Cnuasach Aitheasc ó Chuairt Stáit Uachtarán na hÉireann, Micheál D. Ó hUigínn, chuig An Astráil 2017
Collected Speeches from the State Visit by President of Ireland, Michael D. Higgins, to Australia 2017
President and Sabina depart for a State Visit to Australia
Clár an Ábhair Contents Unveiling of an Irish Famine memorial sculpture
“Ireland and Australia – A deep, historic and valuable contemporary relationship”
Conferral Ceremony at the University of Western Australia, Perth
Business Lunch hosted by Enterprise Ireland, Melbourne
“The Economic Debate: From The Great Famine to today – The Australian/Irish Dimensions”
Reception for the Irish Community, Melbourne
Unveiling of the ‘Footsteps’ Monument
Dinner hosted by Governor Kate Warner of Tasmania
State Lunch hosted by Governor General and Lady Cosgrove
Irish Community Reception, Yarralumla, Canberra
Business Lunch hosted by Enterprise Ireland, Sydney
Lunch with Australian Rugby Union and the Lansdowne Club, Sydney
“Sharing the Tasks of Ethical Remembering – Ireland and Australia”
Irish Community Reception, Sydney
Tourism Ireland Travel Trade and Media Lunch
Ireland Funds Australia Dinner
Reception for the Irish Community, Warwick, Queensland
Irish Community Reception, Brisbane
Unveiling of an Irish Famine memorial sculpture
Speech by Michael D. Higgins President of Ireland
Subiaco, Perth, Australia Monday, 9th October, 2017
Is mór an pléisiúr dom a bheith libh inniu i Subiaco chun an saothar chuimhneacháin álainn seo a nochtadh. I would like to thank you all for your welcome here today and for your kind invitation to me, as the President of Ireland, to dedicate this beautiful, poignant and profound artwork within your community. I particularly want to pay tribute to the City of Subiaco Council and Mayor Heather Henderson for their generous support of this memorial, which has a most fitting home in the community of Subiaco, which is so closely associated with the Irish in Western Australia. May I congratulate Fred Rea and all the members of the Western Australia Irish Famine Commemoration Committee for their vision and their unstinting resolve in bringing this project to fruition. I understand that many, many people - far too numerous to mention by name - have supported this project and contributed to it. Your collective efforts and generosity have delivered a remarkable memorial in a remarkable location. I have no doubt that this will become an iconic landmark for Perth and for its Irish community. I must also acknowledge the sculptors, Joan Walsh-Smith and Charles Smith. Both are artists of great renown, not only in Western Australia but internationally. You have accomplished a most beautiful and moving depiction of the desolation that unfolded during and following those apocalyptic famine years in the 1840s. A mother, bent low by the crushing loss of her children. A people, hollowed out by starvation and forced exile. Caoineadh - keening, from the Irish word for weeping, so clearly and sensitively presented is a metaphor perhaps for the collective trauma that the Famine undoubtedly was for the Irish people, and the long shadow that it cast on successive generations scattered throughout the globe. For me, the work also brings to mind the perhaps unresolved feelings of loss, grief, anger and even guilt, of the survivors in Ireland, of those who fled, and indeed of all of their descendants, including those of us gathered here today. We have struggled to come to terms with this seismic event in our shared story. Over recent decades scholars and historians have compiled a solid exposition of the factors that contributed to the great calamity that led to so many deaths and so much dislocation. The Famine, of course, was never merely an accident of nature, nor can it be explained as merely a series of mistakes. It was not providence, as was claimed at the time. It occurred within the philosophical biases of Empire and an imbedded atmosphere of conquest and conflict. It was allowed to unfold within a prevailing mindset of economic theory, of land ownership and an emerging desire to industrialise agriculture. There were structural features, which created the social vulnerability that is famine. Dependency on a single source of food is obvious, but other factors also come in to play. In 1841 Ireland had a population of over eight million people. Land-ownership was largely concentrated in the hands of an elite of 8 to 10,000 families. Below them 45% of the land holdings were under 5 acres. In the West of the country, the areas most severely hit, 75% of those who President and Sabina tour King’s Park and Botanic Gardens in Perth 5
scratched a living from the land lived on holdings, where they had them, with a valuation of less than £4. Much of the population led a precarious existence, with little reserve or resilience against what was to come. The Act of Union 1800, had seen Ireland’s industrial and commercial structure slip into decay. We can also discern the emergence of certain assumptions in the years leading up to the Famine that came to dominate political and moral thinking. The new citizen of the post-industrial revolution period was to be thrifty, industrious and motivated by individual welfare – characteristics very different from those assumed to be the characteristics of the Irish peasant.
President Higgins and Sabina leaving Perth for Fremantle
In the throes of the Famine, it was concluded that the giving of relief directly to those dying would constitute a “moral hazard”. It was important, in the minds of those administrators and politicians who sought to respond to the Famine, to continue the project of moral reform even as the death toll soared. Ultimately over 1 million Irish would die of hunger and related diseases, and 2 million would flee from President Higgins meeting members of the Irish community in Subiaco their country. Meanwhile, avoiding the creation of dependency, as imperial elites saw it, was a target that could not be allowed to slip. But it is also true that the reaction of official Ireland and Britain was complex. We must be aware of how the treatment of the Irish Famine changed as one year succeeded another: the first identification of the crop failure in 1845 was different to 1846 in terms of policy response; any resilience in the existing structures of poverty relief was soon overwhelmed; the rhetoric as to providence became a central feature of the discourse in 1847; and by 1848, in response to the William Smith O’Brien revolt, we have cartoons presenting the Irish as ingrates towards those who are supposedly saving them. News of the emerging catastrophe in Ireland was slow to reach these shores. Word of the potato crop failure of 1845 reached Sydney in February 1846, but the extent and seriousness of the situation was not clearly reflected in media reports. However, by August of that year, the first of a series of relief fund meetings was held in Melbourne, followed quickly by Sydney and a number of other centres. By the end of 1846, over £4,600 had been raised and transmitted to the Catholic and Anglican Archbishops of Dublin for relief of the poor. It is notable that these sums were made up of thousands of small contributions from all sectors of Irish Australia. In 1847 – 1848 over £8,400 was similarly raised and transmitted. This was a significant achievement given the small size and modest means of the Irish community in Australia and its relative isolation from the unfolding events back home. 6
At that time, the Australian colonies hosted an Irish population of only 70,000. Unlike Britain, Canada or the US, Australia did not witness the arrival of tens of thousands of emaciated women, men and children fleeing during the years of starvation. Between 1845 and 1848 it is estimated that about 14,000 Irish arrived here, mostly not direct victims of the Famine, but those who feared they might become so. It was not until later, from 1848 onwards that Famine casualties started to arrive. These were in the form of several thousand girls and young women, who volunteered to be relocated from Ireland’s workhouses to a new life in the Australian colonies. Sometimes known as Famine Brides, these young women and girls had their passage funded, through the Earl Grey and similar schemes. They are sometimes described as orphans but many had a surviving parent. It is sobering to think of the desperate situation that these girls faced, where the option of transportation to the other side of the world, of probable permanent separation from their homes and surviving family, to a future that they could scarcely comprehend was preferable to what was around them. While the purpose of these schemes was largely to satisfy a need for more females in the Australian colonies, for these women it presented an opportunity to escape from the workhouses and the desolation of Ireland at that time. Some of the later transportations, in the early 1850s came to Western Australia. In 1853 Elizabeth Carbury, from Galway came to the Swan River colony on the Palestine with her sister Mary and other young women from the Mountbellew workhouse. Limerick woman Bridget Mulqueen arrived in the same year on the Travencore. It is heartening to hear that the communities in which they settled in Dardanup and Bunbury have been remembering them, their lives and the contribution they made here, following their traumatic departure from Ireland. I understand that memorial services were held for both women earlier this year with the assistance of Fred Rea and the Western Australia Irish Famine Commemoration Committee. Remembering these women, their lives and their legacy is important. Indeed, recognising the full profile of the experience of our people is necessary, if we are to learn, to understand, even to forgive. Can we, of Irish extraction, borrow from our own history when faced, as we are today, with the largest number of displaced people on the planet since the Second World War? Is the plight of those risking everything to cross continents and seas in search of refuge or a better life so different from the choices that faced our own people? Today, we have the capacity to anticipate the threat of famine. We have the capacity to take measures to avoid it; and yet we have almost a billion people living in conditions of extreme but avoidable hunger. The moral principle remains the same: should we adjust our populations to an abstracted economic ideology, be it laissez faire or neo-liberalism, or should we, rather, use the best of our reason to craft economic and social models that can anticipate the needs and care for the peoples who share this fragile planet? Captivating art, such as this magnificent sculpture, “Uaigneas” serves to remind us of these things. It challenges us to remember and to think. I was particularly struck by the artists’ concept in designing this thought-provoking sculpture that it should also represent and highlight the resilience of the Irish people and by extension of the human condition– in their words: “Hope is not extinguished. It never is! ...because the human spirit always soars over adversity in the end”. The lives of Elizabeth Carbury and Bridget Mulqueen are a testament to the fact that people can and do emerge from the most horrendous situations, can lead good lives and make valuable contributions in their changed surroundings. We must therefore acknowledge that from the depths of despair and devastation some positive consequences emerged. The most notable, perhaps is the contribution that many in the Irish diaspora made to the societies they helped shape in so many places around the world. Their shared story, wherever they landed, in Birmingham or Boston, in Sydney or Subiaco, was a common striving for a better life. Many had learned the hard lessons of the Famine and pressed for the creation of a 7
fairer society in their new homes, and a more prosperous and secure future for the next generation. In many, it imbued a concern for their fellow citizen. This passion is still evident in so many Irish communities around the world today, including here in Perth where the work of organisations like The Claddagh Association is so vital in supporting those members of the Irish community facing times of distress and difficulty. An Gorta Mór, the Great Famine, is the source of so much of the Irish diaspora, and was a catalyst for further emigration right up to present times. Today, Ireland and Australia are wealthy countries, full of opportunity and promise for our upcoming generations. In the very different context of the terrible post-Famine years, those who arrived in their new destinations often found their Irishness to be a source of marginalisation, of stereotypical presentation of their cultural status as inferior, be it in terms of language or behaviour. It is from this space that many overcame such prejudice to make outstanding contributions in their new homelands. And they did not forget their homeland or the challenges faced by those that were left behind. They assisted their relatives. Sometimes providing funds for the passage to follow them, sometimes simply to assist those who stayed at home with remittances sent from abroad. These emigrants’ remittances not only helped other relatives to follow, they paid shop debts, they built Churches, and for many of those who survived, they were a vital source of money for the purchase of food and clothes and the payment of the rent. The Famine diaspora was also vital in Ireland’s successive struggles to break from the shackles of Empire and to forge its own future. It is important, therefore that we remember these things, these bonds of kinship and historic mutual support. That we recall the fragility of our daily existence and the perils of doctrinaire approaches that are blind to the vulnerabilities of human beings. Most usefully, we should let the memory of our great pain colour our reaction to our fellow human beings facing similar threats today. Go raibh maith agaimh arís as ucht an cuireadh a thug sibh dom a bheith libh ag an ócáid suntasach seo do phobal na nGael i bPerth agus i Subiaco. Táim thar a bheith buíoch daoibh uile as ucht a bheith ag éisteacht liom. Thank you all for your patience and for inviting me to share in this special event.
President Higgins and H.E. Kerry Sanderson AC, Governor of Western Australia, observing a Welcome to Country ceremony 8
“Ireland and Australia – A deep, historic and valuable contemporary relationship”
Michael D. Higgins Uachtarán na hÉireann, President of Ireland
Parliament of Western Australia, Perth Tuesday, 10th October, 2017
Mr. Speaker, President of the Council, Premier, Members of the Legislative Assembly, Members of the Legislative Council, A Chairde, Mar Uachtarán na hÉireann, ba mhór an onóir dom é bhur gcuireadh a fháil labhairt le Parlaimint Iarthair na hAstráile. Mar Uachtarán na hÉireann, as President of Ireland, I appreciate the great honour that it is for me to address the Parliament of Western Australia and to have the opportunity of reaffirming the long and abiding bonds shared by the peoples of Ireland and the Commonwealth of Australia. Premier, May I thank you for the kind hospitality - an fíorchaoin fáilte - and the warm welcome that you have offered to me and to the Irish delegation. In making this visit as President of Ireland, I am minded of all those earlier visits by others, including my own ancestors. My grandfather’s siblings came here in 1862. They did not come to a terra nullius and I wish to begin here today by acknowledging the first occupants of this land who for tens of thousands of years negotiated with its possibilities and its challenges, and developed one of the oldest cultures in the world, one that valued symmetry with nature, ancient wisdom and practical balances. Mr. Speaker, President of the Council, Since the arrival of the First Fleet two hundred and thirty years ago, Irish people have traversed the vast seas to come or be brought to this continent, some as prisoners and some as servants of empire, and later, as migrants fleeing hunger, poverty, oppression, frustration and stagnation, seeking the economic opportunity of land tenure, adventure, professional or economic opportunity. There has never been any one Irish migratory experience and those who form the Australian component of the Irish Diaspora are no exception. The different streams of Irish migration to Australia show, for example, differences in religious affiliation, skills and loyalty. In the years before the Great Famine, Irish migrants were in the category of skilled workers and most often self-financing as to their passage, while post famine, it was the poor, the most broken and their dependants who sought escape and new beginnings. All migrant journeys are impelled by both individual, deeply personal decisions to leave a home, and the timing of these personal decisions is affected by great structural economic, social, political and natural forces which shape the modern world. We find, in the journey of Irish, and indeed all, migrants to this country, a complex interplay of both impelling or attracting structural forces and personal decisions. There are personal decisions that explain the ‘incidence’ in any case. The structural factors perhaps explain the fluctuation in the rate. It is a distinction I borrow from Emile Durkheim’s classic study on suicide, his use of what he terms necessary and sufficient factors in explanation of causality. 10
In the early years of the penal colonies, to those imprisoned on criminal or political charges, who were awaiting transportation in the gaols of Ireland, the foreign yet threateningly familiar names of Botany Bay and Van Diemen’s Land had a particular ring as they signalled leaving one’s home and one’s loved ones for imprisonment and exile. The term could be for 7 or 14 years, and of course it had a particularly chilling effect if those awaiting transportation were aware that for some it could include or be followed by a forced removal to Norfolk Island – the Gulag of its time. As transportation gave way to assisted passage, the new colonies of the southern oceans were offered as an arcadia of abundant land and, in time, the announcement of the discovery of mineral resources, offered or fantasised as a location for a new life or as some landlords saw it, an opportunity for clearing estates of what had become they saw as unproductive and increasingly more desperate and unmanageable tenants. A third of a million Irish people emigrated to Australia between 1840 and 1914, often travelling, particularly in the later period, with assistance from the Governments of the new colonies. We Irish, for example, were the most prolific users of the nomination scheme, which allowed whole families to migrate over time. The migrants who came to Australia were diverse, Catholic, Anglican and Dissenting, Quakers and Jews. They came from all social classes and would in time include a diversity of experiences, from gentlemen and lawyers to farmers and cottiers. My own grandfather’s brother Patrick Higgins, and his sister, Mary Ann, emigrants from County Clare, arrived in Moreton Bay on the Montmorency, on the 8th of April 1862. Five of my grandfather’s family of seven would end up moving to Australia. Patrick, a ploughman, was, in his own words, ‘a tiller of the soil’, brought up to the plough from a young age. He used these skills to become a worker and manager of different farms in Queensland, and finally to establish himself with his own farm at Sandy Creek, seven miles from the town of Warwick. This is perhaps a familiar story – Patrick was from the same county as his namesake, Patrick Durack, whose life and times as an overlander driving cattle to the Kimberlys were so memorably recounted in that great book of history Kings in Grass Castles the by that great West Australian author, his grand-daughter Mary Durack. Since the Second World War, the Irish have continued to travel to Australia and have been part of the new waves of migration which have made Australia the multicultural society it is today. The ebb and flow of migration since that time has been a result of the same conjunction of structural forces and personal agency, of the push and pull of economic and social circumstances, individual hopes and dreams, and in the Irish case, as with others, of the pressures of a society and economy in Ireland that so often struggled or was not permitted, to provide the necessary opportunities and economic security to all its citizens. During the late 1940s and 1950s, times of economic hardship in Ireland, the great post-war construction projects, particularly the Snowy Mountains scheme, attracted construction workers from Ireland. In recent years, Australia has again become both a site of travel and work, as many Irish people now come to participate in a prosperous, modern economy. Today, over 90,000 Irish-born people live in Australia and of course 2 million Australians record their ancestry as Irish in your national census. I am so happy as President of Ireland to have the opportunity of not only greeting them but also those who have welcomed them and with whom they make their lives as Australians. Here in this State, one can see the manifold and multifaceted influence of Irish emigrants and Australians of Irish ancestry on the different periods and circumstances of your history.
