My name is Allan Leonard. I am 47 years old. I am from the States. I was born in Anaheim California, grew up in Toledo Ohio, lived in Boston Massachusetts for 10 years. I’ve done a variety of things in the states, as a young person I worked for banks for a while. And also did some marketing jobs.
I left the States in 1994. I came to Northern Ireland by myself. I have lived in Northern Ireland for over 20 years. I came to Northern Ireland for postgraduate research studies at Queens University, Belfast. I studied politics. I work in the field of community relations. I’m the managing director of the Northern Ireland foundation, which was established to assure the shared future of policy.
I have always had an affinity with Ireland, mainly Northern Ireland. Most of my family history is from this province. And, when I came on repeated visits, I liked the people that I met, and so I decided that I would explore a bit more. And, I’ve remained.
[Do you miss living in the states?] No, I don’t miss living in the States. I’ve gotten quite accustomed to the way of life here, the longer holidays, the pace, and just the way of life.
Today I have brought with me a framed letter that I received from the Irish Taoiseach Garrett Fitzgerald. I wrote the Irish Prime Minister when I was in high school, when I was about the age of 16. I had read a biography on him, a short biography, and at that time he was working on peace talks with the British government. So, I was interested in politics, so I wrote him a letter and told him about a cousin of mine, who had been living as an exchange student near Dublin for the year, and that I wished him success with his peace work. He very kindly wrote me back, and my favorite part is the last paragraph, when he writes that:
“I am delighted to hear that your cousin is enjoying her stay in Ireland, and sincerely hope that you will be able to visit this country someday.
Garrett Fitzgerald, TD Taoiseach”
And, I probably have this letter hanging in my office at work.
[Why is this object important to you?] Because, if someone had told me back in February 1985 that the path I would take would lead me to running a small charity, doing peace work in Northern Ireland, I wouldn’t have believed you and I would have challenged you how that would happen. But the destiny has brought me here, and this letter kind of signifies my spark of my curiosity in Irish politics, and reminds me of the value of the work that I do.