St. Patrick's Day Reception
Speech14 March 2019
Ladies and gentlemen.
Céad mile fáilte romhaibh, agus Lá Fhéile Pádraig sona daoibh go léir. On behalf of my wife Irene and me, and all of the Embassy staff, a hundred thousand welcomes, and a 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 also a day when we reflect on who we are as a country, and what we stand for.
This year marks a very important period in Irish history.
100 years ago, in 1919, Ireland took its fledgling steps into the world of diplomacy. Since then we have sought out international fora like the League of Nations, the Council of Europe, the United Nations and the European Community. We did so in the belief that only a community of nations could guarantee peace, security and prosperity for all.
Our historical experience has taught us the universality of human rights and compassion for those in need. Both of these values shape profoundly our approach to international relations, underpinning our commitment to the United Nations and the Sustainable Development Goals.
So from its very beginning, the Irish State has had a global outlook and a commitment to being a good citizen of the world. As a small island nation, we recognise that through multilateralism, we amplify our voice and our global impact. It is only through coming together with others that the great challenges of our time will be addressed.
Speaking during Ireland’s first year of membership in the United Nations, our then Minister of External Affairs, Liam Cosgrave said, “ We have a small part to play in world affairs; it is a small part you may say, but as every theatre-goer knows, it is better to play a small part well than a big part badly”.
The next decade may well define the world we live in for the rest of the century. The multilateral system is under strain at a time when it is needed more than ever. The Irish Government is committed to supporting and strengthening the multilateral system, through our support for international accords such as the Paris Agreement, the Global Compact on Migration and the Sustainable Development Goals. Our ongoing contribution to peacekeeping and international development, and our determined efforts to participate on and shape the work of the UN Security Council also demonstrates our commitment
We are fully also committed to our membership of the European Union and its standing in the world as a beacon for human rights, free trade, for collective efforts to tackle global problems, and for support for the international order and rule of law. Membership of the EU has been an enabler for Ireland, projecting our voice and our values around the world in a way that would have been impossible otherwise. Our continued membership is understood by the Irish public and strongly endorsed by it. Whatever the outcome of Brexit, Ireland’s future is as a member of the European Union.
Now, in a world of rapid change and uncertainty, multilateral systems are ever more necessary as bulwarks of peace, stability and international cooperation. Ireland will continue to work to shape and influence UN and EU policy and its impact in the world. And we will continue to support and advocate for the fundamental values of democracy and international cooperation.
This year also marks an important period in Irish history in Uganda.
The stickers and the lights on the gazebo may have already given it away, but in case you had not noticed, this year we are celebrating 25 years of an official presence of Ireland in Uganda. Of course our history goes back a lot further. Our first Irish Ambassadors were our Irish missionaries, who have played, and continue to play a great role in Uganda’s development. The strong friendship and partnership we have with the Uganda people and government is built on the back of our Irish community and our Irish alumni. Through their collaboration, cooperation and expertise, they are making great contributions to Uganda’s development and are excellent Ambassadors for Ireland.
As we have been reflecting on our 25 years presence this year, we have been struck by all these people, both Ugandan and Irish, who have contributed to the great relationship we have enjoyed in Uganda and continue to enjoy, but also who have made Ireland’s contribution to the development of Uganda possible. In the past few months we have been collecting memories of some of these people. We aimed for 25 but the memories kept being shared! You will see these scattered around the garden. In reading these memories, I was struck by the variety in experience. For some, a special memory of their time in the Embassy was work focused – the privilege of participating in the South Sudan peace process and contributing learning from our own experience of Northern Ireland, setting up the first programmes in Kibale and Karamoja. For others, the memory was more personal – meeting a future wife and the birth of a child. For others still, the memory was of the camaraderie and team spirit – the Embassy staff choir that was hastily pulled together to sing the National Anthem for St Patrick’s Day. But each memory spoke to the impact of the Irish people on Uganda and the impact of Uganda on the Irish people.
And it is that impact that we are commemorating tonight. And I invite all of you to participate in our memory gallery and contribute a memory you have of the Uganda-Ireland relationship. For the Honourable Minister, I am sure he has fond memories of working together with Ireland to develop the Sustainable Development Goals.