President Higgins addressing the State Parliament of Western Australia
Some lawyers came to seek a professional recognition, and opportunities advancement from which they were excluded access to at home on religious grounds. Among them was John Henry Plunkett who should always be remembered as the Prosecuting Counsel at the trial of Myall Creek. Ever since Paddy Hannon struck gold in Kalgoorlie, Irish men and women have come to labour, with hand and brain, in the mines of this State; to work the soil in the vast Wheatbelt; to contribute to commerce and industry, law, journalism and the academy; to be involved in the practice of their faith and have it recognised. It was here that Charles Yelverton O’Connor designed Goldfields Pipelines and Fremantle Harbour; here that John Hackett became the founding Chancellor of a great university; from here that John Curtin, the son of emigrants from County Cork, became Prime Minister of this Commonwealth; from here that the last of Fenian captives escaped aboard a whaling ship called the Catalpa. The Irish imprint in this State is surely captured in the lines of that great West Australian poet of the Goldfields, Edwin ‘Dryblower’ Murphy, who wrote: ‘Our harps are hung in the towering trees, And the mulga low and grey.’
Mr. Speaker, President of the Council, One hundred and twenty-two years ago, in 1895, one of our nation’s finest patriots, the land reformer and labour leader Michael Davitt, travelled for seven months through Australia and New Zealand, and wrote of his journey seeking to understand the story of the goldfields of Coolgardie and Kalgoorlie, the Utopian settlements of Murray River, and the rising cities of the future Australia. Founder of The Land League, leader of the Land War in Ireland 1879 to 1882 and disappointed that a leasehold rather than an absolute ownership system was not finding favour among the tenant holders whose cause he so stoutly defended in Ireland, he remained deeply interested in his travels abroad innovative forms of representation of interests. His independent mind had led him to be removed from the Supreme Council of the Irish Republican Brotherhood. Never a narrow nationalist, he saw the workers on the land and the workers in the factories and cities as having common cause. Davitt was very aware of what he saw as the corrosive effect of absolute property ownership in terms of the emergence of an abuse of class position. He was concerned to recognise those who laboured on the land, hence his emphasis on the naming of his organisation as the Land and Labour League. He encouraged workers, as indeed I would, to seek protection, join their trade unions and have a collective spirit. Here in Perth, only five years after the proclamation of your constitution and achievement of self-government, and in other states, he found a confident legislature and people, who were, in his words, ‘teaching, by their examples, drawn not alone their parent countries, but other lands as well, the courageous wisdom of progressive legislation on most of the vexed social and economic problems of Europe’. You will be pleased to know that he, as a former parliamentarian, concluded that Western Australian parliamentarians were proficient public speakers, ‘full to overflowing with the subjects – climatic, commercial, constitutional’ that faced what he called ‘this coming country’. He found in Australia what he saw as a new society in embryonic form which was profoundly shaped by the remembered thoughts and actions of Irish emigrants, who, whether of Irish ancestry or Irish-born, comprised, at the beginning of the twentieth century, a quarter of the population of the new Federation. Here in Australia, thousands of miles from the ancient conflicts and sometimes stifling orthodoxies of the old world, Irish people, he felt, could contribute to building what he wrote of as: ‘a new world full of hope and promise’, one which would at its best, vindicate the economic, social and political rights and liberties of the people, raise the dignity of labour, foster an active government dedicated to the public purpose and, above all, subordinated to the public good. Achieving this he knew would not be easy. It would not be without its challenges and contradictions. The ‘Shearers’ mobilisation and the Sydney Lockout would polarise settlers and workers. The Lockout of 1890 in Australia would have an echo in the Dublin Lockout of 1913. Both defeats for workers would within a decade of such defeats lead to a massive recruitment and birth of what would become a strong trade union movement. This new world, with its burgeoning democratic tradition, was formed and gave form, had an influence on, the struggle for democracy and independence in Ireland. Some of the defining characteristics of your Australian democracy, established in often perilous and difficult conditions, carry a distinctive Irish influence. Indeed, conditions in Ireland may have given to some a perhaps singular determination not to carry and repeat all of the sins of the old world in the circumstances of the new. Among the first political prisoners to arrive in New South Wales were members of the revolutionary organisation 13
the Society of the United Irishmen, many of whom were Anglicans and Dissenters, who had fomented a rebellion to create an independent Irish Republic inspired by the ideas and practices of the American and French Revolutions. They were imbued with the ideas of the Rights of Man, by Tom Paine, of the case for religious and civil liberty for all, and many of those who stayed, upon completion of their sentence, would go on to become prominent Emancipists. The influence of Daniel O’Connell, the Irish liberator, extended to this country through the appointment of the remarkable John Hubert Plunkett as Attorney General of New South Wales in 1832 where he fought for and established the principles of civil and religious equality, and of equality before the law, thus helping break down the distinction between Emancipist and Exclusionist which had divided and marred the infant colony. His prosecution of the Case of Myall Creek with its vindication of the rights of indigenous people would come at a considerable personal cost. As to political representation, on 11 November 1854 on Bakery Hill, at the inauguration of the Ballarat Reform League, there stood, alongside English, Scottish and Welsh Chartists, German and Italian veterans of the Springtime of Peoples, and Victorians of all ancestries, a distinctive Irish presence influenced by the ideas of O’Connell and the Young Ireland movement, not only in the person of Peter Lalor, later elected leader of the diggers by universal acclamation, but also of Anastasia Hayes, who wove the Southern Cross which flew over the Eureka stockade. The resolutions of that assembly were not narrowly national in any sense but universal in origin, and still echo today, in their demand for ‘the inalienable right of every citizen to have a voice in making the laws they are called upon to obey’. The impulse to build here a new and better world, to bend the destiny of this land towards a more humane and egalitarian future, has been a recurring theme in Australian discourse. The Irish who contributed to this discourse perhaps saw, reflected in this coming nation, as Davitt put it, the future form of a free Ireland. We can see this in the views of the leaders of Young Ireland, successors of the United Irishman, who were sentenced to transportation to Van Diemen’s Land in 1848. While there, William Smith O’Brien, drafted a constitution for what would become the self-governing colony of Tasmania and he envisioned a federation of the colonies, willing to work towards a common good. Another leader of Young Ireland, Charles Gavan Duffy, arrived in Australia as an emigrant and, as a politician and later Premier of Victoria, became an advocate for Federation as the vehicle for the creation of a new nation. The distance from Europe, and from Rome, allowed for the development of a distinctive Australian Catholic Church, long seen as an extension of Ireland’s spiritual empire, which was perhaps, at times, more willing to address the challenges of the new industrial society than its Irish counterpart. In the tumult of the 1890s, which witnessed the great battles of capital and labour that gave birth to your great trade union movement, Cardinal Patrick Moran, the Archbishop of Sydney, supported the cause of labour, giving a distinctly Australian expression to the Papal Encyclical Rerum novarum, to the rights and duties of labour, and to the legitimacy, and at times necessity, of collective action to secure those rights and fulfil those duties. This was a disposition not unique or limited to the Irish leadership in the Catholic Church, as is exemplified by Henry Bourne Higgins, a Methodist born in County Down and educated in Dublin, who declared, as presiding judge at the Commonwealth Court of Conciliation and Arbitration during the famous Harvester Case, that what was considered a fair and reasonable wage should be that which is considered sufficient for ‘a human being in a civilised community’ to support a family in ‘frugal comfort’. 14
I have highlighted these Irish contributions to the development of our shared values not only to celebrate the distinctive Irish influence on the formation of the Commonwealth of Australia and its States, but also to suggest that it was living and working in this young society which allowed for the expression and formulation of quite new modes of thought, modes which were equal to the challenges of the new and of the old world.
President Higgins and Sabina arriving at the Australasian GAA Championships Games
One of our contemporary challenges is to be faithful to meeting the challenge of an inclusive history. This is a challenge we face in both Australia and in Ireland.
While the Irish emigrant experience in Australia is for the vast majority of our recent Irish emigrants an overwhelmingly positive one, this was not always the case. The dominant ideas of the time of the emigrants leaving and their arrival defined their experience. It was not a positive experience for the thousands of young girls, orphaned by the Irish famine, and transported to Australia under Earl Grey’s scheme developed to address a failing landlordism at home, and to meet the labour force needs and the gender balance in the new colony. These girls were often exposed to humiliation based on the threefold prejudice of gender, religion and nationality. Neither was it the case for the thousands of convicted men and women who, on arrival, encountered a prison system that was slavery by another name. Nor was it the case either for succeeding generations who, in Peter Carey’s words bore “the historic memory of unfairness in their blood….the knowledge of unfairness deep in bone and marrow.” Then too, if we are to be truly unblinking in our gaze, we must acknowledge that while most Irish emigrants experienced some measure – often a large measure – of prejudice and injustice, there were some among their number who inflicted injustice too. For example, when former Prime Minister Paul Keating memorably acknowledged responsibility for crimes against Aboriginal communities, his “we” not only included the most powerful, it included all the elements of the society who had participated or acquiesced. It had to include, we must recognise, some who were Irish in Australia too. His were powerful words: “We took the children from their mothers. We practiced discrimination and exclusion. It was our ignorance and our prejudice.” 15
His speech was, and remains, an emancipatory act in the ethics of memory. Indeed, it stands as an example to those of us who must do something similar in our different circumstances, for surely we can take encouragement from Thomas Keneally who has written that “if there are to be areas of history which are off bounds, then in principle we are reduced to fudging, to cosmetic narrative.” It is perhaps the vast distance from what were for many years considered ‘mother countries’ which has allowed in Australia for the exercise of an independence of thought characterised by an unwillingness to become an unquestioning servant to old orthodoxies, and a tendency to innovation and experimentation in institutional forms and structure. Mr. Speaker, President of the Council, Your Parliament has, since its inception, and perhaps magnified by distance displayed these characteristics, when as one of the first Parliaments in the world it would recognise the basic demands of equality by embracing women’s suffrage. This spirit of intellectual independence is required today more than ever, and can so serve us well. The great issues of our time – the necessity for just and sustainable development, the challenge of climate change, the resolution of ancient and new conflicts, the reconciliation with communities and sections of communities who have been, or whose ancestors have been victims of great wrongs, the need to oppose, all of us together, by concerted voices of opposition and denunciation of the contemporary and increasingly, the persistence or invocation of a xenophobia and racism. These challenges demand a critical and inquiring engagement from all of us. As to matters economic, and the need for a new international economic order becomes ever more clear, we have seen, over the past thirty years, the dangers of accepting, without examination, any reductionist, narrow, economic philosophy which would separate our engagement and activity in economic life from our culture and society. The consequences of suggesting a singularity of economic models rather than a plurality of models are obvious. This has led, where it has been uncritically accepted, to the adoption of unsustainable economic models that have widened the inequality of wealth, power and income in our societies, created rather than mitigated instability, and contributed to the degradation of our environment. We are challenged to produce alternatives, advance them with, of course the necessary courtesies of discourse, but being resolute in not accepting the failed paradigms of economy, society and life itself. There now is an imperative need, an urgency, to challenge these still entrenched ideas, and to allow space for a new, more pluralist discourse, one capable of an ethical remembrance of the past and adequate to the responsibility of finding new solutions to our collective challenges, of participating in the resolution of the global challenges we face together on a shared vulnerable planet. Mr. Speaker, President of the Council, May I conclude again today by saying that the warmth of the welcome I have received in Perth has touched me deeply, and is an indication not only of the strength of the Irish community in this city and in this State, but also of the warmth between the peoples of Australia and Ireland which I hope, and know will deepen.
Go raibh míle maith agaibh go léir, guím rath and beannacht ar bhúr niorrochtaí ar son na daoine ngcoitinn. I thank you and wish you and your colleagues success and good health on your work for all of the Australian people.
