Áras an Uachtaráin held it's first annual 'Presidential Distinguished Service Award for the Irish Abroad'.
Awards the following individuals:In the category of Arts, Culture and Sport, Mr Pat Kelly (Canada), Mr Pierre Joannon (France); Mr Jim Stynes (Australia). Jim Stynes wife, Sam, collected the award on his behalf.
In the category of Business and Education: Mr Andy Rogers (Britain) and Mr Donald Keough (United States)
Mr Chuck Feeney (United States) was awarded for his Charitable Works.
Ms Sally Mulready (Great Britain) and Sr Lena Deevy (United States) were awarded under the category 'Irish Community Suppport' and Fr Michael Kelly (Zambia) and Loretta Brennan Glucksman (United States) were award for 'Peace, Reconciliation and Development'.
REMARKS BY PRESIDENT MICHAEL D. HIGGINS AT THE
Presidential Distinguished Service Award
ÁRAS AN UACHTARÁIN
THURSDAY, 15TH NOVEMBER, 2012
Taoiseach, Tánaiste, Members of the Council of State agus a cháirde:
On behalf of Sabina and myself, I would like to welcome you all here today to Áras an Uachtaráin for this very special occasion. I wish in particular to welcome our guests of honour – the very first recipients of the Presidential Distinguished Service Award for the Irish Abroad.
Ba mhaith liom freisin fáilte is fiche a fhearadh roimh chlanna agus chairde na ndaoine sin a bhfuil gradaim á mbronnadh orthu. Táimidne, ar an ardán seo, buíoch agus bródúil as gach a bhfuil déanta ag gach aon duine de na faighteoirí ar son na hÉireann, ar son an phobail Éireannaigh thar lear agus ar son cúiseanna daonnúlacha eile. Tá údar maith agaibhse, a gclanna agus a gcairde, agus an bród sin á roinnt agaibh linne, agus tá súil agam go mbainfidh sibh taitneamh as bhur gcuairt chuig Áras an Uachtaráin inniu.
[I also want to extend a very warm welcome to the families and friends of those who are receiving Awards. We on this platform are grateful for, and proud of, what each of the recipients has contributed to Ireland, to the Irish community abroad and to wider humanitarian causes. You, their families and friends, are fully justified in sharing that pride and I hope you enjoy your visit to Áras an Uachtaráin today.]
The departure of Irish people from this island in pursuit of service, or in search of opportunity, abroad has been a recurring and defining characteristic of our history and of the Irish narrative. The emigrant experience is so deeply engrained in the Irish psyche that it continues - in a very real sense - to shape how we define ourselves as a people and how we interact with the wider world.
For many generations, that experience of forced emigration was deeply traumatic and left individuals and communities, at home and abroad, with a sense of loss that stayed within them for the duration of their lives. At the same time, our people forged new and ambitious lives for themselves and their families in every corner of the world and made an indelible mark on the political, economic and cultural landscapes of their adopted countries. They also built thriving Irish communities and ensured that these communities looked out for each other and for the country they had left behind.
Irish people owe a considerable debt to previous generations of Irish emigrants. Without the rich legacy left by these people, and by the tireless work done by Irish community organisations throughout the world, current efforts to build new links with the global Irish would not be possible. It is thanks to their sacrifice, their unyielding commitment to this country and their support for each other that Ireland today can reach out to a Diaspora of some 70 million people.
Through their sustained engagement, generations of our people abroad have made, and continue to make, an enormous contribution to Ireland’s development. This new Presidential Award for the Irish Abroad enables the Irish State to recognise in a formal way the outstanding contribution made in different areas by exceptional individuals over a sustained period; not only contributions that have benefitted Ireland and the Irish community abroad, but that have also positively impacted on humanitarian causes worldwide. It also provides an opportunity for the State to honour the sacrifice, support and commitment to Ireland of the wider Irish Diaspora - in all its diversity.
Our relationship with our Diaspora must always be a deep one. It involves a sense of the spirit of being Irish, of memory and of imagination. It demands an inclusivity of all the Irish in the Diaspora, past present and future, as well as in good times and bad. It concerns the grouping together of Irish people to help one another and to provide each other with support. It also builds a bridge between those who have gone and their fellow Irish in their homeland of origin and it encourages and celebrates what we can and must do together.
Irish people have formed Irish communities everywhere they have gone. These communities have provided and are providing a support network for all Irish people and are particularly valuable to the more vulnerable members of society. Sr Lena Deevy in Boston and Sally Mulready in London have both had an enormous positive impact on the lives of so many Irish people in the United States and in Britain, some of whom had become marginalised due to previous wounded lives. Their work is often small acts of kindness, unseen but with profound effect. As well as being highly effective advocates for justice, they represent all of the unsung heroes without whom many of the lives of our fellow countrymen and women would be a far bleaker place.
Tá an grúpa is mó den diaspóra Éireannach, taobh amuigh de dhomhan an Bhéarla, lonnaithe san Airgintín, áit a raibh sé d’ádh orm cuairt a thabhairt le gairid. Nuair a bhí mé ansin, bhuail mé le roinnt grúpaí pobail Éireannacha, agus beidh mé ag tabhairt cuairte go luath ar Mhanchain agus ar Learpholl, áit a bhfeicfidh mé arís, go pearsanta, an obair ríthábhachtach atá á déanamh ag na heagraíochtaí pobail ansin. Is cúis áthais dom i gcónaí an tairbhe a bhaintear as maoiniú an Rialtais faoin gClár Tacaíochta d’Eisimircigh a fheiceáil. Áit ar bith a dtéim, castar grúpaí Éireannacha orm atá tagtha le chéile le cuidiú le chéile agus le ceangal a choimeád lena dtír dhúchais.
