In his Christmas message to the Irish in Britain, Ireland’s Ambassador to the UK, HE Adrian O’Neill reflects on the sad times Covid-19 has inflicted on people this year but also refers to how the brilliant work of the NHS, which includes thousands of Irish men and women, inspired the nation in a very dark time and the selfless way the community reacted to the virus by leaping into action to help those most vulnerable.
In his message, the Ambassador says: “As a year that has been truly like no other draws to a close, I’m pleased to have this chance to reflect a little on all that has happened.
“In truth, we will not miss 2020 – it brought more than its fair share of disruption, isolation and sadness.
“Many lives were lost to Covid-19 and many lives disrupted and changed.
“We said goodbye to beloved members of our Irish community and their loss will be particularly felt at this time of year.
“But 2020 also provided us with inspiration and moments of solace.
“We were all inspired by the heroic work of the women and men of the NHS who saved so many lives and healed and comforted the sick.
“And I am proud that the NHS includes thousands of Irish women and men in its ranks.
“And I was also inspired during the year by the way Irish community organisations across GB responded to the challenge of the virus – mobilising so quickly and so generously to support the most vulnerable citizens in our communities.
“It was a community exercise of great compassion and solidarity.
“Christmas this year will be different for all of us.
“There will be less celebration and less social mixing.
“But there will still be opportunities for peace and joy in the company of those who are dearest to us.
“We must embrace and appreciate them to the full.
“And we can enjoy those moments of family and friendship knowing that hope is on the horizon – that the New Year brings the real prospect of vaccines that will transform the situation for the better.
“As we celebrate Christmas, we can now believe that 2021 will be better than 2020 and we can take with us the kindness, compassion and generosity of this year into the next.
“At some of the darkest moments this year, Seamus Heaney’s words, as so often, provided light and so it seems very fitting to close with his lines of hope:
Believe that the farther shore is reachable from here/
Believe in miracles, cures and healing wells.
“On behalf of myself, my wife Aisling, and all of us at the Embassy of Ireland, I wish you all a joyful and peaceful Christmas and a New Year that brings miracles, cures and healing wells.
“Nollaig Shona Dhaoibh go léir.”