Councillor Richard Butler, Cathaoirleach of Limerick County Council attended the annual dinner of the Limerick Association in Birmingham on Saturday night (6 November 2010).
Please find below the Cathaoirleach’s speech to Association members:
SPEECH BY COUNCILLOR RICHARD BUTLER AT THE LIMERICK ASSOCIATION BIRMINGHAM ANNUAL DINNER DANCE ON SATURDAY 6 NOVEMBER 2010
“Deputy Lord Mayor, Ladies and Gentlemen,
As Cathaoirleach of Limerick County Council it gives me great pleasure to address you this evening.
I would like to thank the Limerick Association here in Birmingham for inviting me to attend this year’s Annual Dinner Dance.
I know from speaking to some of you this evening that the Limerick Association has for many years provided valuable assistance to hundreds of immigrants from County Limerick in finding their feet once they arrived in Birmingham.
Through the support of their fellow county men and women, many secured employment in the City and its hinterland and soon became involved in the many Irish-run social and sporting organisations.
The Irish community in Birmingham, of which you are a part of, is one of the strongest and close knit across Britain and I know your input into wider society here in the British Midlands is appreciated.
In essence, the story of the Irish experience in this city is one of success.
Your contributions symbolise all that is good about the Irish Diaspora who have contributed immeasurably to community life wherever they have been.
It should be noted that people back home are cogently aware of this contribution and are indeed immensely proud of this.
More than 15 years ago, former Irish President Mary Robinson delivered a speech to the Houses of the Oireachtas titled ‘Cherish The Diaspora’.
The sentiments expressed by Mrs Robinson during her speech ring true today.
Diaspora, in its meaning of dispersal or scattering, includes the many ways, not always chosen, that people have left this island.
In 2010 we have again witnessed a huge surge in the numbers of people leaving Ireland in search of a better life for themselves and their families in places like Britain, Australia, New Zealand, Canada and the United States.
I personally never thought I would see the day when emigration would again be a prominent feature of Irish society.
However, now that this change is upon us we must look forward and seek to address the challenges faced by immigrants themselves and those whom leave behind in their native country.
In 1995, Mary Robinson expressed the need to cherish the Diaspora.
She said if cherishing the Diaspora is to be more than a sentimental regard for those who leave our shores, we should not only listen to their voice and their viewpoint.
We must ensure that the linkages between those of you gathered here this evening and many thousands of Irish people overseas with people back at home remains firm and that dialogue and interaction between Ireland and Irish communities abroad is strengthened.
I am conscious of the creative energies of those born in Ireland who are now living in Britain and in so many other countries.
Many of you left your native County Limerick in difficult circumstances and have managed to forge out a happier life in Birmingham and elsewhere throughout England.
This evening’s gathering is evidence of your pride in your shared origin.
I can tell you that despite the unprecedented challenges facing people back home that they too have not forgotten about you.
Therefore, on behalf of the people of County Limerick I would like to say that we are thinking of you and we do cherish you.
We do appreciate the fact that you celebrate your association with Limerick and we are all very proud of how you have contributed so valuably to your adopted communities.
I would ask you to use your combined personal experiences to guide the new generation of young people from throughout the island of Ireland as they arrive on Britain’s shores.
One outstanding trait of the Irish Diaspora is the consideration and assistance given to newly arrived emigrants.
While I would prefer to be speaking about the numbers of Irish overseas returning home to Ireland, the reality is that emigration will continue to be a part of Irish life for a number of years to come.
I would urge you to continue to extend the hand of friendship and nurture the great sense of community spirit that is so evident among Irish people and those of Irish descent in this City.
Finally, I wish to pay a particular tribute to those agencies in Britain – both British and Irish – whose generous support and services have assisted generations of Irish emigrants.
The employment, housing and welfare services have proved invaluable to those who have availed of them and I would hope to see them being provided in this new era.
In conclusion and again on behalf of the people of County Limerick, I would like to wish each and every one of you the very best for the future.
Thank you very much agus go n’eiri libh.”
CLLR. RICHARD BUTLER
CATHAOIRLEACH OF LIMERICK COUNTY COUNCIL