Conferral Ceremony at the University of Western Australia, Perth Speech by Michael D. Higgins President of Ireland
Tuesday, 10th October, 2017
Pro-Chancellor, Acting Vice-Chancellor, Barry McGuire Members of the Academic Community of the University of Western Australia, Members of the Irish Community, A Chairde Gael, Tá áthas orm féin agus ar Saidhbhín a bheith libh anseo inniu in Ollscoil Iarthair na hAstráile. Is mór an onóir dom é glacadh leis an dochtúireacht oinigh uaibh anseo i bPerth. As I speak in our own ancient language of Ireland I take the opportunity to acknowledge and pay my respects to the Elders present and past of the first caretakers of this land. As one of the oldest universities in Australia, the University of Western Australia here in Perth has a long and distinguished history from its establishment in 1911. It is thus a great privilege to receive this honorary doctorate from a University that has such a distinguished reputation and proud history of academic excellence across many fields and as a world class centre of research. May I congratulate you on entering the ranks of the top 100 of the Academic rankings of world universities. It must be a special source of pride to have been the first University in the British Empire to provide free access to tertiary education. The renown of the University of Western Australia for its ethos of fair access is thus very well founded. The importance of offering access to third-level education is a policy principle I understand. I was the first member of my family to attend university. At that time in Ireland a secondary education was a privilege while further education was viewed as the preserve of the wealthy and the elite. This was, I know, understood by Sir John Winthrop Hackett who played such an important part in the founding of your university. John Winthrop Hackett was born in Bray, a graduate of TCD, he came to Australia in 1875. If we are to craft a society defined by inclusion and justice, characterised by cohesion as well as competence, we must work together to make the journey through the educational landscape less arduous – removing all barriers to the achievement of the full possibility, and the realisation, of each individual’s true potential. We are not served well if such opportunities of education are shrunk back narrowly defined as simply enhancement of the value of units of labour – education justified as simply and solely as a contribution to the labour market. Entering the doors of a university should always be an experience of encountering the fresh and invigorating air of open, pluralist thinking and the encouragement of both imagination as well as tradition. This university has much to be proud of and has achieved such considerable success in opening the gates of possibility for students from traditionally low participation areas. Today marks, for me, and the Irish people I represent as President of Ireland, the beginning of a further profound connection to this esteemed institute of learning – a place where generations of students have achieved, not only degrees of great distinction, but an invaluable understanding of the value and importance of independent thought and scholarly engagement. The list of alumni of the University of Western Australia is a greatly impressive one, including so many who have made a deep and lasting impact in the worlds of politics, public service, arts, science, technology, and the business sector. I congratulate you on the connection between the university and its diverse communities. 19
Sabina and I are delighted Chancellor, that you have invited so many from the Irish community here this afternoon. This is our first visit to Australia, and Perth is our first port of call on this State Visit. I thank you sincerely for the warm welcome we have received. It makes sense to begin our visit in Perth. The Irish association with Western Australia runs deep, extending back to the early days of the Swan River colony and the decision of its founders to accept transported convicts into a prison system that was, let us be frank, little less than a cruel form of slavery by another name. Their emancipation and the arrival of those who came on assisted passages led to an increase in the Irish born population of what was then a growing colony. If the Irish were about one fifth of the total of convicts transported to Australia those transported for what were called political crimes or sedition constitute a special category in history. Indeed, this month marks the 150th anniversary of the departure of the last convict ship, The Hougoumont, from Plymouth, with its 280 convicts and 108 passengers on board. Indeed, it was an honour on Saturday last to visit Fremantle Prison and hear of the plans to commemorate the 150th anniversary of the arrival of the Hougoumont this coming January. Included among those on board, were sixty-two Fenian political prisoners, transported for their part in the 1867 Rising. John Boyle O’Reilly, poet and journalist, was their de facto leader. While O’Reilly would subsequently escape the penal colony, he was greatly influenced by his time in Western Australia and continued to write of that experience after he had settled in Boston. John Boyle O’Reilly is still remembered and celebrated in the communities of Western Australia through the admirable work of the John Boyle O’Reilly Association of Bunbury, and I am grateful to them for fostering this important connection between John Boyle O’Reilly’s homeland and the place which was to impact so profoundly on his life and his writing. Following the end of the transportation of convicts, the Irish continued to come to Western Australia, many through assisted passage. The gold rush years saw the Irish community greatly increase. Indeed, Irish engineer C. Y. O’Connor was to be a key figure to the development of a more prosperous Western Australia through his work on the construction of Freemantle Harbour and the Goldfields Water Supply Scheme. Irish emigrants were also to make a significant contribution to the social needs of Western Australia, most notably through the work of the many Irish religious orders who established themselves here. The legacy of these committed nuns, priests and brothers can still be seen in the schools and hospitals of Western Australia. In recent times, the mining and construction boom has brought many Irish people to Western Australia. As our own economy, feeling the impact of a property bubble and a bank induced crisis faced a severe contraction, Western Australia offered jobs and new opportunities to thousands of young Irish men and women and their families. Recognising that the huge increase in the Irish population of this state required a response, the Irish Government appointed a new Honorary Consul here in 2013, and may I take this opportunity to thank Marty Kavanagh, and his partner Richard, for the generous service they provide to the Irish community here. It is always a pleasure to be able to acknowledge and sincerely thank, representatives of our Irish communities across the globe who do so much to help each other, to support Ireland and the Irish in so many ways, and in doing so who are such valued ambassadors for Ireland. In particular, as President of Ireland I want to thank the members of the Irish communities who extend a hand 20
of friendship to new waves of emigrants from Ireland, as they too begin new chapters in a country that has welcomed and supported so many of our people. So today I would like to acknowledge and express my deepest appreciation of all of the groups and individuals who work to promote and to sustain Irish cultural and community activity here in Perth and across the State of Western Australia. They are many - the Irish Club in Subiaco has long been a home-from-home for many Irish people who find friendship there and a place to celebrate their culture and heritage. I congratulate the Board and all those involved with the Club for their hard work and perseverance in ensuring the Club continues to be such a welcoming place for the Irish community to gather. I thank the Claddagh Association, founded in a spirit of compassion and concern for the plight of those in the Irish community here who were facing crises or difficult times. Twenty years later, the Association continues to provide support to hundreds of Irish people in Western Australia and their families at home in Ireland. The work of the Association and its founders is greatly appreciated and has impacted so positively on the lives of many Irish citizens here and at home. May I mention too the Irish Families in Perth who have been such a source of support, advice and friendship for so many newly arrived Irish people navigating the challenges of establishing new lives so far away from home. Our Irish culture and heritage continues to serve as a connection for our wide extended Irish family. Western Australia is no exception and it is uplifting to hear of the vibrant cultural life that lies at the heart of the Irish community here. Indeed, Sabina and I are greatly looking forward to seeing the ‘Sense of Ireland’ concert later this evening and may I take the opportunity to acknowledge the invaluable work of the Australian Irish Heritage Association, co-organisers of the concert, and of the work of the contributors to their monthly journal, who continue to explore the Irish legacy in Western Australia. The celebration of so many aspects of our artistic heritage, from theatre, with the Irish Theatre Players, traditional music with Comhaltas, and dance with the many schools of Irish dancing operating in Western
President Higgins received a Honorary Doctorate from the University of Western Australia 21
Australia, is a reassuring reminder that Irish culture continues to be valued and enjoyed here, as it is in so many communities around the world The reach and inclusivity of the Gaelic Athletic Association has always stretched far beyond Irish shores and the GAA community has provided an important sense of home and continuity for our emigrants over the years – many of them battling against a sense of displacement as they tried to create new homes around the world. Sabina and I were honoured to attend the GAA Australasian Championships last Sunday and meet with so many players, coaches, and supporters from all across Australia and New Zealand. I take this opportunity to congratulate GAA Western Australia again for delivering an excellent Championships and for your successes on the field. I know that through the hard work of all those involved, Gaelic Games are growing in popularity in Western Australia. Just as sport retains such power to connect our Irish family across the globe, so too our national day, St Patrick’s Day, continues to present a special opportunity to celebrate our Irishness with that extended Irish family. That is especially true here in Western Australia where the community comes together each year for a parade and family day. I am delighted that the St Patrick’s Festival Western Australia continues to go from strength to strength and I commend the Committee for their tireless dedication to this joyful showcasing of our rich Irish culture and traditions. The success of the Irish community can be measured not just through its thriving cultural scene, but also through its contribution to the business and economic life of this city and country. The many Irish-owned businesses here in Western Australia are a testament to the involvement of the Irish community in the economy of this great State and I commend Ireland Western Australia Forum for the role it plays in connecting business communities in Australia and Ireland. Many generations of Irish people have, across the centuries and decades that now separate us from those early days of the Swan River Colony, come here to Western Australia in search of a better future for themselves and their families. Today, their contributions and legacies are embedded deeply into the fabric of this state – in its educational institutions, its public services, its business and economic life, its spaces of culture and leisure and, of course, in the thriving communities to which they have contributed so much. Is mór an pribhléid dom féin agus do Saibhdhín a bheith anseo libh inniu chun an oidhreacht sin a cheiliúradh, agus chun ómós a thabhairt do mhuintir na hÉireann anseo in Iarthar na hAstráile. It is a special privilege for Sabina and I to be here with you today celebrating that legacy, and paying tribute to the work of Irish citizens in Western Australia and the many links that they have forged between Ireland and Western Australia. What a healthy connection it is between this University and its community here in Perth. Again, may I say what a great honour it is to have been conferred with an honorary degree of Doctor of Laws from a great university and also to say how moved I was to have been invited to address the Parliament of Western Australia earlier today – such a special honour to be the first Head of State to do so. This honour now, and the one earlier today, I accept on behalf of all the Irish, in all the generations, at home and abroad. Beir beannacht. Go raibh míle maith agaibh go léir. Thank you. 22
Business Lunch hosted by Enterprise Ireland
Speech By Michael D. Higgins President Of Ireland
Melbourne Cricket Ground Thursday, 12th October, 2017
A Dhaoine Uaisle, a chairde Gael, Is mór an pléisiúir dom a bheith anseo i Melbourne, agus tá áthas orm an deis a ghlacadh chun bualadh le hionadaithe ón lucht gnó, idir Éireannach agus Astrálach. It is a great pleasure to be here in the beautiful city of Melbourne, and to have the opportunity to meet here with representatives of business, both Australian and Irish. It is a particular treat to be at this famous venue. As you may know, Ireland applied to the International Cricket Council for Full Membership of the ICC and Test Status, and just last June, we were delighted to receive the news that our application was successful. Test cricket is the pinnacle of the sport and the Irish team are keen to play at the highest level of the game. Cricket Ireland and the many lovers of the sport in our country very much look forward to being back at this ground for a test match against Australia in the not-too-distant future. This ground also has a special connection to Ireland and conjures up great memories for Irish people. On my way in today, I stopped at the statue outside of the late, great Jim Stynes, who graced the fields here for many years and played with such distinction for Melbourne. I also stopped at the Olympic Wall outside to note the name of our great Olympian, Ronnie Delaney, who won Ireland’s first ever gold medal in the 1500 meters at this stadium in 1956. Those of us old enough to remember that great day have vivid memories of huddling around “the wireless” in the middle of the night to listen to the Rex Alston’s radio commentary of Ronnie “eating up the ground” on his way to the gold medal. Our host today is Enterprise Ireland, the Irish Government’s trade and technology agency, whose core mission is to work in partnership with its client companies, Irish-owned SMEs, to grow profitable sales, global exports and jobs in Ireland. Enterprise Ireland has been active in Australia for a number of years and which has been notably successful in bringing the extensive range of Ireland’s economic attractions to the attention of Australian business leaders in sectors from technology to agribusiness to healthcare to education. Ireland is what has been called an “enterprise” economy. State agencies are continually assessing, promoting and assisting enterprise development with the full encouragement of Government. Export performance remains a key element of the Irish economy. During the recent economic contraction, Ireland, as an open economy, increased its exports by 40% and I would like to emphasise that it is Ireland’s export performance that continues to be responsible for our sustained economic growth. That growth is export related rather than being the consequence of any austerity programme imposed on us by the Troika. As President of Ireland, I believe that the continuous sustaining and renewing of the ties that bind Ireland to President Higgins addressing the audience at a Business Lunch hosted by Enterprise Ireland 24
Australia is of ever greater importance. It is an old and enduring connection but now with new possibilities. These ties have been established over many years and have continued to develop in each succeeding generation. Irish men and women have for generations come to this country seeking a new life. Some were sent, some chose to leave, some were forced by circumstance. Many left a life of hardship, unemployment and sometimes great suffering. Australia offered them opportunities denied to them in their home country. But the story of Irish migration to Australia is also a story of new beginnings. The Irish story in this country is woven with tales of opportunity seized, innovation and re-invention; and above all, the importance given to education and to participation in public service and politics. It’s gratifying to see the descendants of Irish people now thriving in Australian life, many of whom are with us today. Ours is a close relationship of kinship and friendship. It is one that both of our peoples dearly value and I know that it will continue to deepen as we now travel, more frequently than ever, between our two countries. Of course, one of the reasons for this travel is the fact that there are so many successful Australian firms operating in Ireland, a number which is growing with each passing year. Our competitive economy, matched with our highly educated, multilingual workforce, has made Ireland a hub for international investment. We are pleased that many of Australia’s leading firms such as Macquarie bank, Resmed and SiteMinder have chosen Ireland for their international expansion. I welcome these developments and the worthwhile careers that these companies offer young Irish people. Many new Irish firms are also establishing themselves or expanding in this part of the world. More and more Irish businesses have looked to Australia as a key export market and Enterprise Ireland is working to connect them to the many opportunities this country offers. The Irish companies represented in the room today are testament to the strong and growing commercial relationship that Irish and Australian people have developed in recent times. I met today with a wide spectrum of Irish companies working across many industries and sectors, from Australia Post’s use of Daon’s authentication software, to Combilift – Bunnings specialist forklift & straddle carrier manufacturer, which is making waves here with their specialised machinery to Vitrosoftware – Calvary Healthcare which captures complex patient data electronically. You are representatives of modern Ireland, an Ireland that is dynamic, progressive and outward looking, an Ireland that is known the world over for its creativity and imagination, its flair for innovation, an Ireland that is culturally vibrant, tolerant and confident in its future. Ireland today is a nation of entrepreneurship. Much like Australia, our economic success is driven by international trade. The spirit of innovation is very much part of modern Ireland’s economy and society. New start-ups have sprung up across a wide range of innovative technology sectors and are successfully competing internationally. Innovation in industry is also powered by creativity, and both flourish in cultures and communities which value a rounded education, the importance of free-thinking and pluralist modes of teaching. The capacity to imitate, which may exist in abundance is not as important as having the edge to create, and tradition and culture are sources of that creativity. For the past two years Ireland has been Europe’s fastest growing economy, and this growth must be sustainable 25
and innovation-driven. We are committed to building on the foundations we have developed for a sustainable future through investment in the education and training of our young people, our most valuable national resource. We have the largest proportion of young people in the European Union who are qualified graduates and also in terms of their qualifying and proceeding to postgraduate work. In light of Britain’s decision to leave the EU, we recognise the importance of expanding and deepening our international trading relationships in the 21st century. Almost nine out of ten Irish companies plan to extend into new international markets over the next twelve months. Ireland’s energy and determination mirrors Australia’s in many ways – our strengths align and are mutually reinforcing. We have a young and highly qualified population, the youngest in Europe, with 40% of our people under the age of 29. Our citizens have in common a strength for research, creativity and innovation and I very much look forward to the sharing of ideas and connections for the future that such a dynamic can generate. As new technology continues to disrupt many previous economic certainties, I’m confident that this generation of Irish people will rise to the challenge of this new global landscape. In conclusion, may I thank you all for joining myself and Sabina here today and for your work in developing partnerships with Ireland, both present and future. I congratulate the Irish companies present here on their continued success in Australia and look forward to the new relationships formed as a result of this this visit. It is my sincerest hope that the relations between Australia and Ireland will deepen and strengthen in the years ahead. Is é mo ghuí é go mbeidh fás agus forbairt ar an chaidreamh idir ár dhá thír amach anseo. Go raibh míle maith agaibh go léir.
