The Irish government is to invest $3 million in a scholarship fund named after United States senator George Mitchell, who chaired the talks that led to the Good Friday Agreement.
The project will be modelled on the Rhodes Scholarships. A stipend of $25,000 dollars will be available to top postgraduates to pursue research in an Irish university; their accommodation, travel and fees will also be met. The scheme will be administered by the US-Ireland Alliance, a Washington-based organisation, which hopes to raise matching funding from private US sources.
As part of the same initiative, a US college may play a key, if indirect, role in the evolution of the government in Northern Ireland.
The Good Friday Agreement, which set the peace process on a firmer course, provided for a transition period for members of the assembly to prepare them for governing Northern Ireland.
Boston College is providing part of the transition programme. It is running a series of sessions for assembly members, political party members and civil servants. The college's involvement was welcomed in Boston last week by Northern Ireland secretary Mo Mowlam, who said it would provide great practical help.
The series begins next month when Marc Landy, chair of the college's department of political science, will visit Northern Ireland to brief representatives of the assembly's political parties. In November, a week-long project will equip assembly members for their legislative tasks.
Subsequent sessions will focus on party staff in the governance process, on members of specialist committees and on administrators. In October 1999, a delegation of US political staff, legislators and administrators will visit the province, and a project for young political leaders will begin. In December 1999, a US delegation will visit to review the outcomes with assembly members.