Melbourne, 18 November – Meeting with the Irish community at Celtic Club
The usual members of the Melbourne diaspora had gathered at the Celtic Club to meet and greet the Irish Minister for the Diaspora – a new initiative by the Kenny Government – Fine Gael TD Mr Jimmy Deenihan (Kerry NorthWest) on the evening of the 18th November.
He eventually arrived after midnight at great personal cost after a nightmare trip from Dublin. Flights by TDs are only paid for at the economy rate and Mr Deenihan had suffered a horror trip when his flight had to be diverted to Perth after the illness of another passenger. Fortunately incoming President of the Celtic Club, Veronica O’Sullivan, the Ambassador Mr Noel White and some hardy fans were on hand to welcome him personally and make his determination and dedication to the Diaspora Irish in Australia community worthwhile.
It’s a great pity that he didn’t pass onto us his secret weapon for remaining vertical and coherent after such a feat of physical endurance and we are hoping that he will one day share it with us all. Perhaps his early career as a talented athlete in Gaelic football and rugby stood him in good state for a multi day journey in ‘sardine class’. Meanwhile it might be worth reconsidering the Irish government’s transport policy and investing a little more money so that representatives arrive in a reasonably fit and refreshed state.
We hope he enjoys his stay with us.
In his unavoidable absence, the Ambassador, Mr Noel White, took on the task of conveying the gist of Mr Deenihan’s prepared address – after contributing several comments of his own – to the assembled gathering.
The main points of the Minister’s speech are summarised below:
I am delighted to have this opportunity to meet the Irish community here in Melbourne this evening; to learn of your experiences and your successes; to understand how we in Ireland can support and help you.
- And as Ireland’s first Minister for Diaspora Affairs, it is my job to work to ensure our connection to you – our global family – remains central to Government policy. The more I hear from you on the issues that are of concern the more effectively I can work for you.
- Those of you here this evening are a living testament of the fact that emigration has always been a feature of the Irish experience. However the nature of that experience has changed over the years. While previous generations departed in the knowledge that they would probably never see their homes or families again, today we have other means of keeping in touch. But despite this, the challenges involved in starting life in a new country are daunting, and are faced by many Irish every year.
- Australia, and Victoria in particular, has extended a warm welcome to hundreds of thousands of Irish over the last two centuries. It continues to do so today. Perhaps the main reason the Irish feel so welcomed and at home here is due to the many who have come before and who extend the hand of welcome to their newly-arrived compatriots.
- I want to acknowledge and pay tribute to the community groups, organisations, and individuals, many represented here this evening, who have worked hard to retain, encourage and promote Irish culture here in Australia – our music, dancing, theatre, and our traditional sports.
- I am also very mindful of the tremendous support provided from within the community to those Irish who find themselves in difficult situations, or at times of illness or bereavement.
I would like in particular to acknowledge the role of the Celtic Club as a mainstay for the Irish community here in Melbourne since it was founded in 1887 and wish the recently appointed committee every success in the ongoing work of the Club and your plans for relocation.
The powerful spirit of community and solidarity that can be witnessed in Irish communities across the world is particularly strong here in Australia. We appreciate, and take pride, in the support you have given.
The Irish nation long ago expanded beyond the borders of Ireland itself. The idea of Irishness is something that we share with people across the world in a very special way. I want to thank all of you with Irish ancestry, Irish connections or just a passion for Ireland, for contributing to the very idea of what it means to be Irish.
And on behalf of Melbourne’s Irish community, we would like to thank Mr Deenihan for his dedication.
Felicity Allen & Elizabeth McKenzie
Tinteán Editorial Team