Again, in reflecting on the past 25 years with staff at the Embassy, some of whom have been with us almost that long, two areas stood out: Karamoja and Ireland’s contribution to education.
Our partnership has a special focus on Karamoja, and Ireland takes great pride in the role we have played in Karamoja. From our initial support to peace and conflict resolution to our current support to education, HIV prevention, SRHR and social protection. Karamoja is a region transformed.
Education has always been at the heart of our investments in Uganda. Our very early investments in district programmes allowed Embassy staff to have first-hand knowledge of the challenges and opportunities at local level and feed this into policy level. Over the years we have also conducted research in the education sector, helping Uganda to better understand why girls are dropping out of school. We have also built schools, supported teacher training and piloted vocational education programmes. Our Bursary programme in Karamoja has enabled over 1000 students to attain secondary and tertiary education. Our fellowship programme has supported 200 Ugandans to study in Ireland.
As we look back, we can take great pride in the role we have played in Uganda, in working in partnership to develop and bring change.
As we look forward to another 25 years of strong relations, we look forward to evolving and growing with Uganda. Just three weeks ago, Ireland launched its new policy for development, ‘A Better World’. This new policy is a statement of Ireland’s commitment to global citizenship, to helping make our planet a better place to live for others and for ourselves.
In launching the policy, our Tánaiste/Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for Foreign Affairs quoted an African proverb - where the cattle stand together, the lion sleeps hungry. That sense of solidarity underpins A Better World, which focuses on reaching the furthest behind first, wherever they are, and underpins our relationship with Uganda.
We look forward to working more closely together in the spheres of culture and trade promotion, tourism and global politics and governance. Our Government has this year committed to a review of our ‘Africa Strategy’. The review is a further demonstration of Ireland’s commitment to be a better friend and equal partner to countries in Africa.
Ladies and gentlemen, I am glad to inform you that the ties that bind Uganda and Ireland are strong and enduring, and built on mutual respect.
To symbolise the strong bonds between our two nations, we have partnered once again with the Uganda Tourism Board to participate in the Global Greening of famous monuments around the world for St. Patrick’s Day. This year, we chose to green a new site, the ‘Source of the Nile’ Bridge. A symbol of two nations and two peoples forging a connection and a friendship. The River Nile is a great source of tourism in Uganda, and we are delighted to shine a green light on it.
Before I finish up, I would like to welcome a few people in particular and also thank a few people. Firstly, welcome to Katelyn, Olive and Muireann, who together, form Bachram, and will be performing traditional Irish music for you this evening. They are accompanied by the wonderful dancer Shannon, who hopefully will inspire some of you to join her on the boards.
I would also like to welcome Adam Sweetman, Chair of the Irish Society in Uganda, and all the members of the Irish Society committee. This group has been working tirelessly over the last few months, and hand-in-hand with the Embassy, to pull together some great events that are open to all. If the Irish music tonight whets your appetite, you can experience it again tomorrow night at Bubbles O’Leary in Kololo, and also at the Sheraton Hotel on Saturday night for the annual Irish Society Charity Ball. Thank you to Adam and the team.
Thank you also to our sponsors for this evening and the events over the coming evenings. Firstly, Declan Peppard of Simba Travelcare, who has generously sponsored our band and dancer and the Protea and Sheraton who are generously housing them. To all our food and drinks sponsors – Diageo and Uganda Breweries Limited for the famous Guinness flown all the way from Ireland; Jameson for the whiskey cocktail and Irish coffee bar; Devenish Nutrition for the hog roast, which you can enjoy from the gazebo; Clonakilty Black Pudding, Ballymaloe Relish, Cahills Cheese, all brought in from Ireland, and our newest sponsor, Kyaninga cheese, all the way from West Uganda. Thank you also to ROKO for supporting the setup of the dancefloor this evening, and to the Caledonian Society for trusting us with it.
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.
A final thanks go to the First Lady who had hoped to be here this evening. The First Lady has a special affinity with Ireland, and in particular our Missionaries. We were delighted to present gift hampers to a number of our Irish missionaries earlier today, courtesy of the First Lady. Our missionaries truly are magnificent Ambassadors for Ireland.
And to all – please feel at home, reach out and talk to someone new, relax and enjoy the evening.
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!