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Minister of State Ciarán Cannon, TD - Benevolent Irish Society, Community Reception

Dia dhaoibh go leir a chairde. Tá an áthas orm a bheith anseo libhse inniu.

It’s a pleasure to be here with you today.

As Minister of State at the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade with special responsibility for the Diaspora and International Development, I am particularly delighted to be visiting a place with such deep Irish connections, and with a long Irish history and tradition.

Newfoundland is home to the oldest Irish Diaspora population in the world, and so I have long had a desire to come to Newfoundland and meet with the Irish community here. Before this visit, I of course knew about the strong links between Ireland and Canada, and I knew that Newfoundland had particularly close ties with Ireland, but I didn’t expect how much Newfoundland would feel like home, and I’m not just talking about the rain! This is the only place outside Ireland to have an indigenous Irish language name - Talamh an Éisc, named so by the many Irish fishermen who landed here over the centuries, and I am also aware that large sections of the Newfoundland population, especially on the Southern Shore, still speak in sounds that reverberate with the intonations and accent of the south east of Ireland. St. John’s of course, is twinned with Waterford in the south east of Ireland, while Renews is twinned with my own town of Athenry, Co. Galway. The sense of familiarity I feel is therefore natural, as Canada, and especially Newfoundland, has always been a home away from home for the Irish diaspora. I am delighted to be here at last and I salute this community for your ability to preserve your links with Ireland.

You will all perhaps be aware of the bilateral initiatives between Ireland and the province of Newfoundland and Labrador, including:
• A joint Newfoundland Marine Institute/Irish Marine Institute MUN fellowship in the area of Atlantic Data
• A joint project to map the seabed of the Route of the first Transatlantic Cable undertaken by the RV Celtic Explorer
• Commemoration of the 150th anniversary of the laying of the first transatlantic cable between Valentia Island and Heart’s Content, NL
• A collaborative project to digitise Dr. John Mannion’s records on 40,000 Irish immigrants to Newfoundland in the 1800s, a project to which Ireland’s Emigrant Support Program has allocated significant funding between 2015 and now. I will be visiting these archives during my time here, and I look forward to learning more about our shared history.

The ties between Newfoundland and Ireland will only continue to grow, especially now that Newfoundland is so accessible to Irish people via the direct WestJet flight. This has afforded people an excellent opportunity to see a part of Canada that they may not have been able to up until recently, due to the distance with other cities with direct flights from Dublin. We want to ensure that these flight paths stay busy, and we want to keep bringing both tourists and business people through St. Johns.

I would love to see the already vibrant relationship between our two islands continue to grow. I am looking forward to my meetings with the Newfoundland Government to explore the possibilities of further cooperation. Much is already taking place and hopefully we can build on that to the mutual benefit of both our peoples. Similarly, our Ambassador Kelly and his Embassy team will continue to work closely with you all, and I would strongly encourage your community groups to apply for the Emigrant Support Programme, which is there to help keep Irish heritage and culture alive across the world.

In closing, I would like to sincerely thank our hosts here this evening, the Benevolent Irish Society. The BIS is the oldest philanthropic organisation in North America, and has been supporting the Irish community in St. John’s since 1806, and for this you are all to be commended.

I hope you all enjoy the evening, and I hope to get talking to many of you later.

Go n-eirí libh go leir

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