 2024, the Garfield Center for Public Leadership (GCPL) traveled Europe for one week. We went to Dublin, Ireland for five days, as well as Belfast, Northern Ireland for two days. The trip was a deep dive into the current state of Ireland, and a unique opportunity to experience European culture.   

Throughout my first year within the GCPL, we spent both the fall and spring semesters learning about the history of the island of Ireland, focusing mainly on the divide between the two countries that preside on it: the Republic of Ireland, and Northern Ireland. To quickly summarize, the island has a troubled history between the Catholic group Sinn Fein, who want the Republic of Ireland to remain a sovereign nation, and their Protestant counterparts, the Democratic Unionist Party (DUP), who would much rather have Northern Ireland stay as a part of the United Kingdom.

During our visit, we were able to meet with representatives of both groups and discuss various elements of their platforms and what they believe is best for the island of Ireland moving forward. One of the major complications that stood out for me was the sheer amount of money it would cost if the two countries reunified, as there were estimates that this figure would be upwards of three million Euros. However, when speaking to the Irish Independent, the largest newspaper within the Republic of Ireland, it seemed clear to me that the Irish populace would be willing to pay an arm and a leg to gain back the land of Northern Ireland that they have been fighting for since 1198.  

While in Ireland, we also had a fantastic time diving in and experiencing European culture firsthand. I believe the culture was on full display while in the small Irish town of Kilkenny; we were able to see buildings that one could tell were over hundreds of years old, view gothic style churches, and we even had the opportunity to tour a full-fledged castle. Not to mention, you were constantly able to hear live music being performed at local Irish pubs while you trekked down the narrow cobblestone streets. This truly was a once in a lifetime experience, and I am already planning out my next trip to the island, while hoping it will live up to the lofty expectations this trip has set.  

Learn more about the Garfield Center for Public Leadership.