American Ireland Fund Dinner, New York, 7th May 2009
Is cúis áthais dom bheith i láthair cairde an Ciste Gael-Mheirceánach anseo i Nua Eabhrac.
Taoiseach Brian Cowen asked me to convey his apologies that he was unable to join you because of pressing Government business in Ireland.
But this honour means more than any to him.
It means so much because the relationship between Ireland and America that you embody in such a unique and special way means so much.
I’m honoured to be with you tonight. And I feel immensely happy to be in the company of many great friends of Ireland. They are too many to mention.
But let me add to the tributes to you have already paid to Mayor Mike Bloomberg.
Your role, Mayor, in last year’s economic conference in Belfast and your commitment to building peace through supporting prosperity has left a lasting legacy on our island.
You have been a true friend throughout your tenure as Mayor and far beyond the call of your office.
My congratulations go also to Jack Dunn and Denis Shaughnessy of FTI who are such outstanding recipients of your leadership award.
This event is truly one of the great keynote annual events in the Irish calendar.
It has always been a time to reflect on challenges ahead and to set ambitious goals.
Irish America was born in hope.
It was tempered in adversity.
You represent the best of that America. The American Ireland Fund was born in the toughest of times.
When peace in Ireland seemed a remote and distant prospect, and when we were beset by economic challenges that seemed insuperable, the founders of the American Ireland Fund dared to dream of an Ireland prosperous and peaceful.
And they – you – all 1200 of you gathered here tonight – helped us make history.
You helped build peace in Ireland.
That is your legacy – one of the most successful peace processes the world has seen in recent history.
We do not and should not take that for granted. More work remains to be done. But the heavy lifting has been done and you helped do it.
And your ongoing work continues to ensure that the roots of peace draw nourishment and deepen by the year.
You helped build a vibrant and dynamic Irish economy. And you had the insight to know that a strong Irish economy is good for this country too.
Today Irish companies support over 80,000 jobs in this country.
In March the Taoiseach led a trade delegation to New York that saw new business worth up to half a billion dollars over five years.
That’s new business generated by Irish entrepreneurs, several involving more new jobs in this country.
Now we face new, very different and seemingly intractable economic challenges.
Ireland’s is one of the most open economies in the world, and one of the more exposed to global turbulence.
But just as we shave squared up to challenge in the past – and done so together – we will to do so again.
We have taken important first steps at Government level.
We have taken tough decisions on public spending, reducing overall spending in a way that ensures we can continue to invest in the infrastructure and research & development on which our future economic growth depends.
And in a way that allows us continue to invest in one of the youngest and best-educated populations in Europe, creative and innovative.
We have moved decisively to support our banking system.
We have focussed on our competitiveness, cutting the cost of doing business in Ireland.
And we have sought to protect the weakest in society - as you too are doing.
Earlier today I launched a new outreach service for older Irish immigrants which is funded by the Irish Government in partnership with Senior Helpline Ireland.
In every economic downturn the old and those who are already on the economic margins are the most vulnerable, the most at risk.
We deeply appreciate your willingness to work in partnership with us in reaching out to the most disadvantaged sections of our community in New York.
At times of challenge we should remind ourselves also of our underlying strengths.
One of our greatest strengths, truly prized by the Government I represent, is the Irish American relationship that you embody.
That relationship is a rich and precious inheritance. It is up to us all to ensure that it is passed on to the next generation.
I met with your Young Leaders last night and I know that relationship will be in good hands.
But tonight, in accepting this Heritage Award on behalf of the Taoiseach, I want to dedicate it to those who have brought us so far on this great shared journey.
To your founders, including your own Dan Rooney, the next US Ambassador to Ireland.
To your Board and Dinner Committee and particularly to John Duffy and Mike Higgins who overcame some of the toughest economic circumstances ever faced by the American Ireland Fund to turn out one of its finest gatherings.
And to Loretta Brennan Glucksman and to Lew Glucksman whose vision continues to drive us forward.
May Lew’s spirit and tenacity continue to guide us.
Thar ceann an Taoisigh, Brian Cowen, Rialtas agus muintir na hÉireann, gabhaim buíochas ó chroí libh go léir agus guím gach rath ar an obair atá idir lámha agaibh.
Go raibh mile maith agaibh. Thank you.Top