THE Irish government has had to consider the most appropriate way to celebrate St Patrick’s Day this week in light of the ongoing Russian invasion of Ukraine.
Finance Minister Paschal Donohoe has revealed the government needs to decide ‘what kind of St. Patrick’s Day we should have’ before dozens of ministers set off on trips to countries around the world to promote the island of Ireland during St. Patrick’s Day.
Speaking in the House of Lords today at the St Patrick’s Day CHAMP reception – which annually celebrates Anglo-Irish relations – Minister Donohoe told those assembled that he had chosen to travel to London this year to mark Ireland’s National Day, which it last did in 2019.
“If I couldn’t be home in Dublin for St. Patrick’s Day, I wanted to be here in London,” he admitted.
“Why did I want to be here in London?” he added: “Well, if you think of the values that are at the heart of St Patrick’s Day here in Ireland and when celebrated around the world, those are values of celebration, even in these difficult times, it’s about celebrating the value of friendships, the value of relationships and the value of hospitality.
He explained: “There are few relationships that demonstrate this more than the relationship between Britain and Ireland.
“It’s a relationship, it’s foundations, it’s people, it’s a legacy, it’s a story.”
Minister Donohoe, who will spend two days in London, went on to admit that this year’s St. Patrick’s Day is more about solidarity than celebration due to the current crisis in Ukraine.
“What is the value and opportunity of a moment of celebration when our neighbors, our fellow human beings, elsewhere and closer and closer, experience such terror and loss of life?” he asked the crowd.
“It was a question that we thought about in our government,” he explained, “about what kind of St. Patrick’s Day we should have when so many people are going through the exact opposite. friendship, solidarity and hospitality.
“We thought ‘how can we move forward with this, what should we do’?”
He added: “I’ve thought about it personally too.
“When I came back to Dublin airport last week, I thought I was going home.
“Thinking about coming home, seeing my family and turning on the rugby and starting my weekend.
“But what was the first thing I saw when I arrived at the airport – sitting in a row, a group of women and children fleeing Ukraine.
“They came to Ireland as they come here [to Britain] looking for a welcome, looking for peace, looking for a refuge.
“It was a visceral moment for me,” he admitted.
“It made me realize what is happening now all over here, in Ireland, all over Europe.
“The sense of movement caused by terror that we are all responding to now, as friends and as governments.
“But it made me think if I felt like that how negligent my emotions were to how these people felt when they arrived at our airport.
“Even though I was thinking about it, it made me think after a few moments, in fact if there was a time, a day, a time when we needed to remember the values of friendship, the values of connection, to come together to talk to be in each other’s company, it must be now.
“Certainly, moments like this, in their own way, offer a twinkle of light against a rising darkness.
“It’s a reminder and a bit of an antidote to the darker agents of nature that take place elsewhere and settle elsewhere.
“That’s why we’re here today. Today is not about celebration, it is about recognition, not just St. Patrick’s Day, it is about recognizing the value of the ties that bind us, the value of friendship and that is why we are all here today.
Michael Gove, the UK Government’s Secretary of State for Levelling, was also present at the St Patrick’s Day reception in Westminster, where he revealed his love for Ireland and his optimism that relations between the two islands will continue. .
“We are meeting against the backdrop of horrific conflict in Europe,” Mr Gove said.
“The conflict reminds us of the things we have in common at this critical time. What unites us and brings us together is more important than ever. »
He added: “People of the United Kingdom and the Republic of Ireland, people of Great Britain and the island of Ireland, we are one family.
“As a family, we recognize that we don’t always agree,” he explained, “but we are bound by so many bonds – bonds of affection, of respect, of closeness, of solidarity and St. Patrick’s Day gives us the opportunity to celebrate that.”
Mr Gove went on to tell those gathered that his great personal affection for Ireland came after he once spent six weeks there.
“A visit to Ireland is an opportunity to refresh the soul and lift the spirits,” he said.
“Ireland is a selling destination,” he added.
“You don’t need fancy marketing techniques or massive ad spend, the people, the geography, the history, they all sell.”