Mount Hosts Former Irish Ambassador to Russia James A. Sharkey

Posted on: April 10, 2014

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James A. SharkeyCresson, Pa. – The Mount Aloysius College 2013-2014 Speaker Series will feature Irish historian, writer and diplomat James Anthony Sharkey as speaker and visiting scholar. Ambassador Sharkey’s visit to Mount Aloysius is part of the College’s year-long speaker series addressing the theme, “21st Century Citizenship: The Common Good.” He will spend nearly a month at the College meeting with faculty and students and lecturing on such diverse topics as literature and the environment, Irish Dramatist and Author Brian Friel, and social violence as disease.

Mount Aloysius President Tom Foley stated that the occasion of Ambassador James A. Sharkey’s visit to Mount Aloysius College is also an invitation to the public to come and enjoy his talks. “Jim Sharkey is as excited to visit the southern Alleghenies and Mount Aloysius College as we are to have him here. He is a vastly experienced diplomat having served on four continents, an author and an educator with much to share. His visit – with events continuing to unfold in Ukraine and elsewhere – is very timely. He served as his country’s first Ambassador to Russia and to several affiliated nations. His perspective on that part of the world and other topics will be unique and very informative.”

The public is invited to two events during Ambassador Sharkey’s visit. A community lecture will be held on Tuesday, April 29th at 6:00 p.m. in the Wolf-Kuhn Gallery entitled, “Crisis in the Ukraine.” Then on Thursday, May 1st at 3:30 p.m. in historic Alumni Hall, Mr. Sharkey will deliver the Mount Aloysius College 2014 Spring Honors Lecture.

Ambassador Sharkey will also discuss Irish Poet Laureate and his longtime friend, the late Seamus Heaney during a recorded interview with Mount Aloysius College President Tom Foley. Other topics addressed during his time as Visiting Scholar will include, the crisis in Ukraine, religious conflict, and the Irish peace process in Northern Ireland.

James A. Sharkey shared a homeland and an education with the late Poet Laureate Seamus Heaney. Both were educated at St. Columbs. Nobel Peace Prize winner John Hume was another St. Columbs graduate. Entry to the school was made possible after the Education Act, 1947 opened educational opportunities for the Irish regardless of income. Noted playwright Brian Friel was also a St. Columb’s graduate.

James A. Sharkey, born in Derry, Northern Ireland, is an Irish historian, writer and diplomat. He recently served as Ireland’s Permanent Representative to the Council of Europe, Strasbourg, and chaired the Council’s Human Rights Committee. He has served as Irish Ambassador to a number of countries including Australia, Japan, Denmark, Russia, and Switzerland. Ambassador Sharkey also served as a delegate to the Conference on Security and Co-operation in Europe (the Helsinki Conference). These first face-to-face talks between Western European nations and nations of the Soviet-dominated Warsaw Pact are credited as the first step in the long process of ending the Cold War.

As Ireland’s Charge d’Affaires in Moscow, Mr. Sharkey was Ireland’s first-ever official representative to Russia. He served concurrently in Armenia, Belarus, Georgia, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, and Uzbekistan. As ambassador to Denmark, he held concurrent accreditation to Norway and Iceland, and his duties as ambassador to Switzerland included concurrent service to Liechtenstein and Algeria.

During his service as political counselor in the Irish Embassy in Washington, D.C., Mr. Sharkey was instrumental in building U.S. congressional support for the efforts of Northern Ireland political leader and Nobel Peace laureate John Hume and others to find a peaceful resolution to the three decades of sectarian strife known as the Troubles. Working closely with Speaker Tip O’Neil and other congressional leaders, Mr. Sharkey helped shift the consensus among America’s political leadership toward active support of a negotiated settlement to the Northern Ireland crisis. These efforts eventually led to the 1998 peace accord known as the Good Friday Agreement. Its provisions for political power sharing and economic development have given birth to a new era of peace and stability to Northern Ireland.

Ambassador Sharkey earned degrees in Russian and Russian history from University College Dublin and Birmingham University. He began his career as a teacher in Stepney, Derry and Dublin. He is the author of works on Scots Gaelic, the folk history of Inishowen, the Russian peasantry, and the writer Patrick Lafcadio Hearn, known also by the Japanese name Koizumi Yakumo. He joined the Irish Diplomatic Service in 1970.

Ambassador Sharkey and his wife, Sattie, have three children and make their home in Inishowen, Donegal, Ireland.

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