Ireland’s Ambassador to Britain Adrian O’Neill on the challenges ahead for two closely tied countries
My wife Aisling and I would like to extend our very best wishes to the Irish community and friends of Ireland in Britain for a peaceful Christmas and a happy New Year.
Christmas provides an opportunity for us all to pause, reflect on and celebrate the things that we truly value and that bring us together in families and across communities. Even in my first four months here as Ambassador, I have seen plenty of evidence that the values of compassion and solidarity are alive and well in the Irish community.
I have had the pleasure of visiting a number of Irish organisations and have met with many members of our community. I am proud of the commitment of so many people who give so freely of their time, skills and enthusiasm to ensure the continued success and strength of the Irish community in Britain.
The large and diverse community here is one of Ireland’s best assets in this country. Building enduring strong links between Britain and Ireland; ensuring a continued pride in Irish roots and heritage; and providing practical assistance to those members of our community who find themselves in challenging circumstances are all part of the invaluable work that is carried out by Irish organisations across Britain.
I thank and commend all those all involved in these vital efforts – they do our country great credit. Today Ireland enjoys a warm and dynamic relationship with our closest neighbour – a relationship that is characterised by respect, cooperation and friendship.
While the decision of the United Kingdom to leave the European Union has undoubtedly posed some challenges for this relationship, the Irish Government is working hard to contain the negative impacts of UK exit for Ireland and, in particular, for the peace process. We in the Embassy are particularly focused on addressing any concerns or uncertainty experienced by the Irish community in Britain.
The recent confirmation by the EU and the UK that the vitally important Common Travel Area between Ireland and Britain will continue to be maintained after UK exit is very reassuring.
As we look to the New Year, there is much to be proud of and much to build on.
While the Embassy is already planning for the active calendar of events around St. Patrick’s Day, we will also be marking St. Brigid’s Day on 1 February. In April 2018, we will celebrate the 20th anniversary of the Good Friday Agreement, a transformational moment in the peace process.
Towards the end of the year, we will mark the centenary of the election of the first female MP – Countess Constance Markievicz to Parliament.
In all of these various events and activities, we look forward to continue working and engaging with the Irish community in Britain.
On my own behalf and on behalf of all of my Embassy colleagues, I would like to wish the Irish World’s readers a peaceful Christmas and a happy New Year.
Beannachtaí na Nollag agus athbhliain faoi shláinte, faoi dhóchas agus faoi shéan dhíbh go léir.