Remarks at a reception for the Annual Conference of the Worldwide Ireland Funds
Áras an Uachtaráin, 20th June 2013
Ladies and Gentlemen:
It gives Sabina and me enormous pleasure to welcome to Áras an Uachtaráin so many of Ireland’s steadfast friends from the worldwide Ireland Funds.
Present here this evening are various leaders of the Ireland Funds from around the world – including my good friend Loretta Brennan Glucksman from the United States, Dr. Stanley Quek from Singapore, Yvonne le Bas from Australia, Dr. Elmar Conrads-Hassel from Germany and Hugo McNeill here in Ireland.
I am delighted that so many of the Fund’s supporters are also here this evening. Each year, your worldwide annual conference is an opportunity to celebrate what the Funds have achieved; renew your energy and commitment; plan and construct strategies for the future; and, of course, enjoy yourselves just a little bit.
2013 is the year of the Gathering and there are not many organisations that epitomise the inclusive spirit and diasporic nature of the Gathering more than the Ireland Funds. You have been the Diaspora in ‘action’ for Ireland but of course your annual conference this year takes on an extra significance as you celebrate the unique spirit of the Ireland Funds in a year that not only spans the Gathering but also marks the 50th anniversary of the visit of President John F. Kennedy to Ireland.
Earlier today Sabina and I had the pleasure of welcoming Ms Caroline Kennedy and her family to Áras an Uachtaráin and to recall with them the very warm memories of her father’s visit to Ireland in June 1963.
That visit publicly acknowledged and celebrated the shared bonds of history and heritage that linked Ireland and the United States. Even more important, it looked to a shared future – a future where both countries would work closely together as peoples connected and bound by history and now as part of an interdependent global community. President Kennedy, when he visited, offered us encouragement and a vision – an Aisling – of what Ireland’s future could and should be.
50 years later, the second visit of President and Mrs Obama to this island shows this Aisling is well on its way to being realised, although we still dream of even better things to come. In June 1963 who would have thought that a half a century later another US President who this time combined African and American parentage, along with Irish descent, would visit Ireland and be enthusiastically embraced as one of our own. That such a remarkable story has come to pass is a wonderful reflection of the transformation that has occurred in both of our countries.
Since the establishment of the Ireland Funds in 1976, you have seen many different Irelands. I am personally delighted that one of the Fund’s co-founder’s Ambassador Dan Rooney is with us this evening. Ambassador Rooney and his wife Patricia have been outstanding friends of Ireland for decades and were exceptional diplomatic representatives of the United States in this country. However, for Sabina and me, the most important thing is that they were wonderful neighbours in the Phoenix Park and we very much enjoyed their company and were honoured by their visits to us.
The secret of the Fund’s success since 1976 has been in your capacities to change and adapt your approach as this island moved from the days of violence and conflict, through the peace process, and now, evolving again as Ireland responds to economic crisis. One thing that hasn’t changed however is the commitment of those who make up the Ireland Funds to give so generously of their time, commitment and resources in a way I can attest is to making a real difference to the lives of people throughout the island of Ireland.
I am glad that your annual conference allows you the opportunity to visit some of the projects you have supported and see at first hand the impact you have had – projects and programmes like Fighting Words (which I visited myself a couple of weeks ago), the National Institute for Intellectual Disability in TCD, the Gaelic Players Association’s Head Strong initiative and the Esker Boxing Club, just up the road in Lucan.
As someone who has always believed in the transformational power of music and its potential to enrich the lives of all who are given the opportunity to experience it, I particularly welcome your support for Music Generation. Thus far, this programme has provided musical education to 10,000 children on the island. This is a gift that lasts for life and can become the source of an inter-generational heritage of music.
Earlier this week, world leaders gathered for the G8 summit in County Fermanagh; a prospect that would have been simply unthinkable in the Northern Ireland of the past. It is yet one more tribute to the peace-building work that has been done diligently, painstakingly, by well-known names and unknown names, by people with a determination and a vision, over many, many years to bring peace to this island.
The Ireland Funds have always been a crucial partner on that journey of peace. We have travelled far in recent years but the journey will not be complete until we all have reached our destination of a shared and reconciled society in Northern Ireland. The Ireland Fund’s continuing support of Integrated Education in Northern Ireland makes a most valuable contribution to achieving that final objective.
