BEANNACHTAÍ na Féile Pádraig oraibh go léir.
On St Patrick’s Day, across the globe, we celebrate our Irish heritage and history, which has created a widespread and dynamic diaspora of 70 million people in all our wonderfully rich diversity. I would love to visit you at St Patrick’s festivals across Scotland, however, as with everything else, things must be done differently this year.
As we approach the year mark of our shared struggle with Covid-19, it is appropriate, to reflect on what has been a most challenging year, with so much changed. We have transformed how we live, and many of us have changed how we work and learn. We have experienced loss in our communities and in our families.
Across Scotland, Irish communities have responded with care, solidarity, compassion, kindness and courage to the challenges that Covid-19 has presented. Our wonderful community organisations, including Conradh na Gaeilge Glaschú, the branches of Comhaltas Ceoiltoirí Eireann and clubs of Scotland GAA, alongside Causeway: Scotland Ireland Business Exchange—among others—have done so with positivity, creativity and enthusiasm. Not only have they adapted their usual activity of music, dance or language lessons, or sports training and business networking, to an online environment, but also brought strength in numbers and used their new channels of connection to address isolation and offer support to members in ways that they had not needed to do before.
It is these connections and solidarity—based on friendship—that define our Irish community and that we value so much. We are delighted that virtual adaptions of the wonderful St Patrick’s Festivals in Coatbridge and Glasgow will take place this March and I look forward to hopefully experiencing these in person in 2022.
This past year, we looked at what Scotland and Ireland do best together and identified opportunities to do more. Earlier this year, Minister Simon Coveney and Cabinet Secretary Mike Russell launched the report of our joint bilateral review. It focuses on how our collaboration benefits both Ireland and Scotland and how we can further that in the areas of trade, culture, academia and research, community and diaspora, and rural, coastal and island communities.
Maybe never before the past year has the saying ‘Ar scath a cheile a mhaireann na daoine’ been so true. In the shadow of each other we live. Deeply connected though apart from one another at the moment, it is our friendships which secure us, those of individuals, of communities, of businesses and organisations, of parliaments and of governments. On this St Patrick’s Day, we celebrate those friendships, here in Scotland, and around the world.
This year, as we celebrate apart, I invite you to come home to Ireland and join the celebrations on www.stpatricksfestival.ie from March 12-17. Please also keep an eye on the Consulate’s twitter and facebook @irlscotland for details of other events taking place.
Jane McCulloch is the Consul General of Ireland in Scotland