Minister Cannon T.D. speech at the D'Arcy McGee International Forum 2018
Speech16 August 2018
Let me first thank you all for the warm welcome to Carlingford. It is a pleasure to be able to make the journey here today and I can think of no better place to host the 2018 D'Arcy McGee International Forum. As the birth place of Thomas D'Arcy McGee and as a place of outstanding natural beauty, I think Carlingford is an ideal setting to inspire debate and discussion on the ties that bind Canada and Ireland.
And let’s remind ourselves just how close those bonds are.
Over four million Canadians can trace their heritage back to Ireland, and with Thomas D'Arcy McGee among them, many Irish men and women have made strong contributions to the development of modern Canada.
It was in Canada in 1948 that the then Taoiseach, John A. Costello, made the public announcement to the world that Ireland would declare itself a Republic. In this regard we are so closely linked through both people and politics.
Later this year I will be visiting Canada as Minister of State for the Diaspora. I am looking forward in particular to visiting Newfoundland which maintains such deep and historic links to Ireland. Indeed, as many of you will know Newfoundland is the only place outside of Ireland that has an indigenous Irish name; Talamh an Éisc (The Fishing Ground).
My visit to Newfoundland will be the 15th visit by an Irish Government Minister to Canada in a period of just over 15 months. This reflects a dramatic upsurge in the level of bilateral political engagement between our two countries since 2016, marking a welcome change from the pattern of previous years. The warm relationship between Prime Minister Trudeau and Taoiseach Leo Varadkar, personifies the extremely close bond that we share and is reflected in growing trade and cultural ties, and a shared sense of values that shape how we view the world in these challenging times.
The Department of Foreign Affairs also seeks to actively support these ties, including through the Emigrant Support Programme. As Minister, I was pleased this year to approve funding for more than twenty Irish diaspora organisations all across Canada. With over €180,000 allocated to organisations in Canada this year, I am confident that we can continue to support the growing capacity and impact of our Irish diaspora organisations there.
The imminent opening of the new Irish Consulate General in Vancouver marks a new and exciting chapter in our engagement with Canada. Our presence on the ground in Vancouver will help to further bolster our engagement with the British Columbia and will help to support the growing and vibrant Irish community that calls the region home. The new Consul General will bring a wealth of experience to the role and I am confident that this new Consulate will make a really positive impact in the region and will greatly assist the work of Ambassador Kelly and his team in Ottawa.
Canada – Ireland Relations
Canada’s hugely positive role in shaping modern Ireland is not in any doubt and I note that it is the subject of discussion at this forum and is reflected in the sub-themes that have been set out.
As Minister of State for the Diaspora and International Development I have seen first-hand the positive impact that Canada and Ireland have made on the world stage, often together. On the international development side I have seen in Africa how our efforts to de-escalate conflict and promote peacebuilding are helping lift millions out of conflict and out of precarious environments.
Canada led the way in this regard through the 1997 Ottawa Treaty that brought about the widespread ban on the use of anti-personnel mines. Eleven years later in Dublin this country followed up on this crucial work and shepherded though a similar style ban on the use of cluster munitions. In both cases, Canada and Ireland worked closely together and through a set of shared values, sought to create a world that is more free of conflict and danger.
General de Chastelain
Ladies and gentlemen, we are gathered today to honour a person who personifies these ties between our two countries, and who, very deservedly, is the inaugural recipient of the D'Arcy McGee Award: General John de Chastelain.
I had the pleasure of meeting General de Chastelain and his wife Mary Ann November last in Áras an Uachtaráin, when President Higgins presented General de Chastelain with the Presidential Distinguished Service Award. It is testament to the character and impact of General de Chastelain that we are here today to recognise the unique and outstanding service that he has given to this country, and hugely positive role that he has played in the promotion of peace on the island of Ireland.
I believe that there is hardly an adult on this island who will not recognise the name of General John de Chastelain, synonymous as it is with the peace process in Northern Ireland and the tireless work of countless people to achieve that hard won peace.
General de Chastelain’s work in the Mitchell Commission in 1995 and later in the Multi-Party Talks was a crucial part of the process which led to the historic Good Friday Agreement, the foundation stone of peace on our island. I know from my engagement with politicians and officials from across this island that General de Chastelain is held in the highest esteem by all parties and that he never wavered from his well-earned reputation for impartiality and respect for all those engaged in the search for a peaceful solution to the difficulties that we faced.
Such was this regard that General de Chastelain was further asked to head up the Decommissioning Body which engaged with representatives of paramilitary organisations to take away illegal weapons; and again he agreed to assist. Having initially agreed to come to Belfast for a period of three months, General de Chastelain laboured on the peace process and the issue of decommissioning over a period of sixteen years, repeatedly answering the call to serve peace and reconciliation on the island of Ireland. I do not think that the debt of gratitude that we owe in response to this effort can be overstated.
General de Chastelain achieved what sometimes seemed impossible, getting the paramilitary groups to voluntarily give up their arms. It is clear to me that without successful resolution of this issue, it simply would not have been possible to get the institutions as envisaged by the Good Friday Agreement off the ground. In this regard General de Chastelain’s work has proven to be a foundation stone for the development of devolved and shared Government in Northern Ireland.
Ultimately all the recent positive developments between our two countries; from State visits, to closer ties, to diaspora funding, to a new Consulate; have been made easier and more pressing by individuals whose contributions to Canadian-Irish relations are singularly unique and of their time.
Thomas D'Arcy McGee was undoubtedly of this mould in the 19th Century just as General John de Chastelain is of this mould in the 20th and 21st Century. Their contributions continue to shape modern Canada and modern Ireland and have built and deepened the links between our two nations and peoples inextricably and forever.
It is fitting then today that we are privileged to present General de Chastelain with this, the inaugural D'Arcy McGee Award.