Message to The Ireland Funds’ Winter Celebration
Tuesday, 1st December, 2020
I was delighted to accept the invitation of The Ireland Funds to address you in what is a Winter celebration being held in particularly challenging times, and all the more important for that.
I am so pleased to have the opportunity to address you all today at this important Winter Gala.
For over 40 years, The Ireland Funds have harnessed the power of a global philanthropic network of friends of Ireland to promote and support peace, culture, education and community development across the island of Ireland and among Irish communities around the world. The Ireland Funds’ vision of peace, equality and opportunity across the island of Ireland and among Irish communities worldwide is a powerful beacon and a commendable aspiration founded on core principles of inclusivity, participation and fairness.
The event today will help to shine a light on a number of Irish organisations undertaking vital humanitarian work that are struggling to cope with the acute financial impact that the COVID-19 crisis has imposed on them, thus requiring the generous philanthropic support from donors such as those present today.
The thousands of outstanding organisations you support across the island of Ireland touch the lives of so many people, increase opportunities for participation, and improve the conditions within society. As the world continues to grapple with the unprecedented challenge of the COVID-19 pandemic, The Ireland Funds has assisted organisations with aid for both immediate and long-term needs, allowing such organisations to continue with their vital work in areas such as arts and culture, education, community development and peace and reconciliation.
Not only the importance but the vulnerability of what is created through the medium of arts has been laid bare in these times of COVID-19. The arts sector has seen job losses, careers put on hold, events cancelled or continually postponed, real hardship and suffering among artists and cultural practitioners; and yet how ironic it is that it is to the arts that so many of us have turned during these challenging times, drawing on creativity, imagination and cultural expression, be it in the form of words, music, performance, visual arts, or other forms.
What the arts have provided to us through the courage and dedication of performers in the toughest of circumstances – the well of creative endowment and possibility they constitute – represents the best response and source of succour that we have had to help us cope with our present confined circumstances, and the often tragic personal, social and economic consequences of living in times of a pandemic. This is true for the whole world, but it holds a special resonance in Ireland, the home of the story-teller, the narrator, who we have been reminded should always be afforded a special, central status.
The COVID-19 pandemic is proving devastating to non-profit organisations across the island of Ireland. The services they provide to Ireland’s communities have never been more vital given today’s circumstances in which many vulnerable individuals find themselves in isolated conditions, stranded from their families and loved-ones and the daily interactions that enrich their lives.
Many non-profit organisations are facing limited resources and collapsing revenue streams as they strive to deliver essential services for the most vulnerable and marginalised in society. For some, this crisis is challenging not only their reach, but their very existence. Grants from The Ireland Funds, made possible by the generosity of good and concerned people such as the donors present, can be for these organisations the difference between survival and bankruptcy.
We will come through this pandemic and learn from it. For out of such a crisis, we are presented with perhaps a once-in-a-generation opportunity to do things better, to embrace and bring to fruition a new paradigm of existence with each other, in relation to work and living, and with the world itself; a renewed and healthier connection of society, sustainable economy and ecology. Central to the flourishing of a post-COVID-19 society will be the themes of the spirit of which matters of art and culture are the food.
May I take this opportunity to wish all donors present this evening an enjoyable Winter Celebration, and thank you for your continued, generous support for Irish people and matters Irish.
We in Ireland remain conscious of the debt of gratitude we owe to those who have left these shores over so many years and whose hard work, generous support and encouragement to those who remained at home have played a significant role in the shaping and crafting of the modern Ireland we know today, and those, too, who have taken an interest in matters Irish and the flourishing of an Ireland which continues to strive for a future defined by equality and respect for all our citizens.
Mile buiochas díbh uilig as bhúr dtacaíocht do cursaí Éíreannaigh agus go h-aírthe do cursaí ealíona.