“The Economic Debate: From The Great Famine to Today – The Australian/Irish Dimensions” Michael D. Higgins Uachtarán na hÉireann, President of Ireland
University of Melbourne, Melbourne Thursday, 12th October, 2017
A Sheansailéir, A Leas-Sheansailéir, A Dhaoine Uaisle, A Chairde Gael, Chancellor, Vice-chancellor, Distinguished guests, Dear Friends, May I begin by acknowledging that we meet today on the traditional lands of the Wurundjeri people, and may I thus pay my respect to their Elders both past and present. Ar an gcéad dul síos is mian liom mo bhuíochas a ghabháil le Comhairle Ollscoil Melbourne as an chéim oinigh seo a bhronnadh orm. Is mian liom mo bhuíochas a ghabháil leatsa, a Seansailéir, as do chuid focail lámhaca. May I thank the Council for the University of Melbourne for conferring upon me the honorary degree of Doctor of Laws, and may I thank you, Chancellor, for your very kind words of introduction. As a university teacher for many years in my former life it is always a pleasure to return to a university setting. I know the years of perseverance and hard work required to acquire a university degree. I hope that I can justify mine in the next short period. As President of Ireland, it is a very particular honour to address you today in this city, and in this State, which has, perhaps more than any other, exhibited a distinctive Irish influence. Perhaps too, more than any other State, Victoria has absorbed the full spectrum of Irish society in its different manifestations of migration, voluntary and involuntary, and presentations of itself in the modern period. In the earliest years of European colonisation, Port Philip society was marked by the presence of what were representatives of an Anglo-Irish aristocracy on the move, as it were, often referred to as the ‘Irish cousinage’ who sought to import their self-perceived social standing, wealth, and at times their vanities pursuing an inclination to recreate a mythic lifestyle and mores of the Irish eighteenth-century Protestant Ascendancy. This could manifest itself on occasion as disdain for the forms of English society that were seeking to establish themselves in the new colonies. The discovery of gold in the later nineteenth century brought with it not only a rush of immigrants but within it a new middle-class Irish element. Overwhelmingly Anglican and predominantly educated at Trinity College, Dublin, these lawyers, doctors, merchants and engineers felt that they could, in this new world, create the liberal – though not necessarily democratic – polity denied to them in Ireland, by taking up leading positions in, and giving form to, the juridical, academic and political life of the new colony of Victoria. It was in the second part of the nineteenth century, however, that the operation of the Land and Emigration Commissioners and assisted migration brought the largest element of the Irish population – farmers, agrarian labourers, and tradespeople, most often followers of the Catholic faith – to this city and to Geelong, and from there often onwards to cultivate land in the environs of Melbourne, to Ballarat or Bendigo and, at the lure of gold and as European encroachment continued, to the Wimmera wheatbelt. This University has, since its inception, reflected all these various strands of Irish influence, from your very first Chancellor, Sir Redmond Barry, who arrived to New South Wales as a young lawyer only newly called to 28
the Irish bar, to Newman College which owes its foundation to the efforts of Archbishops Carr and Mannix, and to the generosity of Thomas Donovan and the Catholic parishioners of Melbourne. This link has been given a contemporary expression which I welcome in the establishment of the Gerry Higgins Chair in Irish Studies, which plays such an important role in promoting and sustaining the study of arts and culture, literature and music, and politics and history, of both Ireland and of the Irish in Australia. As someone who has taken a deep interest in the development of economics as an academic discipline, and its influence on the formulation and administration of economic policy and the lives of peoples, I was particularly interested to learn that one of four foundation professors in this University – three of whom had previously held academic positions in Ireland – was the Irish scholar of political economy and jurisprudence, Willian Edward Hearn, considered by another eminent Melbourne professor, Douglas Copland, as the ‘first Australian economist’. Before emigrating, Hearn had held the position of Professor of Greek in the newly opened Queen’s College Galway, one of the three universities in Ireland founded under the Irish Colleges Act of 1845. I undertook my own undergraduate studies in what is now called NUI Galway and i had the privilege of being a lecturer in sociology and politics there for many years, and it is the work of my colleagues there, the economist Tom Boylan and intellectual historian Tadhg Foley, which first drew my attention to Hearn. Hearn was part of an extraordinary generation of Irish political economists, all Anglo-Irish, with a similar intellectual, historical and moral formation to men such as Redmond Barry or George Higginbotham – two of the great influences on the legal, educational and institutional development of this State. For this generation, the most formative historical event of their youths was not political, despite the moral force of the cause of Repeal of the Union between Britain and Ireland which, in the person of Daniel O’Connell, embodied the most advanced liberal positions of the day, but rather, at least to their eyes, the assumptions that governed what was ‘economic’, that was the force of their critical debate, in the form of the ideas that influenced the policies that in turn stood behind the human devastation of the Great Famine of 1845 to 1852 – an Gorta Mór – which left nearly a million dead and led to a great wave of migration of over a million more, as people sought to flee hunger, starvation and certain death. Between the conclusion of the Napoleonic War and the Famine, political economy in Britain and, to a lesser extent, Ireland, moved away from its origins in the Scottish Enlightenment, from the Adam Smith of The Theory of Moral Sentiments and his conception of humanity as bound together by a common sympathy, by what he termed ‘moral sentiments’, to what began to be called a more economistic, and indeed with all the accompanying weaknesses, mechanistic understanding of human motivations, characterised by the popularisers of the writing of David Ricardo, such as John Ramsey McCulloch who had such an influence in the 1830s. What were, for Adam Smith, observations of tendencies, had hardened for such writers, into iron laws of nature, and the belief in not just the possible but the inevitable universal application of these laws. This manifested itself as a belief in the universality of the economic structure of England, such that any deviation from such a model or practice came to be seen as a symptom of under or mal-development. This eschewing of the necessary declaration of grounding or domain assumptions became the absolutist tendency, the hubris of its time, the TINA – There Is No Alternative – of its day. As the great Irish historian of economics R.D.C. Black has chronicled, it was this hegemonic perspective that political economists brought to bear on pre-Famine Irish society. This society was a product of the conflicts of 29
the seventeenth century, and was characterised by a large number of fragmented smallholdings, many farmed on a subsistence basis, and, at the peak of economic and legal relations, a small quantity of landlords, who operated through estate managers or through middlemen or intermediate landlords who took full advantage of opportunities to further sublet land. Though observers, not least political economists, could not agree on what might be empirical causes of such circumstances or putative solutions, they could at least agree on the empirical fact that the lives of Irish cottiers and their families were precarious, particularly in the period between April to August, the ‘starving season’, when old stores of potatoes were exhausted and had yet to be replenished by the new crop. This precariousness grew as the agricultural boom of the years of the French Wars gave way to periods of depressed grain prices, and landlords, their agents and middlemen in order to sustain, or raise their income, began to raise rents. To the orthodox liberal political economist, the right of the landlord to his property was inviolable, and the relationship between tenant and landlord a matter of contract, immune to the demands of right, of justice, and a matter for none other than the tenant and landlord. Though the theoretical basis of the inviolability of property had changed, from Lockean notion of property as a natural right to the Benthamite notion of property as means to ensure the owners of capital would maximise the utility of capital, the policy recommendations and social outcomes remained the same. If the property was inviolable, and the landlord-tenant relationship simply contractual, the only solution to Irish poverty lay, in the mind of the political economist, offering the hegemonic theory of the day, in the rapid consolidation of Irish holdings, the creation of a class of medium and large scale farmers, and the acceptance of the depopulation of the countryside as cottiers and small farmers would, it was believed, emigrate or, if they remained, become available as hired labourers. This would not be the first time, nor would it be the last, that those economists inclined to hubris have, when confronted by the inapplicability of their existing theory to a social reality, demanded that social reality change to reflect theory. This is not at all to take from or diminish the occasional sympathy and humanitarian sentiment of the time which was brought to bear on the Irish situation. The flaws of imposing a strategy for managing the poor, a strategy designed for industrial settings to a totally different setting, were recognised. The Royal Commission on the Poorer Classes in Ireland had after all recommended that the New Poor Law of 1834, which forced those in poverty into disciplinary workhouses, should not be extended to Ireland. Instead, the Commission recommended a programme of public works and a scheme of assisted emigration, as the most effective and convenient means to raise the income of Irish cottiers, and to transform them from small proprietors to proto-industrial wage labourers. These recommendations were perceived as being too radical, or more likely, they simply did not fit within the liberal political economy of the day – the institutions of the new market economy were viewed as entirely natural in their operation. The functions and duties of Government were viewed as creating a possible set of obstacles or as wholly negative – and thus the New Poor Law was largely grafted on to Ireland. The Anglican Archbishop of Dublin, Richard Whately, who, with his Catholic counterpart, sat on the Commission, was particularly interested in the lessons and what he felt was the example of the new colony of South Australia, and he corresponded with Robert Torrens, another Irish political economist, disciple of Ricardo and the champion of a ‘self-supporting colonisation’ which envisioned creating a class of small farmers in Australia. 30
Despite the rejection of the report of the Royal Commission by the British Government, and the extension of the New Poor Law to Ireland, Torrens championed Irish migration to South Australia, or, as he later termed it, the ‘New Hibernia’. He proposed the establishment of an Irish South Australian Emigration Society, which would raise funds from Irish landlords to purchase land in South Australia and pay for the transportation of their tenants to their new properties in the southern oceans, facilitating both the depopulation of Ireland and the colonisation of Australia. It was Torrens’ eldest son, Robert Richard Torrens, who, prior to his short tenure as Premier of South Australia, gave the impetus for the development of the principle of title by registration, which originated in that State. I think it would be appropriate to note the immediate context of the development of the Torrens system of land registration, namely the chaotic issuance of land grants and subsequent speculation and rapid turnover of title in the South Australia of the 1830s and 1840s, which led to a great incoherence in property ownership and disputes regarding the title to the land. One of the defining principles of the Torrens system – indeed the defining principle that allows the resolution of the kind of dispute that may arise in a context of fevered property speculation - is the indefeasibility of title given to the registered proprietor or proprietors. There are, as we know, few exceptions to this indefeasibility which may be nonetheless wide in potential scope and application. I would like to make here a moral or ethical point, rather than a legal point: namely, that the Torrens system constituted, at its inception, part of the legal technology of empire by not only resolving a crisis of colonial speculation, but also by effectively extirpating any claim of title to the land by the first occupants whose rights and enjoyments to their land, we should recall, were guaranteed by the Letters Patent authorising the colonisation of South Australia. I do not, in this paper, want to speculate what bearing the rejection of the doctrine of terra nullius and consequent recognition of native title by the High Court in their judgement in the second Mabo case would have in this situation, but would only here recognise what an important legal and moral milestone it was. The context of the extension of the Torrens system to Ireland in 1891 was quite different – it was a response to the struggle for land ownership by Irish tenant farmers which was resolved through a series of Acts of the British Parliament designed to finance the purchase and transfer of the landlord interest in the land. This required the removal of the vestiges of post-conquest property relations in Ireland, which had built up by accretion over centuries. Title by registration achieved this by severing the old ties, delivering to Irish tenant farmers freehold title, unencumbered by the past. There is, I would suggest, a terrible tragedy, an irony of history here, as the same legal technology was used at first to dispossess the first occupants of this land, and then, in Ireland used to repossess, albeit that such a repossession was accomplished only after a great exodus from Ireland, one that would change the class system and when combined with electoral changes be fundamental in defining both the impulses to independence and the marginalisation of egalitarian hopes. Such repossession was carried out in such a fashion as would in time favour the larger farmer, leading to the emergence of a new hegemonic grazier class. This repossession was the outcome, as I have said, of a great political struggle for ownership of the land. The intellectual origins of this revolution in ownership of the land, were based not on the prevailing political economy of the day, but rather on a contrarian belief based on a knowledge of, and sympathy for, the Irish cottier. 31
President Higgins at the ceremony bestowing an honorary doctorate from the University of Melbourne
It was the leaders of Young Ireland, contemporaries and, in some cases, members of the same class and religion as Hearn, who were transported to Tasmania for leading the Irish chapter in that great European movement for democracy and self-determination, the Springtime of Peoples of 1848, who provided the most incisive criticism of the liberal laissez-faire political economy which contributed, and indeed formed, the desultory response of the British Government as the Famine continued beyond Black ’47. Here, I speak of such as James Fintan Lalor, the brother of the leader at the Eureka Stockade, Peter Lalor, who most forcibly assailed the central assumption of the sanctity of property in his letters to the Irish Felon, a radical newspaper of the time: ‘I acknowledge no right of property in eight thousand persons, be they noble or ignoble, which takes away all right of property, security, independence, and existence itself, from a population of eight millions, and stands in bar to all the political rights of this island and all the social rights of its inhabitants. I acknowledge no right of property which takes the food of millions and gives them a famine, which denies to the peasant the right of a home and concedes, in exchange, the right of a workhouse.’ Charles Gavan Duffy, another leader of Young Ireland, editor of the Nation newspaper, and later Premier of this State, described Lalor as a ‘tribune of the people’ who nonetheless represented a more radical, agrarian path to Irish independence than Duffy and his often gentlemanly, liberal comrades. Shortly before his emigration to Australia, Gavan Duffy had been returned to the British Parliament on the Tenant Right platform, which sought a more moderate intervention in the landlord-tenant relationship, through the regulation of rents, improve security of tenure and the possibility of tenants selling their interest 32
