IWP Trustee Edward F. Reilly, Jr., former Chairman of the United States Parole Commission, was appointed as a U.S. Observer to the International Fund for Ireland by President Donald Trump’s administration.
The International Fund for Ireland is an independent international organization that promotes peace in Ireland and Northern Ireland. In his role, Commissioner Reilly is responsible for visiting Ireland and reporting on the effectiveness of projects funded by the State Department in Ireland, as well as making recommendations about funding for future projects that promote peace in this region.
In November, Commissioner Reilly attended a meeting of the International Fund for Ireland and stayed in Cavan in the Border Region. This town, located in the south, was used by people from the north who wanted to stash their weapons across the border during the conflict in Ireland.
During his visit, Commissioner Reilly visited the Cavan Museum which portrays the history of Ireland and highlights the part played by both Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland in WWI: the Irish and British were killed in the same battles and buried in the same local cemeteries together. The museum’s exhibitions were made possible in large part by a grant from the International Fund for Ireland. Commissioner Reilly included his perspective on the effectiveness of this museum in his report to USAID.
Also in November, Commissioner Reilly met with 50 master’s degree and doctoral students, 25 from the north and 25 from the south. “You wouldn’t have known there was a problem. They said that they aren’t in conflict with one another and that they are way beyond that.” These comments reflect the success of the work promoting peace in the region. These programs, which focus on anything from sports to education to employment skills to law enforcement efforts, emphasize developing both countries, regardless of one religion or the other.
In his report, Commissioner Reilly noted, “The projects that the IFI has previously sponsored, and those projects now approved are testimony to the success of IFI efforts to support the North of Ireland to continue its development and growth through ‘Quiet Diplomacy’ as well as an aggressive approach through IFI programs to impact the youth who have felt sidelined and left behind in a region once isolated and suffering from poverty, unrest and violence.”
“We have made progress,” said Commissioner Reilly. “There are still old-timers who harbor a lot of resentment, and they have memories of the terrible things that happened. Some of their loved ones were killed in the unrest. The hatred will eventually subside over time as the new generation comes along.”
Commissioner Reilly has been involved in this work towards peace in Ireland for quite some time. When he was a young legislator, he helped fund a basketball program in Southern Ireland with the mayor of Killarney. Basketball was not in vogue at the time, but it now has a prominent place in the country.
Since then, Commissioner Reilly has often found himself at the center of Irish affairs. In 1982, Senator Dole submitted his name as Ambassador. When former Congresswoman Margaret Heckler was confirmed as Ambassador instead, they became good friends and visited her in Ireland. When Jean Ann Kennedy Smith was the Ambassador, Commissioner Reilly was invited to Ireland by the military chief of staff to be on the JFK aircraft carrier, witnessing the first time that a U.S. warship has been in the Irish sea. They docked in Dublin.
He has also been working with the International Officer Program at Fort Leavenworth, Kansas for several years. This program brings international allied officers to study at the Command and General Staff College. Commissioner Reilly has sponsored eight military families from the Republic of Ireland who came to Fort Leavenworth for a year of studies before returning to Ireland. They have all risen to be generals or very high-ranking officers.
Commissioner Reilly’s next visit to Ireland for the State Department will be at the end of February 2020 in Donegal, in Northern Ireland. The next major concern in the peace effort will be addressing the changes that come with Brexit. When both Northern and Southern Ireland were a part of the European Union, there was a free flow of commerce, employers, etc. “If that changes, it could bring back a lot of unrest,” commented Commissioner Reilly. Now that Northern Ireland has left the EU, there is a need to establish a good system that will continue to allow economic development without restricting trade.
Commissioner Reilly comments: “The whole process is to try to transform what has been a problem with some sensitive intervention, and, by doing so, make a more peaceful society for everyone over there. I’m really privileged and honored that they asked me to be a part of it.”
A native of Leavenworth, Kansas, Edward F. Reilly, Jr. began serving as chairman of the United States Parole Commission in May 2001, having previously served in the position from 1992 until 1997. Reilly received a BS in political science from the University of Kansas in 1961. He worked for 30 years in the field of real estate insurance and banking and was first elected to public office in 1963.
He served one year as a member of the Kansas House of Representatives and then 28 years as a senator in the Kansas State Senate. In the legislature, Reilly served as assistant majority leader, chairman of the Senate Committee on Federal and State Affairs, chairman of the Senate Insurance Subcommittee and vice chairman of the Senate Elections Committee. As chairman of the Senate Committee on Federal and State Affairs, which handled most corrections issues, Reilly gained experience in the area of corrections, probation, and parole. In 1981, he chaired the Senate/House committee that reviewed the operations of the Kansas Correctional System.
Reilly’s law enforcement and corrections experience also included serving on the National Commission on Accreditation for Law Enforcement Agencies; American Justice Institute on federal and state prisons; Community Liaison Committee of the United States Penitentiary, Leavenworth, Kansas; Kansas State Penitentiary, Lansing; and the State Attorney General’s Task Force on Drug Education in Kansas.
After being appointed to the US Parole Commission in 1992, Reilly served as USPC’s chairman from August 1992 to February 1997, when he was appointed commissioner of the USPC’s National Appeals Board.
Since 1967, Reilly has served as an instructor in the International Officers Program at the Command and General Staff College at Fort Leavenworth.
Commissioner Reilly has served on the IWP Board of Trustees since January 2011.