19th March, 2012

National Gala 2012




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The American Ireland Fund hosted
its 20th Annual National Gala on Monday, March 19, 2012 featuring a
keynote address by An Taoiseach, Enda Kenny, T.D., Prime Minister of

As St. Patrick’s Day is
celebrated around the world, The Worldwide Ireland Funds are holding events in
13 cities across 5 countries attended by over 6,000 supporters. It is projected
that these events will raise an additional $2 million for their Promising
 Campaign to assist Irish charities.

Over 750 influential American and
Irish political and corporate leaders gathered to honor U.S. Senator Robert P.
Casey, Jr. (D-PA) and U.S. Congressman Paul D. Ryan (R-WI) as they were
presented with the 2012 American Ireland Fund Leadership Awards for their
contributions to Irish America and Ireland. Senator Casey and Congressman Ryan
have faithfully represented Irish and Irish American interests in the course of
their public service. In Congressman Ryan’s role as Chairman of the House
Budget Committee and in Senator Casey’s role as a key member of the Senate
Foreign Relations Committee, a member of the European subcommittee and Chairman
of the Congressional Joint Economic Committee; they have both shown a keen
interest in advancing the Peace Process in Northern Ireland and supporting
the spirit of Ireland’s economic recovery.

Special recognition was given to
the launch of The John Hume and Thomas P. O’Neill Chair in Peace at the
University of Ulster
.  In attendance were H.E. Michael Collins,
Irish Ambassador to the US; Sir Peter Westmacott, British Ambassador to U.S.;
H.E. Daniel M. Rooney, U.S. Ambassador to Ireland; Norman Houston, Director,
Northern Ireland Bureau; Hon. Peter T. King and Hon. Richard E. Neal – Honorary
Chairs and Loretta Brennan Glucksman, Chairman of The American Ireland Fund.

President and CEO of The
Worldwide Ireland Funds, Kieran McLoughlin said, “Over the last two weeks
starting in San Francisco and culminating in Washington DC, our supporters have
turned out in force and with great generosity.  As a result, our Promising
Ireland Campaign is now one year ahead of schedule with over $90 million raised
for hundreds of Irish charities in need.  At a still-difficult time in the
US, it is remarkable how our donors are responding and willing to play their
part in aiding Ireland’s recovery.”

Speech by An Taoiseach
Enda Kenny TD

Dia dhíobh agus Beannachtaí na Féile Pádraig oraibh go léir.

May the blessings of St Patrick be with all this evening as we celebrate, a little late, Ireland’s national day.

I’m delighted to be back with you.

From the time I was child it struck me that as a people we chose well to make this time of year Patrick’s time. Because this is the Spring Equinox when new light, new life, new growth, drive the long Winter, the long dark nights, from the Northern lands… Northern hearts.

And as we do what better time is there to remind ourselves of this global idea of Ireland that goes right to the complexity, the nuance, the limitless possibilities of who we are, who we imagine ourselves to be, as the proud Irish people.

Because this St. Patrick’s week, all over the world people are looking at Ireland and thinking not of the transient difficulty from which we are now emerging. They’re thinking of Ireland’s essence…. of our immutable and untouchable wealth. Our warmth, our friendship, our culture, our history.

Irish economy

When we last met here in Washington DC, I was Taoiseach for 8 days. As I said then and I say again – a year on – these are extraordinary times for Ireland. In the long history of our small nation there has never been such an unprecedented challenge nor such an extraordinary opportunity.

It’s been a year of steady progress for Ireland. The government has made a solid start. Our economy is growing. Deposits are flowing back into our banks. Exports are thriving. I lead a determined government – determined to succeed, determined to re-assert Ireland’s place in the world, determined to offer the Irish people new opportunities.

For centuries America was the land of opportunities for the Irish. Now Ireland is becoming the new land of opportunity for American business. They are attracted at what they see… A gateway to a European markets of 500million people. A young, highly educated, dynamic, English speaking workforce. Attractive corporation tax. Great infrastructure.

President Clinton very recently told international investors that ‘they’d be nuts not to invest in Ireland’. And I know there is a renewed desire to help here in the US.

The response to the Ireland Funds’ Promising Ireland campaign shows beyond doubt that it is there more than ever, and I thank those of you who have already contributed so generously to its target of $100 million by 2013.

“a chairde..”

Last May, Ireland was visited by two awesome people – President Barack Obama and Queen Elizabeth II. Two very different visits, two equally inspiring guests.

The Irish People came out in force to welcome their friends.

The visit of Queen Elizabeth II to Ireland marked a new chapter in what is now a strong, positive and forward looking relationship. Her
visit spoke so eloquently of the new reality that relations between our own two countries have been transformed and strengthened in recent decades. The closing of old wounds has given new life to the oldest of relationships.

The new challenge now facing all of the people of Ireland is to bring about economic recovery.

Just last Monday, before David Cameron departed for his visit to this fine city, we signed a joint declaration setting out how we intend to strengthen and deepen our relationship over the next ten years. How we will forge even deeper links between our economies and our societies. How we will continue to work together for a shared, peaceful and prosperous society in Northern Ireland.

I offer again my deep appreciation of all the work done by the American Ireland Fund in assisting the progress in Northern Ireland. While the threat of dissident violence is never completely removed, we are nonetheless firmly on a pathway from peace to prosperity.

I must tonight acknowledge the presence here of First Minister, Peter Robinson, and deputy First Minister, Martin McGuinness for the leadership and unity they are showing to all sectors of society in Northern Ireland.

I know also that Geraldine Finucane is here tonight. I had the privilege of presenting her with a Person of the Year Award in Belfast and I want to say once again how much I respect and admire the way she has campaigned for over 22 years with great dignity and courage. I support her in her campaign for a full public inquiry.

The Gathering

As you know, next year we’re hosting The Gathering, Ireland’s biggest ever tourism initiative, a year long celebration of what is best about Ireland, its people, its culture. And we’re sending the mother-of-all invitations to our Irish family – by birth, by adoption, by desire. That’s our Diaspora of 70 million people, particles of Ireland
glittering across the globe.

I’m delighted to host this 2013 Gathering on the 50th anniversary of John F Kennedy’s coming ‘home’ to Ireland. That visit still resonates through the generations, when the leader of the Free World came home with his politics and message and aura of confidence. On that visit in that fateful year President Kennedy said of Ireland and its people

50 years on that message is truer than ever.


But before The Gathering – this June I look forward to welcoming many of the American Ireland Funds supporters to Castlemartyr in county Cork to its Worldwide Conference – just another sign of your continued commitment and support to Ireland.

Loretta, I remember Lew’s commitment to the lines of Tennyson, how he made them his life motto… the will ‘to strive, to seek, to find and not to yield.’ A motto that might be Ireland’s motto as we emerge from
difficult times.

Loretta and Kieran, we thank you for your friendship, for the gifts of leadership you use so well for Ireland and the Irish people.

We thank Susan O’Neill and her team here in DC for your friendship and dedication to Ireland.

I add my voice to those honouring Senator Casey and Congressman Ryan.

There is an immensely proud tradition of service by the sons and daughters of Ireland in the US Congress and each of you has added to it with distinction.

Tonight, I’m delighted to see the establishment of the John Hume/Thomas P O’Neill Jr Chair in Peace. It is an enormous and fitting tribute to John Hume and to Speaker O’Neill on the centenary of his birth. It is a reminder of the power of politics at its best.

An example of how and why for Ireland and America…. ‘the dream will never die’.

Published on Tuesday 20th March 2012