in the land. From the long grass came more than whispers of another tradition in agrarian imprest, one that would define the difference in emphasis and experience of Michael Davitt and Charles Stewart Parnell, and which would divide the Parnell family. There is another irony of history in Duffy’s ascent to electoral power and influence. It was partly through the efforts of the Ballarat Reform League, of English, Scottish and Welsh Chartists, German and Italian veterans of the Springtime of Peoples, Victorians of all ancestries, and Irish miners led by Peter Lalor, that male suffrage was extended in the State of Victoria. Duffy quickly took up the cause of the workers in the goldfields, the urban democrat in Melbourne, and the small landholder, and as Minister of Lands in the administration of the more conservative John O’Shannassy, introduced a Land Act in 1862. This was incidentally the year my Granduncle Patrick Higgins came on the Montmorancy with his sister Mary-Ann and began work as a ploughman and later a farm manager. This Land Act of 1862 proved to be the first and last practical exercise of legislative drafting by William Hearn. The Act, intended to allow the selection of good, cheap land by new proprietors willing to cultivate the soil, achieved the precise opposite due to deficiencies in its drafting, as pastoralists were able to exploit the legislation by establishing fronts to acquire land. This did not prevent, as Patrick O’Farrell reminds us, the burnishing of Duffy’s already heroic reputation in Ireland, as Australia in the 1860s was presented in Ireland as a rural idyll, and his Land Act presented as the land charter for the Irish. The doomed expedition of another Irish emigrant to Victoria, Robert O’Hara Burke, came in another way too to symbolise the new Irish spirit in Australia which was, in the words of the Cork Examiner, ‘opening up continents for the sons and daughters of Ireland, far away from the grasp of the rack-renting landlord, the griping agent, and the selfish middleman’. Duffy’s Land Act, and the Selection Acts of the other colonies, were, unlike the ideas of the Young Irelanders or Fintan Lalor, not in deviation from, or even any outright defiance from the strictures of political economy of the time, for they rested partly on the assumption of a superabundance of land held by the Crown. They rested, in other words, on the brutal political economy of primitive accumulation, on the fiction of terra nullius with all of its original and evolving negative assumptions as to the essence, dignity and capacity of first caretakers. Those were seen as being very distant from moral concerns. In contemporary writing on Australia, I sense distance is sometimes adduced as explanation for failures in communication, knowledge of Australian past or present on the part of, among others, Europeans. But may I suggest that distance can be an advantage if it facilitates independent intellectual work. There is, I want to suggest, something important in the distance between Australia and Europe, between the new and the old world, and increasingly in the proximity to Asia, which allows for an independence of thought, a willingness to break with orthodoxies, a dedication to fostering quite new modes of thought, and a commitment above all else to pluralist discourse. These are qualities which are required now more than ever, as the global challenges of this current century – climate change, the resurgence of xenophobia and racism, the growing inequality in wealth, power and opportunity, the destructive consequences of social cohesion being made vulnerable - will not be solved with policies that, after all, were designed to address the challenges of the past. As to William Hearn, he was not a heterodox thinker – one of his first papers was entitled ‘On the Coincidence of General and Individual and General Interests’ – and in many ways his ideas were formed by the Great 33
Famine in Ireland rather than Australia, but he was part of an extraordinary generation of Irish political economists who pursued quite different intellectual agendas, who are evidence of the existence of a pluralism of economic discourse. For example, John Elliot Cairnes remained a faithful disciple of the Adam Smith of The Wealth of Nations as well as Ricardo, Malthus and John Stuart Mill to the last, often defending doctrines which Mill, a close friend, had renounced. Thomas Cliff Leslie applied the comparative theories of jurisprudence developed by Henry Maine to political economy, arguing against reasoning from a small number of a priori assumptions and for an inductive approach to economic analysis, sensitive to the unique historical development of each society. John Kells Ingram, heavily influenced by the positivist philosophy of Auguste Comté, sought to subordinate the study of economic relations to sociology, breaking down the distinction between the economic and other forms of social life. We see here of course the outlines of the battle as to method in economics which so engaged Irish, British and German political economists in the late nineteenth century and early twentieth century. This is a battle that had its value. Today a debate that distinguished between the efficacy of instruments, the adequacy of a method, and the assumptions of a theory would serve political economy and its publics well. A vulgar rejection of all economics and indeed economists is not helpful to anybody. Alternatively teasing out the issues is a valuable part of participatory citizenship. Conducted across and within the changing national borders of the time, in English and in German, the late nineteenth, early twentieth century, methodological debate shared a common theme, namely the rejection of a deductive reasoning from a small number of a priori assumptions which characterised Ricardian classical political economy. With this rejection came a rejection of the formulation of theories of distribution, production, consumption and exchange, based on a number of universal axioms. In its place, economists such as Cliff Leslie and Kells Ingram, and in Germany, a group led by Gustuv Schmoller, proposed there were no self-evident natural laws of economics, but only such conclusions as could be drawn from the accumulation of historical studies. We can also glimpse another great struggle, namely that which occurred between the classical political economy championed by Cairnes and the outlines of neoclassical economics which was arguably, at least in part, presaged by William Hearn’s work Plutology. My former colleague at the National University of Ireland, Galway, Tom Boylan, and the Australian economist Gregory Moore, have both argued that this work, published here in Melbourne, inspired what came to be termed the ‘marginalist revolution’ in economics. In short, classical political economists, such as Mill and Ricardo, had accepted that value, and in the long run, the determination of prices, should reflect the cost-of-production of a good, reflecting the labour used in the production of that good or service. This objective theory of value was replaced by a subjective theory of value, which postulated that there was no inherent value in goods, but only that which results from the relative importance placed on such goods by individuals seeking to satisfy their needs. This framework had at its heart, as its subject, the utility-maximising individual, subject to diminishing marginal returns, and constrained by scarcity of resources. From these foundations, it was possible to derive the values of factors of production and goods and services.
This would reshape the discipline of economics, so that by 1935, Lionel Robbins could define economics as ‘the science which studies human behaviour as a relationship between ends and scarce means which have alternative uses’. Gone were the historical economists with alternative moral frameworks such as Ingram and Leslie, and gone too were the classical political economists, subsumed as new footnotes in the development of neoclassical economics, and indeed now largely missing in the teaching of economics in the contemporary university. I do not wish to criticise the specifics of neoclassical economics today. Time does not allow and it would be easy to get lost in definitions and debates about what may be minutiae, but only to note that the discipline of economics was not so dominated by a single methodology in the past as it is today. Nevertheless, I do want to stress the significance of some very eminent scholars currently working in the field, such as Joseph Stiglitz and Amartya Sen who are continuing to pursue a research programme which, while accepting the underlying assumptions of neoclassical economics, have en passant systemically undermined some of the central claims once advanced by some fundamentalists, such as, for example, the assumption of a narrow rationality on the part of individuals, and assumption of market efficiency. Economists, while still taking as their starting point the competitive market as the most efficient institution for allocating resources, now increasingly recognise that markets are characterised by profound, and what are even within their own terms, inefficiencies. I know that this has perhaps become a truism at this point, but it is important to acknowledge nonetheless. Indeed, it was the late, great Kenneth Arrow, who did so much to develop general equilibrium theory – giving a mathematical proof to the intuition of the protagonists of the marginal revolution that, given a certain set of assumptions, there will be a set of prices across multiple markets such that the aggregate supply equals the aggregate demand – who also noted that ‘the model laissez-faire world of total self-interest would not survive for ten minutes; its actual working depends upon an intricate network of reciprocal obligations, even among competing firms and individuals’. This observation with its less than tacit appeal for humility, should remind us that there is at times a sharp distinction between the development of neoclassical economic theory and its application, by economic policymakers. There is at times a sharp distinction between the academic programme of neoclassical economics and a theory of government which seeks to validate itself by claims to economic theory, to conflate, in imitation of some of the classical political economists, assumed mutable laws of nature with the prosaic practice of economic policy. I speak of course of the philosophy of government popularly termed neo-liberalism. This was initially a term used by a small group of radical economic thinkers, including Friedrich van Hayek and later Milton Friedman, to describe their own distinctive economic and social philosophy at a time when the governments of both right and left cleaved to the consensus of the Keynesian welfare state. Neo-liberalism is now widely accepted to describe a theory of politics which postulates a wholly ‘economic’ theory of human nature, universalising, beyond previous boundaries, the necessary simplifying assumptions of neo-classical economics – namely that human beings are rational utility-maximisers - to encompass all human activities. Its ethics rests on the liberal principle that people should be left to do as they will, how they will. And such views are not uncommon today. 35
The political theorist Alan Finlayson has suggested that following these two principles, price is viewed as the key mechanism in transmitting information, enabling rational individuals to make decisions and allocate resources. Following this, effective competition and competitive exchange is required for prices to be accurate. Finally, Finlayson argues that, due to these principals, neo-liberals do not hold a concept of the ‘common good’ in politics as they fear that government will act on a set of principles dictated by the common good, which will in turn distort rational individual decision. We cannot continue to avoid the collision that is there, morally, between such assumptions. Recent work such as that of Mariana Mazzucato’s The Entrepreneurial State, powerfully critiques this underlabourer theory of the State. The starting point of neoclassical economics does remain, I suggest, questionable as to its method and its epistemology in its sharp distinction between economic life on one hand, open to economic analysis, and other forms of social life, which are subject to other types of forces. As one describes the work of those whom the Irish political economists to whom I have made reference, one is struck by the breadth of their vision, of their capacity to range across and to integrate a broad range of academic disciplines. For those of the historical school, this was a necessity born of their inductive methodology. Yet it also reflects something broader – Hearn’s first assignment to this university was as chair of Modern History and Literature, Political Economy and Logic.
President Higgins at the ceremony bestowing an honorary doctorate from the University of Melbourne 36
I found an echo some years ago of such scholarship in the debate here in Australia and in New Zealand between the distinguished economist Professor David Throsby and the late Dr. Michael Volkerling on cultural economics – it is a debate I drew on when I was Minister for Arts, Culture and the Gaeltacht between 1993 and 1997. It was a debate I recommended to other European Culture Ministers. Professor Throsby had suggested that the epistemological basis of economics was inherently based on individualism. Culture was social in its assumptions and thus irreconcilable with economics. Michael Volkerling disputed this. Dr. Volkering suggested that the public discourse of economics – by which I mean an explicitly neoliberal discourse - and its underlying assumption of self-interested behaviour, that had developed such strength of support during the 1980s and 1990s, shaped rather than revealed a new spirit of selfishness. He also suggested, correctly in my view, that culture and economics should not be envisioned as antagonistic, as a clash of the collective impulse with the individual impulse, but rather that economics should be considered as a cultural discourse itself, in terms of both its origins and in its application. This is not only because of the origins of political economy in a broad frame of discourse such as the early Enlightenment writings of Adam Smith, who proposed, we recall, sympathy with other humans as the driving motivation for human actions, and who, as the Irish political economists remind us, used historical experience as a guide, but also because economics shares with other forms of intellectual practice, a cultural purpose, a shared and similar purpose, that of seeking to represent, and dare I say enhance,‘real life’. The conclusion of Dr. Volkerling may be summarised by saying that culture is not ever a residual of living experience, an uncolonised space and time, but should be considered as a framework for thought and practice, that can help economics recover its moral and social strength, keen to integrate new findings in related disciplines, and achieve a result that will offer a plurality of policy suggestions. The question then of that debate between the great economists of the day remains: Can we integrate and facilitate new perspectives, or recover old ones, in the contemporary period? Is the economics which is being taught at third level sufficient to the present moment? Have we replaced questions of methodology with a restrictive focus on measurement? Can we lift economics out of the narrow ideological framework in which it is presented in these times? Can such questions find a space within contemporary economic discourse? Indeed are they to be allowed at all in an atmosphere that too regularly comes close to anti-intellectualism, and is simply reflecting a bad-tempered intolerance of critical thought? May I suggest that the outcomes to how we answer such questions will be seen in two areas. The first is in the area of teaching, research agendas and university curricula, particularly in the realm and domain of academic economics. Since the global financial crisis, there have been demands for a new curriculum, from both teachers and students, which more closely represents, and which can more adequately critique and describe, the social and economic world which they inhibit and which many of them seek to change. A significant result to emerge from this concern is a proposed new introductory curriculum, the Curriculum Open-access Resources in Economics, or CORE, project, an initiative of the economists Wendy Carlin, Margaret Stevens, Oscar Landerretche, and Sam Bowles. Their proposed textbook, ‘The Economy’, fully recognises its titular term is a social construction, and provides, as its starting point, an account of the effects of the industrial revolution, the development of capitalist institutions, the impact of climate change, and the measurement of economic inequality. Its bibliography is capacious and generous, including Angus Deaton and William Nordhaus, and Karl Polanyi and Maurice Dobb.
Yet the proposed curriculum does not shirk the mathematical rigour of neoclassic economics, as students are still required to understand the calculus traditionally deployed in microeconomics to explain marginalist concepts such as indifference curves. The promise of this initiative, and others like it, is the replacement of the simple nostrums of what is referred to in US universities as Economics 101, which commences its teaching of the subject at perfect competition, leaving students with a desiccated – and inaccurate – picture of economic life. Over time, it will, I hope, open up quite new research agendas as those students continue on to graduate studies. I wish I could be more optimistic about the prospects, in the short term, for the integration of a new pluralist discourse in the public sphere. The rhetoric of neoliberalism - the elevation of individual self-interest, and even selfishness, to an almost moral certainty, the disdain for a language of the common good and public purpose, and which at times produces a near contempt for those who fall behind – remains as a rhetoric even more pervasive than its policy prescriptions. If there is a glimmer of hope it is in the fact that some international institutions, such as the International Monetary Fund which once advocated characteristic neoliberal policies such as the liberalisation without regulation of capital flows, deregulation, creation of financial markets, and fiscal consolidation in all circumstances, have now begun to question these once sacrosanct policy positions, and the assumptions which underlay them. There is now an urgency, may I suggest, to contest what remains as unhelpful, entrenched ideas of a failing paradigm of thought. The challenges of the next decade simply cannot be met with the old orthodoxies. Social cohesion is fracturing, fading, as inequalities in wealth, power and income are deepening, as labour becomes more precarious and our societies become increasingly divided between what is often lazily described as ‘the lucky’ and the ‘left out’, those on the street and those behind gates communities, between those who can access highly paid employment and those left to struggle on zero-hour contracts. Within the European Union, cohesion between the Member States has declined, to create a problem of connection and legitimacy with the European street, as we have allowed ourselves to become divided by a common, one size fits all macroeconomic policy framework which pits creditor against debtor, and those with trade surpluses against those without, those in the North against those in the South. How should we meet these challenges? I suggest that in this century fiscal and economic literacy may be as important to cohesion, citizenship and democracy itself, as mass literacy was in previous centuries to universal suffrage, parliamentary democracy and the sovereignty of the people. Armed with a critical and inquiring economics - one that does not tolerate poverty amidst plenty without question - citizens can begin to question the current dispensation, and begin to imagine a quite different future than that which is so often presented as inevitable. If William Hearn felt a moral impulse, drawn from a wide perspective in scholarship, to address the issues of his day, new challenges, surely those gifted today with the opportunity to do so might benefit from following his examples in our urgent times of change, and help recover the rich possibility of political economy and the prospect of better, more inclusive, sustainable policies for all our citizens of an ever more fragile world. Go raibh míle maith agaibh go léir, agus go dté sibh slán.
