A St Patrick’s Day focus on peace


Jane McCulloch

BEANNACHTAÍ na Féile Pádraig oraibh go léir. This St Patrick’s Day, our emergence from the pandemic with a sense of hope and new beginning is muted by events unfolding across Europe.

As President Higgins stated at the beginning of the month: “A great sense of darkness has fallen across the world at the unfolding tragedy in Ukraine.” We will mark the occasion of our national day while keeping the people of Ukraine foremost in our thoughts.

The warmth and generosity of the Irish and Scottish people has been evident in the outpouring of support, moral and practical, for the people of Ukraine. This generosity will come as no surprise to those of us in Scotland, having seen first-hand throughout the pandemic the remarkable community spirit and continued commitment to taking care of those in need.

The Irish community in Scotland certainly has exemplified this through resilience during such challenging times. Our wonderful organisations, including Conradh na Gaeilge Glaschú, the branches of Comhaltas Ceoiltoirí Eireann and clubs of Scotland GAA, alongside Causeway: Scotland Ireland Business Exchange, among many others, have continued to set examples with their ability to support their members and communities. We are looking forward to meeting many members of the Irish community in Scotland this month as we return to in-person St Patrick’s Day celebrations.

The relationship between Britain and Ireland, and between Scotland and Ireland is fundamentally about friendship and people-to-people connections. We are delighted that this will be signified by the welcome visit to the North of England and Scotland this month by Ireland’s Minister of State at the Department of Finance, Seán Fleming TD, as part of the Government’s St Patrick’s Day programme.

Earlier in February, we celebrated both St Brigid’s Day and the centenary of the publication of James Joyce’s Ulysses. If you missed either of these fascinating events online, you can find the links on our website, Twitter and Facebook, still.

At our St Brigid’s Day event, we noted that whatever St Brigid means to us, as a pagan goddess, or as Christian saint, she embodies care and compassion. As we look across Europe, I hope that her spirit, and the values of the Irish people, will continue to inform our response to caring for those fleeing peril in Ukraine.

In Ulysses, Joyce wrote: “I resent violence or intolerance in any shape or form… It’s a patent absurdity on the face of it to hate people because they live around the corner or speak another vernacular, so to speak.”

This St Patrick’s Day, which is usually celebrated with so much joy around the world, by the Irish and the friends of Ireland, let us all be friends of Ukraine. Tabhair aire.

Jane McCulloch is the Consul General of Ireland in Scotland