Thu, 19 Nov 2020 11:41:59 GMT
Message to the Irish Community from Ambassador O'Neill
21 April 2020
During the Easter weekend, the Taoiseach announced the extension of the social distancing measures in Ireland by a further three weeks. The UK Government has since announced a similar extension in Great Britain. In appealing for the Irish peoples’ continued forbearance, the Taoiseach quoted the words of Seamus Heaney –
“If we winter this one out, we can summer anywhere.”
As so often, these words of Heaney aptly capture the moment and resonate with our experience. Over the days and weeks ahead, which will continue to be sad and difficult to bear, we must stay hopeful that we are moving through the winter of this crisis, and that spring and summer lie ahead.
This terrible virus has already taken many lives, including great servants of the Irish community in Britain. Their loss is a human tragedy for their families, friends and neighbours who will miss them deeply. It has also affected jobs and livelihoods across these islands and around the world. Recovering from that economic shock will require a massive effort by governments, business and citizens.
In just a few short weeks, our worlds have changed and many ordinary things that we took for granted now seem like distant memories. The new reality of our daily lives, of social isolation, of distance from friends and family and the need to find new ways of living, working and communicating have taken some adjustment for us all. On the far side of this emergency, “returning to normal” may be a phased and gradual process – so continued flexibility and resilience will continue to be needed.
As we go through this experience, it is vital to remember that none of us are alone in this challenging time. I take great pride in seeing the wonderful response from Irish community organisations across Britain to this crisis and changed reality. Organisations swiftly reached out to their networks and their members, identified new needs and concerns and adapted both what they do and how they do it in order to be able to support the most vulnerable citizens in our community.
We in the Embassy continue to be available to support our citizens, including by working with various organisations supported by the Emigrant Support Programme (ESP), to help them adapt and continue operating during this crisis. Over the last few weeks, we have worked closely with Irish in Britain and other key organisations to identify the urgent needs in our community and to refocus the financial resources of the ESP to address those needs. In order to keep us all in good heart, we have also highlighted the many positive social and cultural initiatives that are underway, all across the Irish community in Britain.
I want to pay a special tribute here to the NHS staff and all the key frontline workers, including many of our own Irish citizens, who are working so hard on all of our behalf. Thank you for everything you do, we are proud of you.
We also know that the greatest expression of that pride is to play our part to help others, observe the guidance to stay at home and stick to social distancing measures.
Although we are living through a truly poignant time, we can take comfort in the knowledge that we are doing all this in order to save lives. We should also take heart from the beautiful spring weather and the reassuring words of Derek Mahon:
“I lie here in a riot of sunlight
Watching the day break and the clouds flying
Everything is going to be all right.”
Ambassador Adrian O'Neill
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