Reception for the Irish Community
Speech by Michael D. Higgins President of Ireland
Grand Hyatt Hotel, Melbourne Friday, 13th October, 2017
A Chairde Gael, a chairde go léir, a Dhaoine Uaisle, Tá áthas orm féin agus ar Saidhbhín go raibh an oiread seo den phobal Éireannach in ann a bheith linn anocht. Is é seo an chéad cuairt dom ar Mhelbourne agus gabhaim buíochas libh as an fíorchaoin fáilte a d’fhear sibh romhainn. [Sabina and I are delighted to see so many from the Irish community here this evening. This is my first visit to Australia and to the great city of Melbourne and I thank you for the warm welcome we have received]. The Irish nation stretches far beyond the boundaries of our small island state and one of the great pleasures of our visits abroad are the opportunities Sabina and I get to visit and meet with representatives of the vibrant and diverse Irish community organisations that exist right across the globe. I am very pleased to be able to acknowledge and thank you in person, for your warmth and your endeavours as the representatives of the Irish community living in Melbourne and the State of Victoria. You do so much to help each other, to support your homeland in so many ways, and are such valued ambassadors for Ireland.
President Higgins and Sabina are greeted by Her Excellency the Honourable Linda Dessau AC, Governor of Victoria, Melbourne
Is mór ag muintir na hÉireann an méid atá déanta ag ár ndiaspóra thar chaitheamh na mblianta sna tíortha ar fud na cruinne inar shocraigh siad fúthu. Is féidir a thionchar a fheiceáil san iliomad earnáil; gnó, seirbhís phoiblí, oideachas, leigheas, spórt agus na healaíona agus go leor earnálacha tábhachtacha eile nach iad atá ina gcroílár de sochaí beo fuinniúil. [We Irish can all be proud of the great contribution our Diaspora has made across the generations to where they have made their new homes across the world, making such a significant impact as they have in the areas of business, public service, education, health, sports and the arts and so many other important areas which lie at the heart of a vibrant society. Your presence here this evening is a testament to that]. Today, over 90,000 Irish-born people live in Australia and 2 million Australians record their ancestry as Irish in your national census. The migratory stories of the many Irish who have travelled to Australia across the decades and the centuries are myriad and complex. They are stories that have created a profound link between our two countries, and a friendship that stretches across the many thousands of miles that separate us. I have been encouraging the research and the scholarship that tells us more, and will inform us of the complexity of that experience in its differing circumstances.
Whatever the individual stories, the influence and contribution of Australia’s Irish community is woven deeply into the rich and multi-cultural tapestry of modern Australia. Through distinguished careers in politics, law, industry, and academia; active engagement in education and in the development of the Catholic Church; a proud and generous sharing of our culture and heritage; and the development of settlements and the creation of strong communities, the role played by Irish men and women in the building of modern day Australia is a profound one. In preparing for my visit I was particularly struck by the central place the Irish hold in the history and development of Melbourne and the state of Victoria. Irish names reverberate through the pages of any history of Melbourne. I am thinking, of course, in particular of such characters as the Cork born Sir Redmond Barry, who can truly be regarded as one of Melbourne’s founding fathers through his contributions to the University, the State Library, and countless philanthropic ventures in the early days of the city. Of William Edward Hearn, one of its founding professors of whom I have been speaking at Melbourne University. And Peter Lalor, former Speaker of the Parliament of Victoria, whose rise to that august position began rather inauspiciously with his escape from the authorities following his leadership role at the Eureka Stockade. His fellow combatants that day included many Irishmen who took up arms against the injustices of the colonial regime. Some of them subsequently faced trial for treason before Redmond Barry, who conducted those trials without bias or harshness, with all the accused acquitted. The Eureka Uprising is regarded by many historians as the founding of Australian democracy and it is worth noting that one witness at the Gold Fields Commission claimed of the rebels that ‘quite half of them were Irishmen’. The name of Archbishop Daniel Mannix, another Cork man, born less than twenty miles from Redmond Barry is rightly still remembered. His fifty years at the helm of the Catholic Church in Victoria saw him play a central role in many of the public debates and issues of his day, beginning with the anti-conscription movement of a century ago. But along with those public figures were the thousands of Irish men and women who came to Victoria seeking a new life and who made the most of the opportunities afforded them: finding employment, working hard, rising through the ranks of colonial society, and helping to build this great State. I have read so much in recent months about the contribution of the immigrant Irish to their new homeland and how they so fundamentally and positively impacted Australia. And while many of you are more recent arrivals to Melbourne you, as the Irish community, are responsible for guarding that legacy and enriching it through your own contributions to this wonderful city and State. You are the custodians of Victoria’s Irish heritage and I want to thank you for your contributions, and encourage you to continue to work to protect our collective heritage and enrich it for yourselves, for your children and for future generations and as you will be gifted the opportunity to do so with the greatest respect to the 65,000-year-old culture of the first inhabitants. Knowing one’s own culture encourages respect for all cultures. I want to acknowledge and express my deepest appreciation of all the groups and individuals who work in this region to promote and to sustain Irish cultural and community activity in Melbourne and the State of Victoria. I know the Celtic Club has long been a home-from-home for many within the Irish community since its founding 130 years ago. The move last month from its home of fifty-eight years in Queen Street to new premises will have been difficult for many, I am sure. But I trust that the Celtic Club Board and members will capitalise on the advantages of the sale of the premises to invest for the future and so ensure the Club 41
continues to be the natural place for the Irish community to gather, foster and celebrate pride in our Irish heritage. In celebrating our Irish heritage, the community in Melbourne is well served by the existence of its many groups actively promoting Irish culture and identity through literature, theatre, music, language, and sport. Victoria GAA has a long and proud tradition. I met with some of your representatives when I attended the Australasian Games last weekend in Perth. I take this opportunity to congratulate you on your successes on the field; and to applaud you on your continued stewardship of Gaelic games in Victoria. Tá áthas orm a chloisteáil go bhfuil an Ghaeilge faoi bhláth anseo san Astráil, ár mbuíochas le Chumann Gaeilge na hAstráile. Guím gach rath agus beannacht ar an t-aonú Daonscoil is fiche atá ag teacht aníos agus táim cinnte go n-éireoidh go geal leis. [I am delighted to learn that the Irish language is also thriving Down Under, not least through the efforts of Cumann Gaeilge na hAstráile. Congratulations on the upcoming 21st Daonscoil which I am sure will be a marvellous success]. I understand that Comhaltas Melbourne is one of the more vibrant branches here in Australia, continuing to delight audiences with your music and with your support of set dancing. And I must make mention of the many schools of Irish dancing in Victoria who not only keep our traditional dance form alive, but who have produced dancers of the highest standard who compete on the international stage. The work of Bloomsday in Melbourne and of the Yeats Society of Victoria are instrumental in celebrating our great writers and encouraging new enthusiasts. I also wish to acknowledge the invaluable work of the Australian Irish Heritage Network and the contributors to their online magazine Tinteán, who continue to explore the Irish legacy in Australia and enlighten us on what it means to be Australian Irish in the 21st century. Melbourne has a long and proud tradition of celebrating our national day. And with over 3,000 in attendance, the annual St. Patrick’s Day Mass at the Cathedral is in the running for one of the largest in the world. I am also heartened that our traditions continue to be celebrated, and passed on to younger generations, through the work of the organisers of the Melbourne Irish Festival. The success of the Irish community can be measured not just through its thriving cultural scene, but also through its contribution to the business and economic life of this city and country. From its founding almost thirty years ago, the Irish Australian Chamber of Commerce has played a central role in connecting business communities in Australia and Ireland. I was impressed to learn of your many new initiatives including mentoring schemes, support for women in business, and the Irish Australian business awards. I know the recentlyestablished Irish branch continues to grow and is a welcome and much needed addition to the business ties between our two countries. President Higgins addressing the Irish community in Melbourne 42
Earlier today I visited the Irish Australian Support and Resource Bureau and met with some of its senior members. The work of the Bureau in supporting the most vulnerable and marginalised in our community, as well as helping those facing personal crises, exemplifies the spirit of solidarity and support that is the bedrock of Irish communities around the world. I wish to take this opportunity to thank them again for the invaluable work they do. We appreciate, and take pride, in the support you have given. Indeed, the people of Ireland take pride in the contribution of all the members of the Irish community gathered here today, in all walks of life - business, politics, culture, in the professions and in sport – and I congratulate you on your contribution to your city and State. The Irish who came to this country have played a crucial part in the forging of a distinct Australian identity. As part of the global Irish diaspora they have also done much to shape the country they left behind. Ireland’s relationship with its diaspora is enshrined in our Constitution which states that “the Irish nation cherishes its special affinity with people of Irish ancestry living abroad who share its cultural identity and heritage.” It is an honour and a privilege to be among you today as we celebrate that special affinity and celebrate our culture and heritage. Thar mo cheann féin is thar ceann Sabina, guím gach rath, slán agus beannacht ar gach duine, idir Ghael, Gall is cairde Gael. Go raibh míle maith agaibh. Go dté sibh slán.
Unveiling of the ‘Footsteps’ Monument
Speech by Michael D. Higgins President of Ireland
Hobart Waterfront, Tasmania Saturday, 14th October, 2017
A Dhaoine Uaisle, a Chairde Gael, Is mór an áthais a thugann sé dom a bheith in bhur measc inniu ag an ócáid stairiúil seo agus táim thar a bheith buíoch daoibh as bhur gcuireadh dom teacht agus cuairt a thabhairt ar Hobart. What a great honour it is for Sabina and me to be with you today at the unveiling of this most magnificent work by the Irish sculptor Rowan Gillespie, these poignant statues commemorating the thousands of women and children who arrived on these shores in chains, after a long and tortuous journey. One hundred and seventy years ago, famine raged through the fields of Ireland. ‘Black ‘47’ was the nadir of the Great Hunger, An Gorta Mór, when the peasant population of Ireland was literally dying in the ditches. Today I recall that terrible time in our nation’s history because not all who suffered died. Over a million people did lose their lives to hunger and disease, but over 2 million were forced to leave their native land. The majority did so out of necessity, fleeing poverty, seeking a new life and a new hope in a new land. In Perth last Monday, I recalled over four thousand young women and girls who, faced with a bleak outlook in famine ravaged Ireland, were transported voluntarily, it is claimed, from Ireland’s workhouses to the Australian Colonies. Evelyn Conlon, in her wonderfully researched and written historic novel Not the Same Sky recounts the voyage of the Thomas Arbuthnot which left Plymouth on the 18th of October 1849 with what was described as “a cargo of Irish girls” under the care of surgeon-superintendent Charles Strutt, from whose diaries we have gained such an insight into the reality of what these women experienced. The ship reached Botany Bay in February 1850. Those women were brought to these shores as part of a scheme instigated by Earl Grey, Secretary of State for the Colonies, which was designed specifically to attract women between the ages of 14 and 20, women who were needed to address a gender imbalance that had emerged in the Australian Colonies. The mindset that would devise such a scheme is in itself something to ponder. Is there not something deeply unsettling in the attitude of the then imperial social engineers, such as Earl Grey? Having failed to attract a sufficient number of female settlers, he pounced on the opportunity of Ireland’s famine to pluck young, desperate women from the most wretched of conditions, separating them from any surviving relatives they might have had, removing them from the land of their birth and transporting them to the other side of the planet. While they are described as volunteers, it is worth considering whether they had any choice at all. With starvation and disease ravaging the land, with their daily reality of wretched workhouse conditions, I wonder, could they have really opted not to come? Today we are recalling another specific group of women who were transported from Ireland and Britain as punishment, victims of a harsh judicial system that valued property above people’s lives. The crimes for which they were transported were often petty. The theft of food or a few coins, a watch or a shawl, stolen to try and sustain a starving family; desperate acts of destitute individuals. Among them were the 25,000 women, nearly half of them Irish, transported in the dark holds of ships on a 16,000-mile journey to the other end of the Earth. These Mná Díbeartha, Banished Women, left their homeland in the most desperate of circumstance. Thirteen thousand of them arrived on the shores of Van Diemen’s Land alone, or with small children in tow, facing an unknown country and unknown future, with little hope of ever seeing their families and native island again.
Rowan’s sculptures have their companion pieces in Dublin and Toronto. Unveiled on the 150th anniversary of the Great Famine, in his Dublin sculptures Rowan gave a face to the suffering of the many starving people who departed in ships from their homeland. The 160th anniversary of Black ’47 was commemorated in Toronto with the unveiling of Rowan’s depiction in Ireland Park of those who arrived there in hope in a new country. Here in Hobart, commemorating the 170th anniversary of that dark time, Rowan did not need to imagine the women who were forced to make the perilous voyage. For he could meet them. I was particularly moved to learn that the models for Rowan’s sculptures are the descendants of some of these banished women, some of whom are with us here today. It shows a maturity and depth of understanding in coming to terms with Australia’s origins that Australians are now confident in transecting the multiple strands of their identity, including their convict ancestry. To find a convict ancestor is no longer a matter of shame but can be cause for reflection and indeed celebration. Because many of these destitute and down-trodden women triumphed. These women and young girls and the choices they made, shaped the world in which they lived. They were the founding mothers of Modern Australia. And so, it is fitting that we should remember them; and that we should celebrate them. Of course, their arrival in Hobart, carrying the label of convicts, was not immediately a cause for celebration. Though no doubt many were glad to be back on dry land after months spent at sea.
Sabina Higgins, Rowan Gillespie, H.E. Kate Warner AC, Governor of Tasmania, and President Higgins at the unveiling of ‘Footsteps’ in Hobart
But for those who arrived with children, they had to suffer first the pain of forced separation as the infants were taken from them and incarcerated in conditions that often proved fatal.
