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Minister of State Ciarán Cannon, TD - Irish Community and Alumni Reception, Bangkok

Fáilte, Sawadee Khrap , Welcome.

A chairde, ladies and gentlemen, it my distinct honour to stand before you here this evening and I wish to warmly thank you all for taking the time and for showing an interest in connecting with us, and with each other. I would also like to take this opportunity in thanking Ambassador Cotter and his team for arranging this event here in Bangkok.

For generations the Irish have been known for travelling throughout the world. Irish people have made their homes in every country in the world but have never lost that deep affinity and warmness towards our home in Ireland, our values, our identity and our culture. Many of you here this evening, graduates, retirees, community and business leaders, have chosen to make Thailand your home. Some only temporarily, some permanently. Some you made Ireland your home temporarily and have clearly carried back to Thailand a special affinity for Ireland.
As Minister of State for the Diaspora, much of what I do focuses on supporting Irish communities abroad to remain as closely connected as possible to Ireland and to Irish people wherever they may be.

My visit here to Bangkok this week is aimed at a number of outcomes: meeting and acknowledging the great work of the Irish Community in Thailand; strengthening the relationship between Ireland and Thailand; raising Ireland’s profile in Thailand; and consolidating the good relationships and connections that have been fostered over the last number of years between the two countries in the Education sector.

Throughout the past year my Department has been working very closely with the Department of Education and with Enterprise Ireland to develop our engagement with our alumni. Our aim is to create new opportunities to connect, not just with Irish Community Members and Irish Alumni, but with those of all nationalities who have spent time in higher education in Ireland. Receptions such as this one tonight forms part of that engagement. This is the third such event following alumni events in Washington in September and Ottawa last month.

Last weekend, representatives from eleven Higher Education Institutes were here in Bangkok at a large education fair, showcasing the world class education experience that Ireland has to offer. We see those of you who have travelled from Thailand to study in Ireland as being our greatest asset in the globalised world. Our alumni are an extension of Ireland, reaching out in to the world and sharing experiences of Ireland, the values of Ireland, the traditions of Ireland and all that Ireland has to offer.

I know that student numbers from Thailand to Ireland have been increasing in the last number of years thanks to a number of factors including the arrival of the Embassy in Bangkok, the work of Education in Ireland, Irish HEI representatives, and Education Agents who have been promoting Irish education over the years. But it is important to recognise that it is you, the Irish and Thai alumni who are yourselves the very best Irish Education Ambassadors in Thailand.
I want to see these student figures increasing even more in the coming years and I look forward to helping develop our good relationships through meeting with the Minister of Education during my visit.

Although the Embassy here in Thailand is relatively new, opening four years ago, I know from speaking with Ambassador Cotter that there is a long-standing, active and vibrant Irish Community here in Thailand. As Minister for the Diaspora I am delighted to hear this and I want to acknowledge the effort and time that the community has put into strengthening Irish-Thai relations.

This evening we are joined by representatives from the Irish Thai Chamber of Commerce, the Thai GAA, the St. Patrick’s Society, the Irish Women’s Group and the Irish Society of Pattaya. I would like to thank you all for the excellent work that you have done and continue to do in promoting Ireland in Thailand and in continuing to provide support for each other and all Irish citizens in Thailand.

Having heard previously about the tremendous work being carried out by Sister Louise Horgan and all the staff at the Fatima Centre I was delighted earlier today to have been able to see first-hand all that they have achieved and continue to strive towards. I am delighted that the Embassy has been able to provide some modest funding towards their work. Sister Louise has spent over 50 years in Bangkok and is a true inspiration and an example of the many Irish who have gone abroad selflessly to help improve the lives of others less fortunate than themselves.

On Friday the Asia Pacific Ireland Business Forum takes place here in Bangkok. It is a chance for Irish business leaders to meet with each other and with Industry leaders from Thailand and the wider Asia region. It allows them the opportunity to network, share experiences, identify new opportunities and expand their business in the region creating jobs, stability and industry, not only for Irish nationals but also for many thousands of people in the countries in which they are located.

This weekend, Bangkok will also play host to the largest annual gathering of the Irish Community from across Asia. Along with attending the APIBF, I’m delighted to be here to launch the annual Asian Gaelic Games on Friday evening. The games are expected to bring up to 1,000 people here to celebrate our national sports of Gaelic Football and Hurling. A tournament involving men, women and children of Irish nationality and of many others too.

I wish all the best to everyone who is organising, participating, attending, and playing over the next few days. I have no doubt that all the events will be a great success.

Finally, let me once more thank all of you who work towards promoting and preserving Irish culture and heritage in Thailand. I ask all members of the Irish community to continue to support each other, and to stay connected with us and engaged with Ireland no matter where you now call “home”.

Go raibh míle maith agaibh, thank you and enjoy the rest of the evening.

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