Home Diplomatic News Waves of green over Ireland and beyond: St. Patrick’s Day

Waves of green over Ireland and beyond: St. Patrick’s Day

H.E. Mr. Kevin Kelly, Ambassador of Ireland.

In the picture H.E. Mr. Kevin Kelly, Ambassador of Ireland in the Netherlands.

By Roy Lie Atjam.

St.Patrick’s Day or Paddy’s Day as it is also known was celebrated this weekend, not only in Ireland but worldwide. For instance, in the USA, it is the custom that the Chicago River is dyed green, the national colour of Ireland.

St Patrick is about inclusiveness, in fact, it is alleged that the most famous Irishman was a born and bred in the UK (Welshman)

Here in The Hague, H.E. Mr. Kevin Kelly, Ambassador of Ireland in the Netherlands hosted an official St. Patrick’s Day reception in the Grote Kerk on 14th March 2019. The reception was held a few days ahead of the actual date, 17th March.

The guest of honor was the Hon. Michael D’Arcy TD, who is Minister of State at the Department of Finance and the Department of Public Expenditure and Reform with special responsibility for Financial Services and Insurance.

The festive ambiance was felt by all in attendance at the Grote Kerk. The program included Irish dance and music, sampling of Irish food and a steady flow of the “black stuff,” Guinness, Ireland’s world-renowned national drink. Hundreds of Irish nationals, Dutch dignitaries and a large number of Ambassador Kelly’s colleagues came by to congratulate him on this special day.

The speakers at the Irish festivities that evening were Ambassador Kevin Kelly and the guest of honor the Irish Minister of State, Hon. Mr. Michael D’Arcy TD.

A resume of Ambassador Kevin Kelly’s welcome remarks follow hereby.

Ladies and gentlemen, may I begin by wishing you all a Céad Míle Fáilte, or, a hundred thousand welcomes.

It is a great honour to host you at this, my third St Patrick’s Day in the Netherlands. And my first in the wonderful venue that is the Grote Kerk. I am particularly pleased to have as our guest of honour, Mr Michael D’Arcy TD who is Minister of State at the Department of Finance and the Department of Public Expenditure and Reform with special responsibility for Financial Services and Insurance.

St Patrick’s Day , Grote Kerk in The Hague.

As a strong champion of honesty, accountability and integrity in public life, it is fitting that we are hosting the Minister this evening in a Church (Grote Kerk). Perhaps however it is even more fitting for a Minister with responsibility for financial matters to be addressing you from this small stage carefully positioned in front of the figure of Prudence! Yet again we are a little ‘ahead of ourselves’ this year, in that our national day, St. Patrick’s Day, actually takes place on Sunday the 17th of March. Given however that throughout the world the day has stretched into a weekend, and even a week – we decided to hold our reception this evening – to allow you make an early start into what promises to be an excellent weekend in celebration of all that is good about our country.

And speaking of Britain and St. Patrick’s Day, a simple illustration of how the annual celebration of Irish culture and identity has become a means of transcending narrow national boundaries you might be interested to hear that it was in fact my good colleague Ambassador Peter Wilson (UK) who actually launched the 2019 festivities in The Hague with a small St. Patrick’s Day celebration at the British Embassy yesterday evening. Thank you for that gesture Peter which I see as a tangible expression of the binding connections, the enduring warmth and the close, almost family, relationships that will continue to flourish between the neighbouring islands, despite the political turbulence of a changing political landscape in the European Union.

Between The Hague and Amsterdam, it will be a weekend of celebration – both for the growing Irish diaspora in this country (now estimated to be 10,000) and for our many Dutch and international friends who proudly wear the green and become part of our Gaelic family at least once every year! St Patrick’s Day is all about connection. It is an opportunity to connect with our more than 70 million diaspora around the world. It offers us the chance to acknowledge how the Ireland of today is being shaped and invigorated by new diaspora communities from all over the world – One in every six people living in Ireland today was born abroad. And therefore St. Patrick’s Day provides an opportunity to reinforce Ireland’s connection with the world, as a truly global island.

 I know Minister D’Arcy will say some more about this topic during his remarks.

We fully recognise that the role that our membership of the EU has played in Ireland’s journey towards becoming what our Taoiseach now calls “a small island at the centre of the world”. Without our positive engagement in the EU, Ireland would not have made the progress it has in recent years. This is partly why opinion polls consistently show huge support in Ireland for our EU membership. Although we remain disappointed by the decision of the UK to leave the EU and have concerns about the risks that Brexit poses both to our economy, and more importantly our peace process, we have been heartened by the steadfast support and solidarity we have experienced from right across the European Union, especially here in The Netherlands, in making sure that the Irish issues have remained front and centre of the negotiation process.

 As we prepare for the departure of the United Kingdom from the European Union, much remains uncertain. But what is certain is that the Government remains steadfastly committed to the compromises enshrined in that transformative Good Friday Agreement of 1998. In our efforts to prevent a hard border in Ireland, we have drawn on strong solidarity from the Netherlands and from our other partners in the European Union. For that, thank you.

One hundred years ago, on 19th January, 1919, a small group of people gathered in Dublin’s Mansion House to convene the first meeting of Dail Éireann, the first truly democratic and freely elected Irish parliament. The meeting lasted under two hours. But changed forever the course of Irish history. Amongst three seminal documents agreed that afternoon was ‘‘A message to the free nations of the world’’. Outward looking and ambitious, just as Ireland is today, it proclaimed that: “Internationally, Ireland is the gateway of the Atlantic. Ireland is the last outpost of Europe towards the West: Ireland is the point upon which great trade routes between East and West converge: her independence is demanded by the Freedom of the Seas: her great harbours must be open to all nations” The message of that first Dail was intended, above all, for the many influential members of our diaspora, notably those in Europe and the USA. In asserting the global outlook of our small nation, the message is equally relevant for where we find ourselves today.

 We hope that you will enjoy a small taste of Irish hospitality this evening – listening to Irish music, sampling some of our food and drinks – and shortly, we will have a small treat for you – with a demonstration of Irish dancing performed by the very talented Kilkenny School of Irish Dance from right here in The Hague! St Patrick symbolises much of what is great about our land and our people. The triumph over adversity, the wandering spirit, the global outreach, the peace that we have for so long yearned in Ireland, a peace that we so jealously guard. It is in that spirit that I wish to raise a toast to the King and people of the Netherlands, to their Irish and other international guests, and to the growing friendship between all of our countries.

Then, Ambassador Kevin Kelly proudly announced the next speaker with the following words: it is my great pleasure to hand over to my guest of honour, Minister Michael D’Arcy.

Photography by Nils van Houts/Tourism Ireland.

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