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Minister of State Ciarán Cannon, TD - Official Opening of Asia Gaelic Games

Vice Minister Khunpleum, Ambassadors, A Chairde

I am delighted to be here with you all tonight to launch the 23rd FEXCO Asian GAA Games.

I am particularly honoured to be joined here tonight by Mr. Ittipol Khunpluem, Vice Minister for Tourism and Sports in Thailand. I wish to thank you for taking the time to join us here tonight in celebrating our national sports.

I would also like to take a moment to mention a few important guests here this evening:
- Joe Trolan, Chairman of the Asian County Board
- Marie Hickey, President of the Ladies Gaelic Football Association
- Helen O’Rourke, CEO of the Ladies Gaelic Football Association
- Pat Daly, Head of National Games Development at Croke Park
- Denis Cleary, CEO of Fexco, the Main Sponsor of the Asian Gaelic Games
Thank you for traveling out to be here, for your hard work and for your support of the Asian Gaelic Games.

This is the second year running that Thailand GAA have been tasked with organising the Asian GAA Games and the fourth time that the games have been held here in Thailand. This year approximately 40 teams from across the region and further afield will participate and I believe we have a team from South Africa participating in the games for the first time. I wish to take this opportunity to congratulate the GAA and in particular John Campbell and all the team of Thailand GAA for the outstanding work and preparations you have put into these games which I’m sure will be a huge success.

Gaelic Football and Hurling are the national sports of Ireland and have been played since the 16th Century. These sports are deeply rooted in Irish culture, society and in our history. These sports gave the Irish people a sense of identity, when our own Irishness was once denied to us. The GAA network across the globe has given many generations of Irish emigrants a place to feel welcome, to belong, and to feel not quite so far away from home.

The Irish Diaspora has reached every corner of the world. We have brought with us our Irish history, our Irish culture and our Irish identity. This includes our national sports.

As Minister for the Diaspora it is my job to try and ensure that Irish people abroad who want to continue to be connected to Ireland, have the means and the tools to be able to do so. Under my Department’s Emigrant Support Programme, almost €110,000 has been allocated to fund diaspora projects in Asia so far this year. €42,000 of this figure has been paid out of the GAA Global Games Development Fund to clubs throughout the Asia Region. This funding helps to keep the Irish Diaspora connected to our Irish heritage and identity.

In total it is expected that over 1,000 people will participate and attend the games this weekend, which highlights the global reach that the GAA, our national sports association has. Over the course of the next two days 700 men women and children will take to the playing fields of Bangkok, competing, enjoying and celebrating our national sports. I urge those of you here who are not participating and have never seen Gaelic Football or Hurling before, to attend the games. There you will be able to witness the athleticism and skill that is Gaelic Football and the sheer pace, accuracy and excitement that you experience while watching Hurling, which has been widely acknowledged as the fastest and oldest field game in the world.

On Wednesday night the Ambassador hosted a reception for the Irish Community and Alumni where I was able to meet and speak with many of you that are attending here tonight. This morning I was honored to give the opening address to the Asia Pacific Ireland Business Forum, where again the ambition and vibrancy of the Irish people and Irish business community was evident. Tonight, here we are celebrating another major Irish event. Since I arrived in Thailand on Wednesday I have been struck by the energy, dedication and commitment of those of you that now call Thailand home, some of you only temporarily. Your ambitions, your charisma and your sheer promotion of the Irish identity and Irish values make me extremely honored to be your Minister for the Diaspora.

In closing, I wish to again congratulate Paul Scales and all the members of the Irish Thai Chamber of Commerce for organizing such a wonderful event this morning. I wish to thank, all the Irish community groups for giving a place of welcome and support to the Irish diaspora here in Thailand.

I wish to again congratulate the GAA and in particular Thailand GAA on organizing this weekend’s FEXCO 2018 Asia Gaelic Games and I wish all those participating, whether spectating in the stands or participating on the field of play the very best of luck this weekend.

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

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