Léiríonn an mana atá agaibh, ‘the global Irish, making a difference together’ an neart agus an fhís atá agaibh. Tá Ceithre Chéad Caoga milliún dollar bailithe agaibh ó bunaíodh an Fhondúireacht. D’éirigh leis an bhfeachtas a bhí agaibh le déanaí, dar teideal Promising Ireland, a sprioc a bhaint amach, is é sin Céad Milliún dollar a bhailiú faoi dheireadh na bliana seo caite. Tá an feachtas sin ag tacú le Trí Chéad Caoga togra ar an dá chuid den oileán seo. Tuigtear dom anois go bhfuil éacht eile romhaibh agus go bhfuil sibh ag súil le Céad Caoga milliún dollar a bhailiú faoi dheireadh na bliana seo. Tréaslaím an éacht iontach sin libh.
[Your slogan ‘the global Irish, making a difference together’ sums up your strength and your vision. $450 million has been raised since the Fund’s foundation. Your recent Promising Ireland campaign successfully achieved its target of raising $100 million by end of last year and has supported 350 projects in both parts of the island. I understand that you are now well on the way to new heights and expect to have raised $150 million by the end of this year. Congratulations on a wonderful achievement.]
The breadth and reach of the worldwide Ireland Funds mirrors the presence of the Irish around the globe. Europe, North America and the Asia-Pacific region are all home to thriving vibrant chapters of people who are brought together by a love of Ireland and a desire to help. It is very encouraging to know that pride in your Irish identity and heritage has led to the living links that bind you to Ireland today – whether you were born here, or whether your family ties are one, two or several generations old – that you simply turn your histories into such a power for good when and where it counts.
The global Irish have made an impact in every society in which they settled, overcame initial obstacles and flourished. Whether in Boston or Buenos Aires, Canada or China, Manchester or Melbourne, New Zealand or New York, many Irish migrants chose – and continue to choose – to maintain a close interest in their native country and, where they could, to give something back to their homeland of origin.
An important and very enjoyable part of my role is of course to reach out and engage with the global Irish family. It was therefore a moment of great pleasure to welcome the outgoing Chair of the American Ireland Fund Loretta Brennan Glucksman to the Áras last November to present her with the inaugural Presidential Distinguished Service Award for the Irish Abroad. Loretta has made an outstanding contribution to Ireland across a number of sectors – business, philanthropy, peace, arts and education. I thank her for this extraordinary commitment and wish Loretta every happiness and success in her final year in this leadership role and on into the future.
Is cúis áthais dom beannachtaí agus fáilte a chur roimh an gCathaoirleach ainmnithe, John Fitzpatrick, a thosóidh i mbun dualgais in Dhá Mhíle is a Ceathair Déag. Ba dheacair comharba John a shárú, ach bunaithe ar na héachtaí gnó atá bainte amach aige i Nua-Eabhrac, beidh sé in inmhe an American Ireland Fund a stiúradh gan aon agó.
[I am also very pleased to welcome and to extend best wishes to the Chairman-designate, John Fitzpatrick, who will take over the reins in 2014. John has a very tough act to follow but his business success in New York leaves him well equipped to take up the mantle of leadership in the American Ireland Fund.]
Ba mhian liom buíochas a ghlacadh le gach aon duine agaibh atá anseo inniu, agus leo siúd uile a bhfuil baint acu leis an Ireland Funds ar fud an domhain, as an méid atá déanta agaibh. Téama de chuid mo thréimhse Uachtaránachta is ea saoránacht ghníomhach a chur chun cinn a ghlacann gach duine san áireamh; is beag dream is eol dom a chuireann an gníomh sin i gcrích chomh maith agus chomh paiteanta libhse. Go raibh míle maith agaibh as gach a bhfuil déanta agaibh agus go mbainigí sult as an tráthnóna seo san Áras agus as bhur gcuairt ar Éirinn.
[I would like to thank each of you here today, and all those who make up the Ireland Funds worldwide for your engagement. Promoting an active, inclusive citizenship is the theme of my Presidency; I can think of few who do it better than you. Thank you for all you have done, enjoy this evening in the Áras and your few days in Ireland.]
Go raibh míle maith agaibh go léir.