ADDRESS TO NEW YORK STATE LEGISLATORS
Issued : Wednesday 12 March, 2008
It is my very great pleasure and honour to be the guest this evening of this impressive assembly of legislators from the great State of New York.
Areas : Wexford
I come here as the elected Mayor of the ancient and historic town of Wexford – a corner of Ireland steeped in myth and legend whose very origins are lost in time. Legend tells us that the Gaelic name for Wexford, “Loch Garman” or “the Lake of Garman” recalls the location where Garman Garbh was engulfed in a great flood caused by the enchantress after he stole the crown of the Queen of his tribe.
Beyond legend: we know that this area of Ireland has been populated for thousands of years. We know that, on the famous map of the world drawn up by the Egyptian cartographer Ptolemy, a town existed here 2,000 years ago – a town Ptolemy called Menapia.
Our Christian heritage predates even our national apostle St. Patrick. Our own missioner, St. Ibar, established Christianity in Co. Wexford between 425 and 450 AD. - although Ibar subsequently recognised the jurisdiction of St. Patrick and became his disciple.
This seaport was the arrival point for a succession of invaders, each in turn settling and enriching the heritage of the region.
Vikings built the Norse town of Weissfjord. Their legacy of narrow streets remains today. They were followed in the Spring of 1169 by Norman knights who took over the prosperous town and built the town walls and gates and regulated trade.
Wexford has always played a key role in Ireland’s history, enduring the massacres inflicted by Oliver Cromwell in 1649.
The ideals of liberty which motivated George Washington and Thomas Jefferson in the late 1770s reached Ireland, and Wexford played a pivotal role in the insurrection of 1798.
The bonds of friendship between Ireland and the United States are firm and deep. They are based on our common kinship – a kinship that is self evident in the State of New York.
To mark this unique bond, one military flag is hung in Ireland’s National Parliament. That flag was given to the Irish Parliament by John F. Kennedy, a grandson of Wexford. It is the flag of Thomas Francis Meagher’s Irish Brigade. The fighting 69th – the 69th New York Infantry -was the first regiment in the Brigade. Their battle honours – Bull Run, Fair Oaks, Antietam, Fredericksburg and Gettysburg - were among the most important of the Civil War.
It was the sons and daughters of Ireland, in a desperate search for a better life, who found that better life here. They in turn helped shape and mould the United States into the great nation it has become.
Our more recent links are based on commerce. In the past two decades Ireland’s economic fortune has changed beyond recognition. Last year, with total government expenditure of €65 billion and taxes which yielded almost €66 billion, an Exchequer surplus of €900 million was achieved, despite the massive investment in infrastructure – rail, roads, airports and telecommunications.
While like the rest of the world Ireland will experience slower growth this year, we still expect GDP growth of 3% in real terms with a 1% growth in the total number of people at work.
In all of this unprecedented economic development, the role of the United States has been pivotal. Huge U.S. investment has flowed into Ireland, attracted by economic stability, a well educated and skilled workforce and a favourable tax regime. We hope that that partnership will continue long into the future.
One factor above all else has been critical to the recent developments and prosperity of Ireland. That factor has been the achievement of a sustainable peace on the Island. After decades of bloodshed and pain; the formal and permanent reconciliation between the traditions on the Island of Ireland and between Ireland and Britain has transformed our land.
We still need to pinch ourselves when we see Dr. Paisley and Martin McGuinness joke together and jointly appear at New York Stock Exchange promoting economic development. But, it is real and thank God for it.
Many people played a role in getting us to this historic point in time. From Albert Reynolds and Dick Spring - John Hume and Gerry Adams – Tony Blair and the late Mo Molam. Bertie Ahern and countless others.
The influence of many Americans was simply invaluable. Congressmen and Senators; State Legislators and City Councilmen. All played their part. You will forgive me if, from that distinguished list, I salute two great Americans in particular. For his patience and skill; his diplomacy and sharpness of mind – Ireland will be forever grateful to Senator George Mitchell, who chaired the talks.
The priority given to Ireland – the time and commitment of President Bill Clinton, made the result happen. Ireland had had many friends in the Whitehouse. No truer or better friend had lived in Pennsylvania Avenue than Bill Clinton.
For all Americans who helped bring peace about, this generation and future generations of Irish men and women will be forever grateful.
The essence of the Irish/US friendship is perhaps best summed up by a British politician. Benjamin Disraeli said “the greatest good you can do for another is not just to share your riches, but to reveal to him his own”. Through more than two centuries we have helped to reveal what is best in each other.
Friends, thank you again for the invitation to be with you in this time of celebration, when Irish men and women in every corner of the globe rejoice in our common heritage. May the great Irish extended family continue to thrive at home and in these United States.
Mayor George LawlorThe Labour PartyDáil By-election candidate for Wexford
- Work Address:
- Brendan Howlin's Office
- SIPTU Office, Coolcotts,
- [email protected]