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Minister of State Ciarán Cannon, TD., Irish Fellowship Club of Chicago St. Patrick's Day Dinner

• A Dhaoine Uaisle agus a Chairde Gael, Distinguished Guests, Ladies and Gentleman, Irish Friends,

• Thank you for your warm welcome

• I would like to thank the President of the Fellowship Club, the Honorable John C. Griffin, the Dinner Chair, Michael G. O’Rourke, and the organising committee for inviting me to join you this evening.

• I would like to acknowledge the St. Patrick’s Day Parade Grand Marshall, Alderman Patrick J. O’Connor. I am delighted that this year’s parade is also recognising Justice Anne Burke and the wonderful Special Olympics movement. Om 2003, Ireland was the first country outside the US to host The Special Olympics. Communities in towns and cities across our country hosted athletes from around the world. Their energy and enthusiasm captivated the country and inspired us. The Special Olympics will always retains a special place in Irish hearts.

• I view Ireland as an Island at the centre of the world, and it is great to be able to connect with the people of Chicago, a city at the centre of America, the most American of cities and a city with a strong Irish heritage. The bonds remain strong between Ireland and Chicago.

• It is home to the first and, to date, only member of the Irish Parliament to reside outside of Ireland, my friend, Senator Billy Lawless.

• St. Patrick’s Day is a time of celebration in Ireland and for all those of Irish decent and affinity around the world and it is an honour for me, as Ireland’s Minister for the Diaspora, to be here to celebrate with Chicago’s Irish family.

• Given Ireland’s history of emigration, relations with the diaspora have always been a part of our political, social and economic life. The net result of generaltions of emigration is that today the Irish nation can be said to stretch far beyond the boundaries of our small, island state.

• For an island of about six million people, some estimate that there are up to 70 million people around the world claiming Irish ancestry and heritage, with some 38 million of them here in the United States of America and a strong presence here in Chicago.

• Beannachtaí na Féile Padraig oraibh go léir agus go raibh míle maith agaibh.

• Happy St. Patrick’s Day to you all. Thank you.

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