St Patrick’s Day address to the Irish abroad from Tánaiste Eamon Gilmore
It is a mark of the strength of spirit and pride in our Irish communities that in almost any location you find yourself, there will be some Irish events taking place there to mark our national day.
I know that home is very often in the thoughts of those living abroad and that on St. Patrick’s Day, people will be looking for ways to celebrate being Irish in their adopted countries. It is a mark of the strength of spirit and pride in our Irish communities that in almost any location you find yourself, there will be some Irish events taking place there to mark our national day.
Take the ‘greening’ of several global landmarks for the day including Niagara Falls in Canada, where I’m travelling to later this week. I chose to spend this St. Patrick’s Day in Canada as, not only is it an important trading partner for Ireland, but it is now also home to so many recent Irish immigrants.
Emigration has long been a feature of Irish life – a fact reinforced by the 70 million people around the globe who claim Irish heritage. Today, some of those leaving our shores are doing so out of choice, but many others because they cannot find work at home. It is heartbreaking to see people leaving this country because of a lack of opportunity and I am working and will work night and day to ensure such opportunities return quickly to these shores.
Since taking office, one year ago, as the Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade I have had the privilege of meeting many members of our extraordinary global family around the world. We have sought to tap into this wealth of expertise and knowledge to help Ireland recover, and many of these business leaders in cities from London to Tokyo now form our Global Irish Network.
Such has been the response of these people to the call to help Ireland through this economic crisis that some 270 members of the Global Irish Network came together last year for the second Global Irish Economic Forum. There I was deeply impressed by their desire to build a new strategic relationship to bring practical benefits to the Irish at home and abroad. Many of the innovative ideas that arose from the Global Irish Economic Forum are being acted on and led through our diplomatic network which is a vital link in communicating the decisions we take at home to the global community, particularly in repairing Ireland’s reputation abroad. There was, for example, a change in mood towards Ireland in evidence at the investment conference organised by President Clinton in New York last month, compared to a year ago.
In the 1990s, our focus was on selling Ireland as a gateway to Europe, with a strong emphasis on US inward investment. That has not changed. Today, however, we have to supplement that effort, with a new focus on the emerging economies. We have to look beyond our traditional markets and our traditional sectors, to build new strengths and new platforms of competitive advantage.
St Patrick’s Day provides us with a unique opportunity to do just that. Government can and will lead the way. We are investing scarce resources in building up new trade links in newly-emerged economies, such as China. But business will also have to invest, often in soft capital, building up linkages and connections with these markets. We have to start to think of Ireland, not just as a gateway to Europe, but to Africa and Asia also.
Government Ministers will be promoting Ireland to audiences throughout North America, Europe and the Far East. Personally I will be attending Enterprise Ireland and IDA organised events in both Montreal and Toronto with a view to increasing the level of trade and investment between Canada and Ireland.
We are re-building our reputation abroad. We are re-thinking our economic model, so as to diversify our markets and the sectors in which we excel. We are making progress.
This is a difficult time for the Irish people. What we have to do as a country is not easy. But it does have a purpose. Our aim is to restore our economy, to create jobs, to ensure that there are opportunities for our young people, so that they can live and work in their own country again.
I hope that the sense of pride that we at home have in our diaspora is something which translates to Irish people no matter what part of the world they are reading this from.
For now, for every Irish person living abroad, let this St. Patrick’s Day be your day to celebrate, to commemorate, to connect with home and with your friends abroad and to represent our country with pride.