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President McAleese addresses delegates to the Global Irish Economic Forum | Print |  Email
Monday, 21 September 2009

Remarks by President McAleese at a reception for delegates of the Global Irish Economic Forum at Áras an Uachtaráin on Friday, September 18, 2009.

A chairde chaoin. Cuireann se áthas ó chroí orm go bhfuil sibh anseo in Áras an Úachtaráin, agus ba mhaith liom fáilte is fiche a fhearadh romhaibh ar fad. Is ábhar mhisnigh domsa go bhfuil an oiread sin Éireannaigh fuinniúla, éifeachtacha, cumasacha ó gach rann den domhain bailithe anseo in Áras an Úachtaráin.

It is a source of great encouragement and pride to see so many gifted, energetic, successful members of our global family, assembled in Áras an Uachtaráin this evening.  To every one of you, I extend the traditional welcome of the House, céad míle fáilte, a 100,000 welcomes.  I welcome the members of the Government who are present and all the delegates who represent Irish based business, media, arts, culture and civic society.

As President, I have been privileged to meet many of those who have travelled from abroad, in a wide variety of places and contexts around the world and if I haven’t met you, I have surely heard of you, for each one of you has used your talents to make an outstanding contribution to your chosen sphere of human endeavour.  We know you are busy people and yet, when asked, you put your own preoccupations aside and came to Dublin to share your wisdom and experience with us as we try to construct a pathway through today’s economic difficulties to a sustainably prosperous future for all our people.

Many of you have a strong personal connection to Ireland whether through family ties or through trade and investment links.  Whether you are tied to us by kinship or friendship your interest in and commitment to Ireland is greatly valued.  Those who are emigrants or of emigrant stock know well the many stories of an emigrant people who transcended enormous hardship to forge new lives, new destinies for themselves and their children in adopted homelands.  They could not have done so without courage, determination and an optimism that came from faith in their capacity to keep on trying.

There is a saying that the pessimist sees the difficulty in every opportunity while the optimist sees the opportunity in every difficulty. Many people now find themselves deep in a trough of pessimism and with good reason, as jobs are lost, businesses falter and homes go into negative equity.  Yet they need and we all need the faith in the future that comes from an active optimism that is not simply the vague hope that something will turn up but is rooted in hard talk, fresh thinking and clear-sighted careful planning.  Your being here helps all of us refocus on our capacity to overcome great difficulties, a capacity, indeed a characteristic which President John Fitzgerald Kennedy called ‘the quality of the Irish’ in his address to Dáil Éireann in 1963.

President Kennedy noted that “the problems of the world cannot possibly be solved by skeptics or cynics, whose horizons are limited by the obvious realities.”  This Forum brings together people who have a facility for thinking and acting their way through problems to new horizons.  You are an important example of that other great Irish characteristic - our investment in connectedness and in community, in reinforcing and maintaining family bonds and in helping one another through life’s many ups and downs.

Believe me, all over Ireland, even as we gather here today, millions of Irish at home and abroad are making that investment in one another and making the quality of life around them richer, deeper, more meaningful, fulfilled and happier.  One of the biggest investments we have made in recent years has been in the Peace Process and that too was constructed with the help of our family and friends abroad.  The collective power of all those brains and hearts shifted the kilter of Irish history and put us on a course away from the embedded culture of conflict towards a fresh new culture of consensus and good neighbourliness.  It also gave us a new article in our Constitution which says that the Irish nation cherishes its special affinity with people of Irish ancestry wherever they are in the world.  What unites us in all our manifold diversity are a shared cultural heritage and an identity which your presence here demonstrates are infinitely more than mere passive nostalgia but are in fact a leavening agent, an active yeast which has left its unique imprint on each generation or as W.B. Yeats put it, ‘spread the grey wing upon every tide’.

The Global Irish Economic Forum brings home to us that Ireland is considerably more than an island on the edge of Europe, but the centre of a vast networked community, a global Irish family.  It’s a family to be very proud of and to be grateful for.  It expresses its sense of community in a million ways, in clubs, societies, associations, networks, partnerships and now in this Forum.  The old Irish proverb says ní neart go cur le chéile - there is strength in unity.  In fact at a deeper level it tells us that until we pool our talents we never fully realise our strength, our power to change things, to make better things happen.  I hope you have felt a real surge of fresh power and optimism at the Forum and that from your deliberations will come a distilled wisdom we can put at the service of Ireland, her present and her future.  I wish this Forum well and thank you for your participation.  Enjoy the evening, enjoy each other’s company and a great day on Sunday in Croke park, a place that epitomises the spirit, the power, the local and global reach of the Gael.

Go raibh maith agaibh go léir.

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