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St. Patrick's Day Reception - Remarks by Dónal Cronin, Ambassador of Ireland to Uganda

Honourable Minister for Education and Sports, and First Lady of the Republic of Uganda, Janet Museveni,

Ambassadors, Heads of Missions and agencies,

Honourable Members of Parliament,

Distinguished guests, friends,

Ladies and gentlemen.

Céad mile fáilte romhaibh, agus Lá Fhéile Pádraig sona daoibh go léir. On behalf of Susan and I, our family, and all of the Embassy staff, a hundred thousand welcomes, and happy St Patrick's Day to you all!
St. Patrick's Day, as many of you will know, is a time of celebration in Ireland and for all those of Irish descent and affinity around the world. A day where we express a deep pride in our country, our history, our culture, and our people.

It is, in fact, a day where we are all Irish – and so whoever you are, wherever you have come from, whatever your origin, welcome home! Tonight you are one of us! (whether you like it or not…)

St. Patrick's Day has also become a moment when we celebrate Ireland's global reach and our contribution to the wider world. We are a small, open, progressive country with a big heart. Our people have travelled to all corners of this globe, often driven by need, by the desire to help out, sometimes driven by curiosity. And we have left our mark wherever we have gone.

And the world has left its mark on Ireland in turn. In particular, Ireland has benefited enormously from our membership of the European Union, and we strongly believe that our future prosperity and well-being lies in our continued membership of the EU – which is celebrating 60 years in a few weeks' time. Happy birthday.

Ireland shares EU values – democracy, rule of law, human rights, international cooperation and sustainable development. Values that our own partnership with the Government of Uganda is based upon, and which we are advancing every day through our own programme of cooperation in this country.

It is also our strong desire to maintain our close links with the UK in the framework of its new future relations with the EU. The ties that bind the UK and Ireland are strong and they are enduring. Our aim will be to maintain these, and build upon them, including here in Uganda, in the years ahead.

Our other priority is ensuring that the Northern Ireland peace process is protected, and that our economic growth (we were the fastest growing economy in the EU again last year) is maintained.

Ladies and gentlemen, I am glad to inform you that in July last year the Governments of Ireland and Uganda signed a new Memorandum of Understanding that will guide our partnership over the coming years.

We want to see more trade between our two countries – and we have much to build on. On Tuesday, for example, we launched the Devenish Nutrition Model Pig Farm and Feed Mill in Hoima, which was supported by the Irish and Ugandan Governments. A warm welcome to the Devenish Chairman Owen Brennan, his wife Alice, and the Devenish team who have joined us here in Uganda this week.

We also want to continue to achieve great results in our development cooperation programme with Uganda. Since 1994, we have invested around €500m in Uganda's development, and in the coming five years we have committed to investing €80m more. Our partnership has a special focus on Karamoja, and on the areas of HIV prevention, education, social protection, and governance. Thank you to the Government of Uganda, and to our partners in civil society, academia, the UN - we truly value our strong partnership.

Ladies and gentlemen, I want this evening to pay a special tribute to the Minister for Education, and First Lady, Janet Museveni and to thank you Honourable Minister, sincerely, for your strong collaboration and friendship with us throughout, as Minister for Karamoja Affairs and now as Minister for Education and Sports.

Honourable Minister, your leadership and drive has been critical to the lifting of Karamoja from the poverty, marginalisation and insecurity that it has endured. Your strong role in the battle against HIV/AIDS, and the great strides in the elimination of mother to child transmission, has led to admirable progress that must now be sustained.

And your current drive and commitment in ensuring that every Uganda boy and girl gets the quality education they deserve comes at a critical time in Uganda's development – and will ensure that the future is bright for this young nation.

That is also why we have been delighted to launch this week, with our partners in the New Vision, the Teachers Making a Difference Competition, which over the coming months will showcase the great role teachers are playing in schools and communities throughout Uganda.

I also want to pay special tribute this evening to Uganda's role in receiving refugees and in providing peacekeepers in Somalia and elsewhere. As Irish people, we know about conflict and we know about migration. Your role in Uganda in contributing to regional peace and security is critical and we wish to commend you for it.

So your presence here this evening, Honourable Minister, is a great privilege and honour for us, and we thank you sincerely for it.

To symbolise our strong bonds, we have partnered with the Uganda Tourism Board and UMEME, the giver of all light, to shine a green light on the Equator monument in Uganda again this year. Thanks for your partnership. This is part of our Global Greening of famous monuments around the world for St. Patrick's Day.

Of course, in Uganda we already have had a genius marketing ploy, probably the best ever invented! Because today in every village, in every household, throughout Uganda, people are eating … Irish potatoes. In some places, they don't even call them potatoes any more, they just say Irish. It's fantastic. The French can have their fries, the Americans can have their pancakes, the Spanish their omelettes, the Swiss their cheese, the Kenyans their chevda … I don't think any of these can beat the Irish potatoes!

On a more serious note, I want to thank, in a special way, the Irish community for your cooperation, collaboration and for all that you are doing to contribute to Uganda's development. Go raibh míle maith agaibh, agus go n'éirí and bóthar libh go léir. You are part of the Global Irish Family, and you are all Ambassadors for Ireland. A special word of acknowledgement for the Irish missionaries who for over 100 years have played, and continue to play, a great role in supporting Uganda's development. You are the giants on whose shoulders we stand.

Honourable Minister, ladies and gentlemen, this evening we are showcasing Irish food down in the gazebo at the bottom of the garden, and nearby is the bar serving the famous draught Guinness flown all the way from St. James' Gate in Dublin. I want to thank Uganda Breweries Ltd for the support and partnership.

This evening is only the start of three solid nights of celebration, and I want to thank the Irish Society of Uganda for their tireless and dedicated work, especially at this time of the year. We have with us this evening an Irish band especially assembled and flown in for the occasion, like the Guinness – appropriately enough the band is called Flat Out. Thank you for coming. I also want to say a special word of thanks to the fantastic team at the Embassy of Ireland, for organising this evening, and for your continued great work throughout the year, all of you. They are the best, ladies and gentlemen, and I am not only saying that because I am biased!

And to all – please feel at home, reach out and talk to someone new, relax and enjoy the evening. This, sadly, is my families and my last St. Patrick's Day in Uganda for now. Since 2003, we have celebrated our national day 11 times here in Uganda, so we have done well, and we have enjoyed every one of them, and every day we have spent in this great land. We will be sad to leave.

And so to a toast! To the President of the Republic of Uganda Yoweri Kaguta Museveni, to the First Lady, Mama Janet Museveni, and to all the people of this wonderful country, Uganda. Sláinte!

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