Launch of True to Ireland by Peter Burke
Speech20 September 2019
True to Ireland is the product of a thoroughly researched investigation into an important chapter of our history that had been tragically forgotten.
In documenting the deeply moving human stories of Peter’s father and of the other members of the Éire National Association the book touches also on deeper issues of identity and of Irishness in the early years of our state.
The story that it tells also says something unique about the emigrant experience, and about the Irish emigrant experience in particular.
As Minister of State for the Diaspora, I have had the privilege of listening to the stories of Irish people who have made their homes in many different countries around the world, as well as those of their many descendants.
An encompassing theme in all of these encounters has been the sense of overlapping and blending of identities which so often comes to characterise the emigrant experience.
Throughout history Irish emigrants have proved a resilient and adaptable people, rapidly finding a place of belonging within their new homelands while often maintaining a strong parallel sense of Irishness.
This multiplicity of identity is something that we in modern Ireland have come to cherish within our diaspora. In Government, we recognise the great diversity of the emigrant experience as a tremendous strength of our global Irish community.
However, in the case of the Sons of Erin - which Peter has detailed so well - we see the deep pain that can be caused when one aspect of that complex diaspora identity is denied.
The courage of Matthias Burke and the other ENA members in defending their identity as citizens of an independent neutral country stands as a great testament to the spirit of the Irish community in New Zealand.
However, their desire to remain in their adopted homeland and to contribute through non-combatant work also speaks of their deep dedication to New Zealand and to its people.
I visited New Zealand this past June, and I was deeply moved by the spirit and vitality of the Irish-Kiwi community; it is clear that Peter’s book makes an invaluable contribution to their story, and to the collective history of the Irish diaspora around the world.