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20.08.06: Terry McGuinness (2003)

Terry McGuinness from the Class of 2003 who is nearing the end of an internship with the United Nations in New York shares with us a bit about himself,the UN and WIP.

Where are you from?
North Belfast

Where did you go and what did you study at university?
I studied law at QUB and international law at the University of Durham

Where are you now?
New York City

Where do you work?
Global Policy Forum, United Nations

What is a typical day at work like?
I start by reading the daily briefings/reports of up to 30 agencies/think tanks/government departments. I update the Security Council portfolio pages on GPF’s website, research on the various issues that are being discussed at the Council and help with the organization of meetings of the NGO Working Group on the Security Council.

How did you choose that career path?
I have always been interested in international relations. I specialized in international law at university, specifically the law regulating relations between states. Since the UN is where most of this law is formed, I came here!

When did the light bulb go off and you decided, 'This is it!'? Or has the light bulb gone off yet?
There are so many careers here at the UN that deal with international relations and law so while I haven’t found my particular niche, my interest in this line of work has only increased since arriving in the US.

What have you been doing for the past six months?
Covering the Security Council portfolio at GPF.

What are the best and least favourite bits about living and working where you do?
There is so much always going on in New York, it’s a very exciting place to live. Least favourite? I suppose it would be distance from my friends at home.

When you were on WIP, what host family did you stay with and where?
Along with Frank McCabe, I stayed with John and Patty Myler in North West DC. I was lucky enough to return to stay on Quesada St the following year when I was on the Management Team.

Please tell us a bit about your work placement.
I interned with the US Conference of Mayors in 2003. I had been attracted to the WIP by the Hill internships offered but the Conference offered an insight to US politics too and as a lobbying group it was a different view than I would have had from a Congressional office.

Back in that summer, what was your ambition?
I had another year of university left and was glad to have that thinking time! My ambitions were simply to make as much of the WIP experience as I could and to work out what was next during the academic year ahead.

How has the WIP experience impacted on your life, personally and professionally?
Research for the Conference of Mayors and the administration of the Management Team were the most practical skills/experience I picked up from my summers in DC. The idealism and ‘big thinking’ that we all have and partake in while in Washington are hard to maintain throughout the year when you arrive back home from the US but I’d like to think these attitudes inspired me to go for my masters degree and underpin my work here at the UN.

What is your favourite memory about your WIP experience?
I think it has to be my relationship with my host family. When Brigid, my host sister, came to Ireland to start a semester of study at UCC, the whole family came for a week’s holiday and it was wonderful to be able to return some of the hospitality they showed me. I visited them a few months ago when back in DC for a weekend. Walking in the door I felt like I was returning home!!

What's the best thing about Ireland, North and South?
The new optimism and positive outlook in Belfast. Its easy to get depressed over sectarian/racist attacks or continued political intransigence but there are so many who now believe that we can take the ‘bull by the horns’ ourselves and forge ahead in making the city a better place. This ambition is evident in everything from the literature festivals springing up around town to the Youth Empowerment Scheme and similar groups.

And the worst thing?
A latent racism and anti-Semitism that prevents us from embracing our island’s potential to be a truly multicultural and progressive society. Following on from the ‘What is Ireland?’ debate: if we don’t speak the Irish language, play Gaelic sports, listen to our music – how are we any more ‘Irish’ than a baby born to Nigerian parents in a Dublin hospital? I don’t deserve Irish citizenship any more than the child of immigrants who seek to build a life in Ireland. Ireland suffered badly in the 20th Century and we have the opportunity now to reverse age old trends of emigration and small ambition. Out of the bleakness of the troubles came a chance for a new start. It’s ironic that an opportunity to start anew would come from something as painful and it’s an opportunity most states would love. While we are a small island with limited resources, we should build this new society on terms as idealistic as possible. Doing so will keep us on the right tracks when we meet the inevitable bumps in the road.

What are your hopes and ambitions for the future, personally, professionally and for WIP?
Get a permanent job, pay back loans and hopefully save up enough to start a doctoral programme in the not-to-distant future! As for the WIP I hope it continues its good work. I wouldn’t be here if it wasn’t for my experiences in Washington and time on the Programme.

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