Sean Gaffey, Board Member of the Irish International Business Network (IIBN) in New York City, led a trade mission to Dublin, Belfast, and Derry-Londonderry last week with a group of private-sector delegates aimed at building relationships, trade, and investment the U.S. and Ireland.

Along with Sean, the delegation comprised of Jack Cline, Director of Federal Relations for the University of Kansas, Colin Cuneo, Partner, Cuneo and Co., David Evans, Managing Director of Canyon CTS, Donard Gaynor, Senior Executive, Consultant, and Non-Executive Director for multiple companies including Glanbia and H&K International, Robin Shapiro, serial entrepreneur and CEO of Get STiKi, and Courtney Sunna, VP of Sales for Allergy Standards Ltd. and IIBN Future Leaders Board Member.  The mission had a remarkable blend of business, philanthropic site visits and of course a good bit of craic!


The trade mission kicked off in Dublin with the delegates being kindly hosted for breakfast at the offices of Davy’s by John Lydon, Director of Corporate Finance and joined by Chief Economist, Conall MacCoille and Michael Lee from the ISIF, Ireland’s €8 billion sovereign wealth fund. 

Location: Breakfast meeting for an economic overview at Davy’s, Ireland’s leading provider of wealth management, asset management, capital markets and financial advisory services.

Following breakfast, the delegates were treated to a tour of Trinity College Dublin included a visit the Old Library and Book of Kells, the Center for the Sciences & Innovation, as well as meetings with top officials and from there the delegates had a roundtable lunch at the offices of Grant Thornton for an in depth Brexit briefing and incredible views from Grant Thornton’s boardroom.   Dara Kelly, former IIBN NY Board Member and current Partner of Grant Thornton’s Limerick office, was pivotal in putting together and the ties between the IIBN and Grant Thornton were strengthened even further as a result of this meeting.

Following lunch, the delegates were treated to a meeting with top researchers for the Children’s Medical Research Foundation (CMRF) at Our Lady’s Children’s Hospital in Crumlin, Dublin.  The researchers focused on their amazing work on pediatric cancer and obesity which was truly cutting edge.

Following this meeting the group enjoyed some downtime with a tour of the Kilmainham Gaol Museum before heading off to dinner.

The night concluded with a tour and private dinner at the Guinness Storehouse with Senator Mark Daly, author of “Brexit and the Future of Ireland, Uniting Ireland and its People in Peace and Prosperity.”

Senator Daly spoke to the delegates about the impact Brexit will have on Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland with his recommendations for the future. Joining the group for dinner was Dr. John McKeon and Dr. John Ryan, CEO and CSO respectively, of Allergy Standards Ltd., an Irish company which tests and certifies various consumer products to be asthma & allergy friendly®.  Also joining the dinner was Senator and former track and field star Eamonn Coghlan who has been a long-time support of CMRF.

(L to R): Dr. John Ryan, Dr. John McKeon, Guinness Storehouse Host, Sean Gaffey, Senator Mark Daly, Jack Cline, Courtney Sunna, David Evans, Robin Shapiro, Liam Cuneo, Donard Gaynor, Colin Cuneo at a private dinner in the Guinness Storehouse



Once in Belfast, the delegation was guided on a cultural tour of the city led by guide David McAnirn before heading to City Hall.

A discussion of city support looking toward the future and community development was hosted by the Lord Mayor of Belfast, Nuala McAllister, who said her theme for the year ahead would be “Global Belfast.” Other Belfast City Council guests including Lisa Toland, Head of Service, Colin McCabrey, Economic Development Manager, Nuala Gallagher, Director of City Centre Development, and Laura Leonard, EU & International Relations Manager attended the lunch in the Lord Mayor’s Parlor in Belfast City Hall.

(L to R): Robin Shapiro, Liam Cuneo, Colin Cuneo, Sean Gaffey, the Lord Mayor of Belfast, Courtney Sunna, Donard Gaynor, Jack Cline, and U.S. Consul General Dan Lawton at Belfast City Hall


A visit to Invest NI included an economic briefing and an overview of investment opportunities in Northern Ireland hosted by Steve Harper, Executive Director of International Business, Invest NI, and Christopher Morrow, Head of Communications & Policy, Northern Ireland Chamber of Commerce and Industry.

Later, Jack Cline visited Queens University Belfast to discuss international collaboration and student exchange programs while the other delegates met Lynsey Cunningham, Regional Director at Entrepreneurial Spark Belfast, the world’s largest free business accelerator program designed to give business support to startup companies. The delegates listened to funding pitches from a variety of local startup companies.

Afterwards, the delegation arrived at The Centre for Secure Information Technologies (CSIT) for a meeting with David Crozier, Technical Marketing Manager, and Judith Millar, Business Development Manager. The CSIT is an innovation and knowledge center based at Queen’s University of Belfast which specializes in developing security systems and intelligent surveillance technology.

A warm welcome and Reception was hosted by Dan Lawton, US Consul General, at his private residence, Ardnavalley, where the delegates were able to meet with various City Council officials, local stakeholders, and businesspeople.


(L to R): Sean Gaffey, Liam Cuneo, Colin Cuneo, US Consul General Dan Lawton, Courtney Sunna, Robin Shapiro, Donard Gaynor, Jack Cline


Once in Derry-Londonderry, the delegation was greeted at the Mayor’s Parlour for a roundtable discussion hosted by the Mayor of Derry City and Strabane District Council with the Unity of Purpose group, comprising elected representatives and public officials. The Unity of Purpose group established to facilitate dialogue across the community and various business sectors, who often have diametrically opposing views, to best serve the interests of the city and its people.

Location: Roundtable discussion at the Mayor’s Parlour with the Derry City and Strabane District Council and delegates


Ros Young, of Derry City & Strabane District Council, then presented an investment proposition to the delegates with a discussion on the planned investment and reconstruction of Belfast’s waterfront and downtown areas.

A networking lunch was held at the Walled City Brewery, where the delegates met with local young companies over a beer tasting reception. Each company was able to discuss their business plans with the delegation and receive advice and support.

Afterwards, a Tour of Intelligent Systems Research Centre and overview of CARL (Cognitive Analytics Research Lab) was held at the University of Ulster and showcased their robotics laboratory and advanced data analytics lab.

The delegation was then greeted at the First Derry Presbyterian Church to meet with young project leaders involved with Amazing the Space, a peacebuilding initiative facilitated by Cooperation Ireland.

Dr. Eamonn O Ciardha, Irish historian and writer, gave the delegates a tour of the City Walls and Bogside with an incredibly impressive overview of the history of the area looking hundreds of years into the past, covering the conflicts through present day.

(Above: Dr. Eamonn O Ciardha giving a tour of the city walls)


The Mayor of Derry City and Strabane District Council, along with other business leaders and council officials, hosted a dinner for the delegation at the Beech Hill Country House, an elegant country house with a dramatic history.


Above: The delegation and Derry-Londonderry officials in front of the Beech Hill Country House


Upon conclusion of the Trade Mission, the delegates returned to Dublin before departing back to New York City. Bernadette Roberts, Political and Economic Officer with the U.S. Consulate General in Belfast, was instrumental in organizing this delegation along with Sean Gaffey, organizer and first vice president of the Gaffey Mellody Group at Merrill Lynch in New York City. Appreciation also belongs to Jim Roddy, Chief Executive at the City Centre Initiative in Derry-Londonderry for his support of this year’s IIBN Trade Mission.

The Trade Mission was an important way to strengthen ties between U.S. corporations, Irish-Americans, Northern Ireland, and the Republic of Ireland that may unlock possibilities of trading, partnerships, and new markets.