Yeats Exhibition Launch - Speech by MoS Ciarán Cannon T.D.
Speech25 September 2019
A chairde go léir, dear friends, it’s wonderful to be back here in New York and in the Consulate.
It’s a particularly busy week as I think you are well aware, not least by of all the traffic created by the multitude of motorcades moving around the city. The UN General Assembly week is in full swing and Ireland’s campaign for a seat on the UN Security Council is at the centre of our efforts as Irish government ministers here. Ireland’s campaign is informed by three themes: empathy, partnership and independence. I mention this because I believe they are pertinent to this occasion here this evening.
The title of this exhibition “Nineteen Hundred and Nineteen”, artworks inspired by the W.B. Yeats poem of the same name, immediately evokes memories for us Irish of the past one hundred years as we emerged onto the global stage as an independent state. Our history of immigration, hunger and conflict, the family history of many of you here in this room, gives us, an Irish people today, who are generous in their leadership, solidarity and action in responding to humanitarian emergencies, assisting refugees and addressing global challenges and hardships.
As both Minister for the Diaspora and Minister for International Development it makes me proud that Ireland is now a respected leader in international humanitarian action. In fact, the Irish Naval Services ship, the L.É Samuel Beckett, which rescued thousands of migrants in the Mediterranean as part of the EU’s Operation Sophia, is currently docked in Pier 36 and will be hosting an open day for visitors on Sunday. I recommend a visit to hear first-hand about the experiences of our Naval Services in carrying out their hugely important life-saving work.
The past one hundred years has also shown us the value of partnership, that we are stronger together than acting alone. Our membership of the United Nations and the European Union are important expressions of that. But I also believe that the partnerships we develop as we support each other in our Irish communities and with other communities around the world are just as important for who we are as Irish people. I see this everywhere I go as Minister for the Diaspora and the community here in New York is a leading example.
One hundred years ago, in 1919, the First Dáil, the first parliament of the Irish Republic, met in the Mansion House in Dublin. One of its first pieces of business was to agree a Message to the Free Nations of the World. The message stated:
“Ireland is the last outpost of Europe towards the West; Ireland is the point upon which great trade routes between East and West converge… her great harbours must be open to all nations.”
By October of that year, a Consulate was established here in New York. One of the key aims of the new Consul was the establishment of a direct steamship service between Ireland and New York. Today, in peak season, there are 55,000 airline seats a week from the United States to Ireland. We’ve come a long way.
The members of the First Dáil understood that the key to our future, to being a strong, independent country, was in those connections - being a part of the world and contributing to it, being in partnership with others. And today we mark just the start of the Consulate’s centenary journey, exploring the links here in New York between the Irish and those with whom we share a history and a future.
That same Message from the First Dáil called “upon every free nation to uphold her national claim to complete independence”. One hundred years on, a lot has changed in Ireland as we forged our independent path. But the essence of who we are, that creative core, shaped over centuries, that has left its footprint all over the world, is still as strong as ever. It is what makes the exhibition of artworks on these walls particularly special. This exhibition is a conversation through time and through history between creativity in words and creativity in image that expresses who we are here today.
So it gives me great pleasure to be the one to launch “Nineteen Hundred and Nineteen” here in the Consulate this evening. Congratulations to all the 129 artists involved, some of whom are with us this evening. And a huge thank you to Martina Hamilton who had the vision for this exhibition and who made it a reality. I look forward to hearing more from Martina about her inspiration for this project and from Dr Kiely on his reflections about the poem itself.
Enjoy the evening, enjoy the art. Go raibh míle maith agaibh.