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Welcome from the DSA Ireland Chair

Issued 4 June 2015

Prof. Sean Farren

First, a word of introduction. I'm in my so-called golden years, having retired from my academic career at the Ulster University and my political career in the Northern Ireland Assembly as an MLA and Executive Minister. I am now involved in international development studies through a Visiting Professorship at the University of Ulster and through my membership of DSA Ireland. This involvement has brought my professional life almost full circle since I worked as a newly qualified teacher in Sierra Leone, in the 1960s. 

My five years in West Africa left indelible marks and were undoubtedly responsible for my renewed interest in development related issues in recent years. That interest was intensified when I was invited to participate in an International Development project at the University of Ulster, aimed at promoting research and teaching in the area. Interest was further strengthened through participation in two projects: the Irish Aid funded ‘Irish African Partnership for Research Capacity Building’ and the British Council funded ‘Developing more effective HEI Partnerships in Teacher Education’. Furthermore, an invitation to become a trustee on Concern Worldwide's UK board has brought me into close contact with the day-to-day work of development practitioners, as has membership of the Sierra Leone-Ireland Partnership. 

These involvements and experiences have strengthened my commitment to promote development studies in Ireland and, in so far as it is practically possible, to do so in collaboration with colleagues in the Global South. 

While it's a cliché to say that the world of development studies is ever-changing, it is probably truer today than it has ever been. The Millennium Development Goals are being assessed as to achievements and more particularly as to what should follow. The debate at the interface of aid and trade is in full swing, as are controversies sparked by large scale agri-related investments in many developing countries. Above all and affecting us all, whether in the Global North or Global South, are the effects of climate change. 

Alongside and inter-related with such macro issues, are the many pressing challenges on which research and teaching programmes are focused in agriculture, education, energy, health, human rights, infrastructure, transport etc. The huge inequalities, injustices and the scale of poverty in many developing countries are in sharp contrast to the evident wealth of their elites, posing serious moral and political questions for us all. 

It is to provide a platform for debate on these issues, for information and resource exchange, for policy discussion and for simple networking that DSA Ireland exists. Our aim is to involve researchers, policymakers and practitioners across Ireland who have an interest in, or who work in international development, in whatever capacity. 

Our immediate aim is to reach out to people in all of those categories, to invite them to join DSA Ireland to ensure we are a really representative, vibrant and relevant association. As part of that outreach we are also strengthening links with other organisations with an international development remit serving particular sectors like health, education, environment, economic development etc. so that a truly inter-disciplinary approach to both research and discourse can be fostered. Internationally DSA Ireland has close links with our UK equivalent and is currently becoming a member of the European Association of Development Institutes (EADI). 

Through our study groups, particular issues in particular sectors are being debated and over the coming months an exciting programme of workshops, seminars and mini-conferences will take place culminating in our annual conference, the call for papers for which will soon be issued. I would encourage you to browse through our website – www.dsaireland.org – and learn further about the work that we are doing and how you can get involved. 

Finally, I would like to acknowledge the support of Irish Aid and the interest of Minister Seán Sherlock who is anxious to keep in regular touch with DSA Ireland. 

I look forward to meeting you all at some of our events and wish you every success in your international development initiatives.

Best wishes 

Dr. Seán Farren 

contact: s.farren@ulster.ac.uk