Category: Archive

A day for all Irish to be proud

February 17, 2011

By Staff Reporter

These are the words of Saint Patrick, written over 1500 years ago. How fitting then that his is the day that Irish people “scattered among many nations” across the world celebrate who, and what, we are.
More than any other day of the year, this is when we recall that we are a great diaspora, a global people, rich in our traditions but rich also in our diversity. That is our strength.
Traditions and diversity are nowhere more evident than in New York where this year, the Irish (and some who are Irish only in the eyes of God!) will march with pride for the 248th time.
When I was a child growing up in Dublin, Saint Patrick’s Day was a quiet affair. There was a parade, but a small one, and we always joked that it was the one day of the year when you could be guaranteed rain.
Today, the Dublin parade is one of the biggest and best. Now I know why: because we learned a few lessons about how it is celebrated here in the United States.
I experienced Saint Patrick’s Day in New York for the first time last year.
The highlight for me came around 11.15 a.m. on the reviewing stand on 5th Avenue. That is when the first groups came in to view. This is when you begin to hear the sound of two hundred thousand people walking in pride.
And then they begin to flow past and the procession seems endless: young, old, uniformed and otherwise.
I will never forget the pride of that moment, nor the look in the faces of my children as they realized that they too are a part of this great story, the Irish in America.
This year’s parade takes place against a very different background, one of deepening concern about the economy, about jobs and pensions, and even about the kind of world our children will grow up in.
All of this poses challenges for our community in America. But challenge has often brought out the best in us.
The county associations, the Hibernians, the Friendly Sons and so many other organizations were founded and organized around the principle of looking after the weaker in our community.
They are a part of our strength in times like this. We will need that strength in the months ahead.
We will need to keep an eye out, even more than usual, for the more vulnerable in our community, for older immigrants, especially those who are lonely or isolated, and for those who remain undocumented, who have lost jobs or have fallen on hard times.
Most of all, we will need to keep up support for the Irish community and advice centers that are at the frontline in providing help to the more vulnerable.
We will keep up our support too. We will continue working with you to ensure that our older immigrants receive the social and practical support they have richly earned. And the Irish government will keep up its efforts in Washington to ensure that our young can work, gain experience and live in the United States.
Ireland faces economic challenges in equal measure. We are more fortunate than many economies in that we have a low debt, a modern infrastructure, the determination to keep our public finances strong, and our tax rates attractive. But our greatest strength, as always, is our people, both at home and abroad.
This year, President Mary McAleese, in her St. Patrick’s Day message, reminds us that Saint Patrick encountered many hardships and difficulties in his life that were not of his own making, just as these present difficulties are not of our own making.
“The Deer’s Cry” is a wonderful poem written in Ireland and attributed to Saint Patrick. It begins: “I arise today, through a mighty strength…..”
Once again we will see that mighty strength on March 17th, not only on 5th Avenue, but in communities across the country. Let’s be thankful for it.

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