The women themselves had to survive their own incarceration and beatings, long hours of labour and harsh conditions in which they were housed. And they had to endure assignments to masters as bonded labour. In those early years, convict labour was a main resource chosen as a means to build what were the new Australian Colonies. Convict women made clothes, cleaned and cooked for the population of colony, and became the mothers of this new nation. The resistance, resilience and dogged determination they needed to continue to survive and to build new lives seem incredible and are to be admired. Their landing in Hobart town was indeed their first footsteps towards a freedom from hunger, dispossession and the poverty that went with vagrancy, but it was also their entry into a particular form of bondage in terms of incarceration and punishment. We should never forget those who did not survive to mother a new generation; many did not survive the arduous voyage; many others who did were broken by abuse and the troubles they encountered and by the cruelties and humiliations imposed upon them. We now have the means to remember them too and to recall their suffering and sacrifice. 46
That we are able to do so, we must note, has a certain degree of irony for we must be grateful to the colonial administrators who recorded so meticulously the details of every woman and child arriving on Hobart’s waterfront. We are grateful to the historians, archivists, archaeologists and others who have trawled through those records to bring us the stories of these women. Their work is invaluable in aiding our understanding of the women’s lives and the circumstances under which they came here. They have rescued these women from obscurity and restored their historical importance to both our nations. I have spoken many times of the ethics of memory and the importance of not setting boundaries on what we recall. This has been useful in our own Irish experience of reflection on the Famine, on our colonial past and on the choices that were made, and not made before and after the independence of the Irish State. It has also been important in our effort of recent decades to forge a better future on the island of Ireland from a legacy of division and bloodshed. Exploring the less palatable parts of our history has, I believe, allowed us to come to a fuller understanding of ourselves. The women and children we are remembering today were just some of the victims of a brutal and brutalising imperial regime that in many respects cared little for human life or dignity. They were not the only victims of course. We need only think of what befell and what was perpetrated upon the Palawa, those who occupied Tasmania for tens of thousands of years before the arrival of the Europeans; original occupants who were brought to the brink of extinction in the 19th century. They are also victims who should be remembered. We should recall that it was within this ruthless and, in many ways, inhumane environment that these women and children were incarcerated. I take this opportunity to congratulate the Project Team who have worked to bring their vision to fruition. John Kelly, Professor Lucy Frost, Jo Lyngcoln, and Carole Edwards united their various skills and expertise over a number of years to achieve their goal of telling this untold story. Their reward is this monument; one that records not just skill and art but one that does so while communicating a real passion. I congratulate and thank you all on a job so beautifully executed. I also wish to thank Hobart City Council, the Tasmanian State Government and all who supported this project in any way. We are defined as a people by what we choose to commemorate. In choosing to commemorate the convict women, the City of Hobart has also chosen to acknowledge and recognise its convict past, and to celebrate the indomitable spirit of those convicts who survived and then thrived to build a new home. These sculptures, let us remind ourselves, also make common cause with the suffering of migrants in our times. They should remind us that the trauma of displacement and forced exile are not experiences confined to our past, but are the lived experience of millions around the world today, including many who now call Australia home. Migration is part of Ireland’s past and our present and defines our nation. We often recall the men and women who achieved success or notoriety. People such as Edmund Dwyer Gray, (no relation to Earl Grey), who was born to an Irish nationalist family in Dublin in 1870 and went on to become the Premier of Tasmania in 1939; But we also recall the millions who left Ireland to lead quieter existences, trying to survive and trying to make a better life for their children and for their communities. We are a migratory people so much more than a sedentary one. It is reflected in every aspect of our being. It places responsibilities on us too, as to our response to contemporary migration. The Irish have always been leaving, returning at times to leave again. There are more than 70 million people worldwide who can claim Irish ancestry. Ireland’s relationship with its diaspora is enshrined in our Constitution which states 47
that “the Irish nation cherishes its special affinity with people of Irish ancestry living abroad who share its cultural identity and heritage”. Among this diaspora are the descendants of the Irish convict women who left unwillingly but whose legacy we celebrate today. In recalling those special Irish women and children that we remember today, we are acknowledging them as a part of both our nations, I am reminded of the Connemara Cradle Song, popularised by ballad singer Delia Murphy, wife of Ireland’s first Ambassador to Australia: “May no one who’s dear to our island be lost, blow the winds gently, calm be the foam, shine the light brightly and guide them back home”. Thank you again to all those who united in common cause to give us this monument, this memory. Go raibh míle maith agaibh go léir.
Dinner hosted by Governor Kate Warner of Tasmania
Speech by Michael D. Higgins President of Ireland
Government House, Hobart Saturday, 14th October, 2017
A Ghobharnóir Warner agus a Uasail Warner, Go raibh míle maith agaibh beirt as an fíorchaoin fáilte sin agus as bhur focail cneasta. Governor Warner, Mr. Warner, thank you both for your warm welcome to Government House and for your kind words. Sabina and I are delighted to have been invited here during our first visit to Tasmania. Although we have only been in Australia for a few weeks, I have been repeatedly struck by the many family, cultural, political and economic links between our two countries. There are so many bonds which serve to bring us together. The strongest link between our two countries is, of course, our people. It is truly remarkable how many Australians can claim Irish ancestry, including from this Apple Isle. Thousands of Irish citizens have made this country their home over the years. It is good to know that they are doing well and that they are determined to contribute to Australian and Tasmanian society in a positive manner, as many of their compatriots have done over the past few centuries. The story of the Irish in Australia has turned out to be rich in experience and encouraging of a deep humanity. This may be in spite of its less than auspicious start. Unfortunately, many of the Irish people who came here in the nineteenth century did not always come here of their own volition. The prevalence of references to Tasmania or Van Diemen’s Land in Irish songs and ballads of deportation, exile and emigration is truly striking. Governor, it was a great honour to join you this afternoon at the unveiling of the “Footsteps” statues by the renowned Irish sculptor Rowan Gillespie at Quayside. I thank you most sincerely for your invitation. These statues commemorate the thousands of women and children sentenced to transportation here. Others came here during or after the Great Irish Famine of the 1840s, some sent here, others taken as the foundation of what would be a new colony, yet others searching for new opportunities and a sense of hope and possibility
Governor Warner and Mr. Warner welcomed President Higgins and Sabina Higgins to Tasmania 50
denied to them at home. In spite of such difficult and traumatic beginnings, many of them, and particularly their descendants, managed to build new lives for themselves here. The Irish who made their lives here forged a determination to participate fully in their new society. They also brought with them as a strength, hope, a rebellious sense of rights, and the best aspects of Irish culture - a love of music, sport and literature. They built what they sought to be fulfilling lives for themselves and their families and communities. This is something that has continued to the present day. I am proud of the contribution my compatriots are making to their new home. I am profoundly grateful for the opportunities they have been offered, and which they are intent on using so well and sharing with their neighbours, old and new. Is mian liom mo bhuíochas ó chroí a ghabháíl libh as an fáilte a d’fhear sibh romham féin, roimh Saidhbhín agus roimh ár gcomhthírigh. In thanking you for your welcome to Sabina and I and to our compatriots, I would like to take this opportunity to raise a toast: “To Her Majesty the Queen and to the People of Australia.”
State Lunch hosted by Governor General and Lady Cosgrove
Speech by Michael D. Higgins President of Ireland
Government House, Canberra Monday, 16th October, 2017
Sir Peter Cosgrove, Lady Cosgrove, Distinguished guests, Is mian liom mo bhuíochas a ghabháil libh as an cuireadh caoin dúinn a bheith libh anseo san áit galánta seo, Teach an Rialtais. Thank you for the invitation to lunch with you and Lady Cosgrove here in the elegant surroundings of Government House. Sabina and I are delighted to have the opportunity to meet with you again so soon after your recent visit to Ireland. I trust that the visit gave you a good flavour of the diversity of the connections between our two countries and the possibilities that they contain. I hope you found the visit to be worthwhile and enjoyable. The historic links between our two countries are many. Between 1840 and 1914, approximately a third of a million Irish people emigrated to the Australian colonies. The migratory stories of the many Irish who have travelled to Australia across the decades and the centuries are myriad and complex. They are stories that have created a profound link between our two countries, and a friendship that stretches across the many thousands of miles that separate us. In fact, Irish was one of the first European languages spoken in Australia, since there were Irish speakers among both the convicts and their gaolers. We began our visit in Perth where I had the opportunity of acknowledging the first occupants and paying homage to their ancestors. In recent times, Perth has become a popular destination for recent Irish emigrants. In fact, the 2016 census shows Western Australia has overtaken Victoria for the size of its Irish-born population. In Perth we found a vibrant Irish Australian community; proud of their connection to both our countries; keen to participate in both societies, enthusiastic about sharing with their Australian friends and neighbours our Irish culture and sensibility, particularly in sport, music and dance; but also, recognising and celebrating the contribution the Irish have made and will continue to make to the formation of the Australian nation. In Perth I also had the opportunity to commemorate the Fenian John Boyle O’Reilly and to recall his eloquent descriptions of the Western Australian landscape where he toiled as a convict; and to honour the thousands of men, women, and children who escaped hunger and poverty at home to avail of opportunities offered in this far off land. From there we travelled to Melbourne where the Irish influence on the city is all around: from its Parliament and its great institutions to the labouring men and women who built its grand buildings, worshipped in its Cathedrals, and played on the pitch and cheered in the stands of the great Melbourne Cricket Ground. In Hobart I had the opportunity to recall Australia’s convict past, a past which is no longer a point of shame, but recognised as an important contributor to the building of the Australian nation and the development of the uniquely Australian character. Sir Peter, we are looking forward to visiting your home town of Sydney tomorrow. Again my programme will celebrate the connections between our two countries, both the current, in fields as diverse as trade, sport, and culture; and the historic, in particular recalling the famine orphan girls from whom so many Australians are descended. Before I left Ireland, when speaking of this visit to Australia, it seemed that almost every Irish family I met had some family member who is either living, or has spent time, in Australia. I know that during your visit to Dublin you met with the two hundred and seventy-fifth thousand recipient of the Working Holiday Visa. 53
To have over a quarter of a million young Irish people come to Australia to live and work and experience Australian life for a period can only lead to closer ties between our two countries. The fact that many also loved and never left is perhaps indicative of the welcome extended by Australia, not to mention the more equable climate. Like so many of my compatriots I too have family connections to Australia. And I am very much looking forward to celebrating these connections, and meeting with cousins, when Sabina and I visit the town of Warwick in Queensland. Personal contacts are vitally important in building and maintaining good relations between countries. With so many family connections our people-to-people engagement is extremely strong. I am happy to note that political and official engagement is also increasing significantly. Our respective visits come after a number of Ministerial and trade visits in each direction this year. I very much hope that the momentum will continue and we will have many more visitors from official Australia in the coming years. I can assure you they will receive a welcome as enthusiastic and generous as your own has been to us. Gabhaim buíochas ó chroí libh, agus guím gabh rath agus beannacht oraibh. Go raibh míle maith agaibh go léir.
President Higgins and Minister Fitzgerald meeting members of Australia’s Parliament 54
Irish Community Reception Yarralumla, Canberra
Speech by Michael D. Higgins President of Ireland
Ambassador’s Residence, Canberra Monday, 16th October, 2017
A Chairde Gael, a Chairde go léir, a Dhaoine Uaisle - Is breá liom agus Sabina an deis seo a bheith againn bheith libh inniu. Is é seo ár gcéad chuairt ar an Astráil, bhíomar ag súil go mór leis an turas seo le fada an lá. Is cúis áthais dom seasamh le Gaeil Canberra, go mba fhada buan sibh. Guím gach rath oraibh agus sibh ag cur cultúr, teangacha agus leas na hÉireann chun cinn i Réigiún Príomhchathrach na hAstráile, (nó san Australian Capital Territory i mBéarla). Tar éis turas de bhreis is seacht míle déag cileamar a chur dínn ag teacht anseo, ní féidir liom a shamhlú cén bealach a dhein Gaeil an turas san naoú aois déag faoin choinníollacha i bhfad níos deacra ná mar a bhí againne. Tugadh na céadta míle Gael thar an bhfarraige anonn thar thréimhse dhá chéad bliain a d’fhág rian doghlanta ar thalamh, cultúr is pobail na tíre seo. D’fhág sé rian ar Éirinn freisin. Le linn na cuairte seo, beidh mé ag iarraidh tuiscint níos doimhne a fháil ar thaithí na nGael a tháinig. Dear Friends, Ladies and Gentlemen, distinguished guests, Sabina and I are delighted and honoured to be with you in Canberra today. This is our first visit to Australia and it is a visit to which we have long looked forward. I am delighted to have this opportunity to express my deepest appreciation of all the groups and individuals who work in this region to promote and to sustain Irish cultural and community activity in Canberra and the Australian Capital Terrotpru. As a nation we in Ireland remain very conscious of the enormous debt of gratitude we owe to those who have left these shores over so many years. Their hard work, and generous support and encouragement to those who remained at home have played a significant role in the shaping and crafting of the modern Ireland we know today. I am, therefore, always so very pleased to be able to acknowledge and thank in person, the representatives of our Irish communities across the globe who do so much to help each other, to support your homeland in so many ways, and who are such valued ambassadors for Ireland. I am also so happy as President of Ireland to thank the Irish communities who extend a hand of friendship to the new waves of emigrants from Ireland, as they too begin new chapters of their lives in a country that has the tradition of welcoming and supporting so many of our people. The links between Ireland and Canberra run deep, our relationship rooted in the beginnings of European settlement in Australia in the late 18th century. The migratory stories of the many Irish who travelled to Australia across the decades and centuries are myriad and complex. They came as prisoners, often convicted for their role in Ireland’s long and difficult battle for independence. They came as shopkeepers and servants, as skilled and unskilled labourers, inspired by the vision of a better future for themselves and their families. They came as refugees from hunger, oppression and grinding poverty, their journey a desperate search for new beginnings. They came willingly, in a sense of adventure, and reluctantly in order to support themselves and the loved ones they had been forced to leave behind. Whatever their stories the influence and contribution of Australia’s Irish community is woven deeply into the rich and multi-cultural tapestry of modern Australia. It was here in Australia in the 1850’s that Irish labourers, freed from the oppression of British rule, began to assert their right to full democratic participation in colonial life. Here that Irish Catholics such as Charles Gavan Duffy and John Hubert Plunkett could attain high political office, making their profound contribution to the federation of the Australian colonies and crafting of a new Australia built on participative citizenship and the collective welfare and established on civil and religious equality. John Hubert Plunkett showed an integrity in relation to the defence of the human rights of the first occupants of this landmass that will always be remembered by practitioners of human rights. His name will have particular resonance for defenders of indigenous peoples and I am hoping to acknowledge those first occupants 56
and honour and respect their ancestors. Through distinguished careers in politics, law, industry, and academia; active engagement in education and in the development of the Catholic church; a proud and generous sharing of our culture and heritage; and the development of settlements and the creation of strong communities, the role played by Irish men and women in the building of modern day Australia has been a profound one. It is a role that is greatly President Higgins and Sabina attend a wreath-laying ceremony evident here in Canberra at the Australian War Memorial whose Irish connection began when Irishman James Vaughan, accompanied by Joseph Wilde and Charles Throsby Smith first came to the Limestone Plains, later to be renamed Canberra, in 1820. Since then, many other Irish names have been written into the history books and the everyday stories of life in this capital city, the seat of the Government of Australia. Earlier today I called on Governor General, Sir Peter Cosgrove and Lady Lynne at their beautiful residence in Yarralumla’s Government House. It caused me to think of Terence Aubrey Murray from County Limerick, a great parliamentarian and former owner of Yarralumla Estate, who contributed so much to the development of the Australian nation. I thought, also, of his brother Dr James Fitzgerald who not only built the Woden homestead but also helped to found the first hospital at Queanbeyan. Here in Canberra I think, also of Offaly born Hugh Mahon, infamous as being the only member of the House of Representatives to be expelled from that body, but who also fought for and spoke so courageously in favour of a free and independent Irish state. As I travel through the streets of this city I cannot but think of so many other Irish names; the Maloneys, Murphys, Cunninghams and McMahons and the many others that may not appear in all of the history books of Canberra but are inscribed into the headstones of its cemeteries and etched into the roots and foundations of this great city. I also, today, think of the many people gathered here whose names bear witness to your proud Irish heritage. Many of you represent Irish-Australian families that are several generations deep, but your connection with Ireland remains strong. Indeed it has been a pleasure to hear so many positive stories of Irish emigrants who have made their mark in this thriving and dynamic city – working, making friends, raising and educating families, living rich and fulfilling lives while also remaining true to, and proud of, their Irish roots and culture. So many of you here today are custodians of important stories, handed down across the generations by your 57
forefathers. They are, to you, stories that are a critical part of your family history. But they are also a critical part of Australia and Ireland’s shared history, allowing for assessment and consideration of the different but interconnecting experiences and individual voices that comprise that past, and for a real understanding of the journey that has brought us to the contemporary moment. They are precious stories, ones that must be treasured and generously shared. Today Canberra is home to a thriving and dynamic Irish community who make a strong and vital contribution to the worlds of business, education, politics, the Arts, Public Service and the many other sectors which are critical to the creation of a strong and functioning society and economy. It is an Irish community of whom we in Ireland are greatly proud, representing all that is best about our Irishness while also playing a proud and active role in this city where you, or your forefathers, arrived as strangers but learnt to call home. At the centre of the Irish community is, of course, the Irish Club, home to so many Irish social, cultural and celebratory events, and a welcoming space of friendship and support for new Irish emigrants to Australia. As President of Ireland I thank you for extending that important hand of friendship, and for all you do to ensure our rich Irish heritage remains alive and relevant amongst our extended family here in Canberra. As we look to the future I am confident that Ireland and Australia’s friendship will not be one based solely on a shared history, but also on shared values and interests and our shared existence on our vulnerable and beautiful planet. Indeed it has been greatly uplifting to note that political contact between our two countries has increased very significantly in the last six months. Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade Julie Bishop met our then Minister for Foreign Affairs Charlie Flanagan for significant bilateral consultation. That was followed by visits of two Minister of State from Ireland who were in Australia for St Patrick’s Day celebrations. More recently Finance Minister Mathias Cormann visited Ireland with the European-Australian Business Council delegation. And just last month Sabina and I had the very real pleasure of welcoming Governor General Sir Peter Cosgrove and Lady Cosgrove during their visit to Ireland These are very positive developments which speak, not only of our rich and shared past but of an interconnected future of hope and possibility In conclusion, may I thank you for the very generous welcome you have extended to Sabina and me today and thank you once again for being such valued ambassadors for Ireland. Go raibh míle maith agaibh go léir.
