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Minister of State Cannon T.D. address at the Clans of Ireland Conference

Thank you for welcoming me here this morning.

I can think of no better place to host the annual Clans of Ireland Conference than here in the historic St Stephen’s Green Hibernian Club in the heart of Dublin.

This conference offers an opportunity to recognise and celebrate the ongoing work of Clans of Ireland, as well as the unique cultural and personal history that is represented by each Clan.

I am honoured to be here today to present the Clans of Ireland Order of Merit awards, present the 2017 Chiefs’ and Clans’ Essay Competition prize and to launch a book of essays aptly entitled Politics, kinship and culture in Gaelic Ireland.

As Minister for the Diaspora I have seen, time and again, how the celebration of shared culture and heritage can bring people from different backgrounds together.

During a visit to Qatar and Kuwait at the start of the year I saw how it was the emigrant GAA club that fulfilled this role. While in Chicago over St. Patrick’s Day I saw how it was the Irish heritage organisations and Parade organising committees that that fulfilled this role.

In all cases, and including today, I have seen how it is grassroots participation and a tireless volunteer spirit that makes organisations and events successful.

In these endeavours I am proud that my Department is able to support many Irish organisations through the Emigrant Support Programme. Since its establishment in 2004 €160 million has been disbursed through the Programme to Irish organisations worldwide and I know that more and more funding is going to support Irish culture and heritage projects around the world. It is our special affinity with our shared culture and heritage which maintains this sense of connection, to Ireland and to each other, for millions of Irish people around the world.

Clans of Ireland has mobilised interest in Irish heritage to develop an organisation that represents Irish Clans at home and abroad, while aiming to unite them into a cohesive movement.

In this goal the recipients of the Order of Merit have made a significant contribution and I would like to thank this year’s recipients: Fergus Kavanagh, Eamon Madden and Thomas Weadock. We are fortunate to have people like you who are dedicated to supporting and celebrating Irish culture and heritage.

Clans of Ireland is undoubtedly a leader in celebrating Irish culture and heritage and no better example of this is the second anthology of essays on Gaelic Ireland – which I am pleased to launch today.

Serious publications like this are reflective of the quality and depth of work that you are engaged in and helps form the bedrock of our understanding of Gaelic Ireland.

The accounts in this body of work span from history and politics to culture and religion. They offer an insight into a formative part of our history, a time when we first came into the modern era and where our unique culture was buffeted by external forces, but survived.

I wish to congratulate you on this work of scholarship and I know it is part of a wider movement to understand, celebrate and commemorate our unique and evolving Irish culture.

I think that Isaac Lally, the subject of Ruairí Ó hAodha’s winning essay, would approve of this book and indeed of the events of today. I understand that there was stiff competition for this year’s essay prize and the calibre of the winning essay is testament to the high level of interest and scholarship that exists when it comes to Irish history and culture.

In your work on celebrating Irish history and culture I would urge you to continue to tap into the Irish diaspora and to forge even greater links with Irish communities around the world, this is part of my mission too as Minister of State for the Diaspora.

I have seen from my own experience that Irish communities worldwide are organised, ready to connect and willing to work with other Irish organisations or groups – one only needs to make that initial contact and a whole new world can be opened up.

I hope therefore that you will continue to tap into this ready built network and to expand your engagement to even more locations and communities. I think that Clans of Ireland, in particular, will fare well connecting with our global Irish who are seeking that personal connection with home and with each other.

As I am sure you already know, there is something special about knowing you have a tangible connection. Whether that be a DNA link, a shared surname or an ancestral connection of time or place.

I hope that you will continue in combining serious academic research with the celebration of personal and familial ties. Clans of Ireland is a unique organisation in this regard and you play a role that is pivotal in maintaining the strong connection between Ireland’s past and present.

I know that you have done much already, but with a potential audience of 70 million people who claim Irish ancestry, I know there is much more that can be done and ever more people that can be reached.

Through your engagement with Clans, through your academic research and through the work of everyone who contributed to you organisation – I have no doubt that Clans of Ireland will continue to grow and reach ever more people.

It remains only for me to thank you again for inviting me here today.

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