Flax Trust Honors James Nesbitt, John Kelly
By Irish America Staff
December / January 2016
The Flax Trust honored James Nesbitt, actor and chancellor of Ulster University, and John Kelly, a partner at Hanover Stone Partners LLC, at its 21 Club Banquet on October 7. It was the organization’s 25th annual New York event, and a packed audience were in attendance.
The Trust, formed in Belfast in 1977, is committed to the reconciliation of a divided community through economic and social development, and the banquet brought together Irish Americans from all walks of life who were informed and entertained by the speakers.
Tom Moran, chairman & CEO Mutual of America, who also serves as Chancellor of Queen’s University Belfast, introduced the honorees and presented Mr. Nesbitt with his award.
The actor, who most recently starred in the hit 8-hour thriller-series The Missing (shown in the U.S. on Starz network), was born in Ballymena, County Antrim, and attended the University of Ulster before transferring to the Central School of Speech and Drama in London.
In his acceptance speech, Nesbitt applauded the “distinguished and influential supporters of Ireland” in attendance, saying that they were the personification of the words of former Irish President Mary McAleese when she said “The immigrant’s heart marches to the beat of two quite different drums, one from the old homeland and the other from the new.” He paid tribute to the work carried out by the Flax Trust and in particular its support of Ulster University, referring to some of the activities that the Trust supports in partnership with the University, including the School for Social Enterprises in Ireland, master classes in Social Enterprises Means Business and the Advanced Diploma in Social Enterprises, and said that as Chancellor he was committed to providing a route into higher education for those who traditionally would not have considered higher education to be an option. Emphasizing the importance of education in the development of society, Nesbitt said, “Individually, we do not change the world – we can change parts of it – but collectively we really can change the world.”
The actor finished off by reading Postscript a poem by Seamus Heaney which describes “a drive out west into County Clare.” The poem ends with the lines:
You are neither here nor there,
A hurry through which known and strange things pass
As big soft buffetings come at the car sideways
And catch the heart off guard and blow it open.
It was a fitting close to a memorable gathering. ♦