Speech at a Reception for Honorary Consuls
Áras an Uachtaráin, Wednesday, 18 September 2019
Tá lúcháir orm agus ar Sabina fáilte a chuir romhaibh anseo ag Áras an Uachtaráin. Is cúis áthais dom i gcónaí deis a bheith agam buíochas a ghabháil leis na ndaoine atá ag obair go dian ar son Saoránaigh na hÉireann, agus tá an deis sin agam anocht. Agus mar sin, ba mhaith liom ar dtús, mo chuid meas agus buíochas díobh go léir a chuir in iúil as ucht gach rud a dheanann sibh ar son na tíre agus ar son mhuintir na hÉireann.
[Sabina and I are delighted to welcome you all here today to Áras an Uachtaráin. I am always so glad to receive the opportunity to thank those who work with great commitment on behalf of Irish citizens, and today is such an occasion. So may I commence by expressing my deep gratitude and appreciation for all you do for Ireland and our people.]
Sabina and I have had the pleasure of meeting many of you during our official and state visits abroad. Indeed, our Honorary Consuls and Honorary Consuls General have played a valuable role in the success of so many of these visits, and we have always been greatly impressed by the courteous assistance and warm welcome you have extended to us. We are glad to now extend an equally warm welcome to each and every one of you.
Ireland’s network of approximately one hundred honorary consuls and honorary consuls-general is an extensive one, and the roles and functions you perform are valuable and varied. For many Irish citizens, however, their first contact with members of that network can often be at times of great distress or difficulty.
So often, we read and hear of sad and tragic events affecting our citizens who are living, working or holidaying abroad and also their families and loved ones at home in Ireland. For many of those people you become their primary means of support, assistance and reassurance as they try, at a time of great distress and anxiety, to navigate their way through unfamiliar processes and legal systems, effectively communicate with medical staff or officers of the law in a foreign country, or assemble the documentation necessary to travel suddenly abroad in response to a family crisis.
The line with which those news items so often finish is ‘the embassy is offering consular assistance’. It is a very simple line, behind which lies an enormous wealth of compassion, commitment and expertise, a line which has earned so many of you profound thanks and gratitude from those who have needed your help. I know that your practical support, and the sympathy and empathy with which you deliver it, has had a profound impact on numerous Irish families.
Many of them have needed your assistance in extremely complex and sensitive circumstances, which regularly require you to go above and beyond the requirements of your position and which I am sure involves much personal sacrifice from you and your families. Yet you do so with grace and great kindness and it is greatly encouraging to know that our network of committed Honorary Consuls and Consuls General is there to support our Irish family across the globe at times of need and vulnerability.
That network also, of course makes an important contribution to the strengthening of bilateral relations between Ireland and your countries of residence. Indeed, throughout my career in the international arena over many years, I have witnessed the impressive work which you undertake in this regard, as well as your valuable engagement and achievements in the multilateral environments which are so critical to the creation of a fairer and better world. Let me pay tribute now to that public service and to the vital part you play in Ireland’s international presence and our global engagement.
Tá muid fíorbhuíoch díobh agus do mhuintir as ucht na híobairtí pearsanta atá ag teastáil chun an obair seo a dhéanamh, sa chaoi gur féidir comhoibriú cairdiúil domhanda a fhorbairt, coimhlint a sheachaint nó a mhaolú, agus síocháin a chothú go foighneach.
[We are indebted to you and your families for making the often unseen personal sacrifices that this work demands, in order that our world can function more harmoniously, avoid or mitigate conflict and patiently encourage peace.]
I know that many of you here today work with great dedication on promoting Ireland as a destination for business, trade, investment, tourism and education opportunities. In particular, the relationships you forge with our wider Irish family in countries around the world, those who have forged bonds with the people of their new communities creating profound global connections, are invaluable in developing and enhancing business networks and furthering Ireland’s economic links to your host countries. This important work is, I assure you, deeply valued here in Ireland.
I thank you also for the valuable work you do in promoting our rich Irish culture and heritage on the international stage. That cultural heritage, - our music, drama, literature and dance - is at the very heart of our identity; connecting our global Irish people to our shared past, while enriching their new societies and communities. We are deeply grateful for the work you do in keeping that culture alive and relevant, creating a critical sense of belonging for Irish people living far away from home and an important resource for descendants of the many Irish people who have, across the decades, had to leave our shores in search of new opportunities and a better future. Irish culture now enjoys global recognition, enhancing the name and reputation of Ireland and for that we are deeply grateful.
This week you have gathered here in Dublin to attend what is the first ever conference for all of Ireland’s Honorary Consuls. The agenda for this two day event is impressive and wide reaching, examining some of the critical issues facing Ireland at this challenging time, while also sharing common problems and best practice, and exploring ways to further develop the valuable work you do in protecting and assisting Irish citizens abroad, and promoting our country as a place of business and culture.
Sabina and I are delighted to host this reception in Áras an Uachtaráin this evening to mark this inaugural conference. I am delighted that so many of you have taken the time to travel to Ireland in order to participate and share your thoughts and experiences.
Arís ba mhaith liom buíochas a ghabháil libh as an ról an-tábhachtach atá agaibh, tuiscint agus comhoibriú idir na náisiúin a chuir chun cinn. Ba mhaith liom freisin an tacaíocht a bhfaigheann sibh as bhur ndaoine muinteartha a aithint agus buíochas a ghabháil leo as an tseirbhís mórchroíoch sin.
[May I thank you, once again, for the vital role you perform in fostering understanding and cooperation between nations. I also wish to acknowledge the support which you receive from your loved ones in this important work and thank them, through you, for that generous service.]
Finally I wish you a fruitful and successful conference, and every success as you continue with your important work.
Go raibh mile maith agaibh go léir.