[The largest group of the Irish Diaspora outside of the English speaking world is in fact in Argentina where I recently had the pleasure to visit. While there I met with a number of Irish Community groups and I will shortly be visiting Manchester and Liverpool where, once again, I will witness firsthand the vital work done by these Community organisations. I am always pleased to see how much good use is made of the funding provided through the Government’s Emigrant Support Programme. Wherever I go, I encounter groups of Irish people who have come together to help one another and to maintain their links with home. ]
The many groups abroad that promote Irish heritage and the arts which, as you all know are very dear to me, give great expression to our sense of Irishness. The work of Pierre Joannon in France over many decades exemplifies how arts and culture can create bonds between people and countries that are to the mutual enrichment of both.
The network provided by the GAA is a magnificent example of how groups can be nurtured to grow from the roots up. Using the power of volunteers the GAA has provided a home from home to so many Irish people, particularly those many young people who have recently left our shores. Pat Kelly has demonstrated this in Canada, the home to so many of our young emigrants, where his involvement with Gaelic games and his acts of generosity to the many new arrivals from Ireland have endeared him to the Irish community for many years.
The late Jim Stynes embodied all that was good about the power of sport to bring people together. Jim’s contribution both to sport and through the REACH Foundation meant that he was not only held in the highest esteem here, but also in Australia. The outpouring of grief and affection for Jim on his untimely death was a very poignant moment for us all and I am especially pleased to have the opportunity to meet his wife Sam, and to honour his memory here with this award.
Those among our Diaspora who have reached the pinnacle of their careers have often chosen to give back to Ireland - giving generously of their time, their efforts and their philanthropic activities. Though not with us this evening, Chuck Feeney and Don Keough have made a remarkable contribution to the economic and social development of this island.
Chuck’s commitment to the education sector throughout this island has made an enormous and sustainable difference to the lives of tens of thousands of young Irish people, to the quality of the research conducted here and to the future of our economy. His generosity will have a lasting effect in this country long past any of our lifetimes. As will the effect on our economy due to the enormous contribution made by Don Keough. As a small open economy, the development of education, business and trade are essential to allow us to return to growth. The investments facilitated by Don play a significant part in this recovery.
The connections that Ireland enjoys throughout the Global Irish Network are an invaluable soft power resource. Andy Rogers is involved in all things Irish in London and, in particular, all things to do with Irish business in the UK. His enthusiasm, commitment and generosity represent the best values of mutual support and solidarity that the Global Network seeks to promote.
While Chuck’s contribution to education is outstanding so too is the contribution made by another man, Fr Michael Kelly, to education in Africa about HIV/AIDS. Fr Michael has devoted himself to teaching young people about prevention of this most debilitating of diseases. While education in Ireland is about creating a sustainable future, the education promoted by Fr. Michael and his colleagues is about having a future.
The Peace Process in Northern Ireland remains the landmark development of recent Irish history. It has offered our children and grandchildren the opportunity to grow up in an Ireland where our different traditions can work together in the light of peace, equality and partnership rather than in the shadow of the gun and the bullet. The public and political reaction to the horrific murder of David Black - a Prison Officer on his way to work- demonstrated clearly that the people of this island will not tolerate those who would seek to bring us back to darker days.
Our Diaspora played a vital role in the successful development of the peace process. Loretta Brennan Glucksman exemplifies this contribution - not just to the peace process itself, but also to the ongoing hard work of building reconciliation on the island.
This desire to help, either through community or humanitarian work or by giving back to Ireland is what we are here to recognise and celebrate this evening. While it recognises the outstanding contributions made by all ten recipients of the award, it also symbolises the value Ireland places on our Communities abroad.
I would like to take this opportunity to convey my gratitude to the members of the High Level Panel that had the incredibly difficult task of recommending ten individuals to receive this Award in its initial year. Their task was onerous but I think it’s fair to say that their recommendations were excellent. The fact that this Award will be renewed on a yearly basis provides an opportunity to continually expand the pantheon of recognition of those who give distinguished service to Ireland.
I would like to offer my thanks to David Cooney, Secretary General of the Department of Foreign Affairs & Trade, who chaired the Panel and also Adrian O’Neill and Martin Fraser, Secretaries General of my own Office and also that of the Taoiseach. I would particularly like to thank Sally O’Neill Sanchez who travelled from Honduras both to take part in the selection process and again to be here with us this evening, Professor Declan Kiberd who is currently working in the United States and was not able to travel home on this occasion, Fr. Bobby Gilmore and Kingsley Aikins both of whom are here.
Ar deireadh, molaim gach uile dhuine díbh as an gcion tairbhe thar na bearta atá déanta agaibh d’Éirinn, as bhur dtiomantas agus bhur ndíograis do mhuintir na hÉireann, agus as an mórtas atá oraibh as bhur dtír dhúchais.
Táimidne, freisin, an-mhórtasach asaibhse.
[Finally, I commend each and every one of you for your outstanding contribution to Ireland, for your commitment and dedication to Irish people and for the pride you have in our homeland. We too are very proud of you.]
Go raibh míle maith agaibh go léir.