By Ed Miliband MP, Leader of the Labour Party:
St Patrick’s Day is a chance to reflect on the strength and depth of Britain’s relationship with Ireland.
Britain and Ireland share a long and complex history, but when I met the Irish Taoiseach, Enda Kenny, last week it was against a backdrop of strong relations between our two countries.
Over my lifetime British and Irish relationships have transformed. We have deep and strong economic and political ties that build on the cultural ties that have existed for many years.
During the last Labour government enhanced political relationships helped to build the peace process with Northern Ireland and they continue to strengthen today.
But it’s not only political relationships that are important, British trade with Ireland is vital for both our economies. Ireland is the UK’s 5th largest export market worth £27 billion in 2012. The UK is Ireland’s largest trading partner with the UK accounting for 34% of imports to Ireland.
These links between our countries are built upon common bonds of culture and family ties.
Throughout our history, Irish people have travelled to Britain to work and succeed. Across Britain today, Irish men and women contribute to British life: working in business, caring for people in our National Health Service and enhancing our cultural life. My parents were part of a different immigrant community, but the values were the same: fairness, looking out for each other, working together, pride in identity, pride in community and pride at playing a part of British society.
Today, people around Britain and across the world will celebrate their relationships with Ireland. This is a tribute to both Ireland and Irish people.
Happy St Patrick’s Day.