Business Lunch hosted by Enterprise Ireland
Speech by Michael D. Higgins President of Ireland
Sydney Opera House Tuesday, 17th October, 2017
A Dhaoine Uaisle, a chairde Gael, Is mór an pléisiúir dom a bheith anseo libh i Sydney. It is a great pleasure to be here in the beautiful and historic city of Sydney, and to have the opportunity to meet here with representatives of business, both Australian and Irish. It is also a delight to be here at the world-renowned Sydney Opera House, one of the most recognisable buildings on the face of the planet and a testament to the creative mind. The design of the building was inspired by nature, in many of its forms and colours. Jørn Utzon, the architect, was influenced by bird wings, the shape of clouds, shells, walnuts and palm trees. The UNESCO World Heritage Committee rightly described it thus: “It stands by itself as one of the indisputable masterpieces of human creativity, not only in the 20th century but in the history of humankind.” The ingenuity and commitment that created this home to some of the world’s greatest artists and performances and changed the image of an entire country has a relevance to our gathering here today, a topic to which I will return in a moment. Our host today is Enterprise Ireland, the Irish Government’s trade and technology agency, whose core mission is to work in partnership with its client companies, Irish-owned SMEs, to grow profitable sales, global exports and jobs in Ireland. Enterprise Ireland has been active in Australia for a number of years and which has been notably successful in bringing the extensive range of Ireland’s businesses to the attention of Australian business leaders. Export performance remains a key element of the Irish economy. During the recent economic contraction, Ireland, as an open economy, increased its exports by 40% and I would like to emphasise that it is Ireland’s export performance that continues to be responsible for our sustained economic growth. That growth is export related rather than being the consequence of any austerity programme imposed on us by the Troika. As President of Ireland, I believe that the continuous sustaining and renewing of the ties that bind Ireland to Australia is of ever greater importance. It is an old and enduring connection but now with new possibilities. These ties have been established over many years and have continued to develop in each succeeding generation. Irish men and women have for generations come to this country seeking a new life. Some were sent, some chose to leave, some were forced by circumstance. Many left a life of hardship, unemployment and sometimes great suffering. Australia offered them opportunities denied to them in their home country. But the story of Irish migration to Australia is also a story of new beginnings. The Irish story in this country is woven with tales of opportunity seized, innovation and re-invention; and above all, the importance given to education and to participation in public service and politics. It’s gratifying to see the descendants of Irish people now thriving in Australian life, many of whom are with us today. Irish people are to be found in every walk of life across Australia; in hospitals and schools, public life, banks and the digital economy as well as roles at the highest levels for example Alan Joyce, the CEO of Qantas. Our country is very conscious of the debt of gratitude we owe to our wide diaspora network and we are proud of all they have accomplished both in this country and around the world. Ours is a close relationship of kinship and friendship. It is one that both of our peoples dearly value and I know that it will continue to deepen as we now travel, more frequently than ever, between our two countries. 60
Of course, one of the reasons for this travel is the fact that there are so many successful Australian firms operating in Ireland and many new Irish firms establishing themselves or expanding in this part of the world. More and more Irish businesses have looked to Australia as a key export market and Enterprise Ireland is working to connect them to the many opportunities this country offers. The Irish companies represented in the room today are testament to the strong and growing commercial relationship that Irish and Australian people have developed in recent times. You are representatives of modern Ireland, an Ireland that is dynamic, progressive and outward looking, an Ireland that is known the world over for its creativity and imagination, its flair for innovation, an Ireland that is culturally vibrant, tolerant and confident in its future. Ireland today is a nation of entrepreneurship. Much like Australia, our economic success is driven by international trade. The spirit of innovation is very much part of modern Ireland’s economy and society. New start-ups have sprung up across a wide range of innovative technology sectors and are successfully competing internationally. Innovation in industry is also powered by creativity, and both flourish in cultures and communities which value a rounded education, the importance of free-thinking and pluralist modes of teaching. Whatever sector you are in you can derive enormous satisfaction from creative practice, originality, working hard to bring a new reality into being – bringing one’s innovative product or service the full journey from the earliest stage of development to full realisation, just like Jørn Utzon’s vision for the Sydney Opera House. The capacity to imitate, which may exist in abundance is not as important as having the edge to create, and tradition and culture are sources of that creativity. Across the world, Irish firms have been recognised for such creativity, energy and drive. Many have set up a base here in Australia. This week I was delighted to witness at first hand examples of the two-way business relationships between Ireland and Australia. These partnerships demonstrate, I believe, the enormous benefits which both of our countries gain from continued collaboration. I met today with a wide spectrum of Irish companies working across many industries and sectors, from education, with Akari providing curriculum management software to Sydney University, to Gartan Technologies, who provide software to emergency service organisations across Australia and to Cubic Telecom, who have made such an impact on the Australian Telecoms Market in partner with Telstra. For the past two years Ireland has been Europe’s fastest growing economy, and this growth must be sustainable and innovation-driven. We are committed to building on the foundations we have developed for a prosperous and sustainable future through investment in the education and training of our young people, our most valuable national resource. We have the largest proportion of young people in the European Union who are qualified graduates and also in terms of their qualifying and proceeding to postgraduate work. In light of Britain’s decision to leave the EU, we recognise the importance of expanding and deepening our international trading relationships in the 21st century. Almost nine out of ten Irish companies plan to extend into new international markets over the next twelve months. The number of Australian companies with a presence in Ireland is growing year by year. Our competitive economy, matched with our highly educated, multilingual workforce, has made Ireland a hub for international investment. We are pleased that many of Australia’s leading firms such as Macquarie Bank, Resmed and SiteMinder have chosen Ireland for their international expansion. I welcome these developments and the worthwhile careers that these companies offer young Irish people. 61
Ireland’s energy and determination mirrors Australia’s in many ways – our strengths align and are mutually reinforcing. We have a young and highly qualified population, the youngest in Europe, with 40% of our people under the age of 29. Our citizens have in common a strength for research, creativity and innovation and I very much look forward to the sharing of ideas and connections for the future that such a dynamic can generate. As new technology continues to disrupt many previous economic certainties, I’m confident that this generation of Irish people will rise to the challenge of this new global landscape. In conclusion, may I thank you all for joining myself and Sabina here today and for your work in developing partnerships with Ireland, both present and future. I congratulate the Irish companies present here on their continued success in Australia and look forward to the new relationships formed as a result of this visit. It is my sincerest hope that the relations between Australia and Ireland will deepen and strengthen in the years ahead. Beir bua agus beannacht. Go raibh míle maith agaibh go léir.
At Sydney Opera House for a meeting with Irish and Australian business leaders, hosted by Enterprise Ireland 62
Lunch with Australian Rugby Union and the Lansdowne Club, Sydney
Speech by Michael D. Higgins President of Ireland
ARU High Performance Centre, Sydney Wednesday, 18th October, 2017
A dhaoine uaisle agus a chairde Gael, Tá an-áthas orm bheith anseo libh inniu. Is mian liom mo bhuíochas a ghabháil le Cathaoirleach Chumann Rugbaí na hAstráile as an fáilte croíúil a d’fhearadh romhainn. I am delighted to have the opportunity to visit this very impressive centre and I would like to thank the Chairman and Australian Rugby Union for their warm and very generous hospitality this afternoon. I would also like to thank the Lansdowne Club for their support for this event, without which it would not have been possible. This is the first visit to Australia for Sabina and I, and at every event we attend, I am again struck by the depth and breadth of connection between Ireland and Australia. Ours is a close relationship of kinship and friendship which extends to every sector of society from the arts to public life, education and the health service to law and of course sport. Ireland’s and Australia’s rugby links are long and historic, predating federation and Irish independence. Australia’s first international match in 1899 was against a touring ‘British Isles’ team, composed of players from Britain and Ireland. The visitors lost their first match but won the remaining three and a sporting rivalry was born. This rivalry brings out the best of both our nations. The closeness of our historic relationship, our family ties and the depth of our respective playing skills ensures that every encounter can be an exhibition of the very best of sport. Indeed, that closeness extends to the heritage of the players as well with so many of Australia’s team, past and present, being of Irish stock. I am particularly delighted that many of these players have joined us here this afternoon. I would also like to take this opportunity to acknowledge the important role that the Lansdowne Club have played not only in Ireland and Australia’s rugby relationship through sponsoring the Lansdowne Cup, the perpetual trophy between our two countries, but also in the bilateral relations between our two countries. Founded 31 years ago, the Club has been instrumental in the networking it has provided, supporting Irish business people and, more recently, newer arrivals. They have sourced vital connections which I know have been so beneficial to the Irish community and, by extension, the wider community here in New South Wales. In particular, I would like to acknowledge and offer my personal thanks to the former Chair, Peter Brennan. Peter has been involved in the Club from its foundation and served as its Chair for 25 years. The success and longevity of the Club is down in no small part to Peter and his enthusiastic and tireless dedication. President Higgins speaking at the Australia Rugby High Performance Centre, Sydney 64
Ireland is deeply proud of its rugby heritage and, may I suggest, is home to some of the most profoundly committed rugby fans in the world. We were one of the sport’s founding Unions and the second ever Union to stage an international match, more than 140 years ago. Ireland is home to the highest percentage of rugby fans anywhere in the world. 76 per cent of Irish people can name a favourite rugby personality. 56 per cent of Irish people describe themselves as rugby fans. That pride in our rugby heritage was very much in evidence in the recent Women’s World Cup which we were honoured to host in Ireland this summer. The competition was a tremendous success and the sporting facilities, as well as our famed Irish welcomes, garnered widespread coverage, and with it new rugby fans all over the world. I am delighted to see representatives from Australia’s team here this afternoon and I would like to congratulate them on their participation in the competition. We would now like to take that success and translate that into a successful bid to host the 2023 World Cup – a bid that, as President of Ireland, and as a keen rugby fan, has my full and enthusiastic support. As you know, it also has the full backing of the Irish Government and the Northern Ireland Authorities. I have little doubt that staging the World Cup in Ireland will have an enormously positive impact in Ireland and further afield, both in terms of participation in the sport, and its impact on wider society. The Irish rugby team is, of course, an all-island team, and rugby is one of the sports that has allowed supporters from different political traditions on the island of Ireland to come together as one. And I am glad to say that the Irish 2023 World Cup bid has also inspired the Irish diaspora and we are certainly counting on the Irish in Australia and elsewhere to be engaged as part of our national efforts in promoting rugby, and the Irish bid. Ireland’s World Cup plans have also brought together the Irish rugby federation (IRFU) and the Gaelic Athletic Association (GAA), the biggest sports organisation in Ireland promoting indigenous sports. You will be familiar with some of these sports through the annual ‘International Rules’ series, pitching the talents from Australian football and Irish football against each other. The pooling of the combined resources of the IRFU and the GAA constitutes an enormously attractive offering of stadiums and match locations for visiting teams and their supporters. It is no secret that I am a keen follower and supporter of sports. Well before I became President of Ireland, I attended sports matches at home and abroad, and based on my wide experience of Ireland’s sports grounds, I can assure you that they all boast a spirit of community and an infectious enthusiasm. On rugby days, whether they be autumn internationals, European rugby championships matches or Five Nations contests, there is always a special atmosphere and great excitement in our stadiums – dare I say not only in our stadiums but also in our schools, pubs, sports clubs and places of work. Ireland is a country of sports enthusiasts, and one that is unified in its support for our rugby team. In a world which seems increasingly fractured, sport is one of the most powerful uniting forces. Whether as player or supporter, sport provides us with a means to bridge that sometimes seemingly insurmountable divide to others, be it geography or language, history or politics. Furthermore, sport fosters in those who engage in it precisely those qualities which are so important for good citizenship and the functioning of democracy. Sports require dedication, discipline and teamwork, and by partaking in sporting activities – by experiencing the triumphs and the inevitable setbacks – young children learn how to participate in a society where they will, equally, experience jubilant highs and disappointing lows. Therefore, it is very fitting that during this visit to Australia, amongst all the other events to mark the close and 65
historic relationship between our two nations, I should be here this afternoon, celebrating our deep sporting and rugby bond. I thank you for your welcome, and I can assure you of my whole-hearted support for the sport of rugby. It is my hope that I will be able to welcome you to Ireland, as we host the 2023 Rugby World Cup. Go raibh míle maith agaibh go léir.
“Sharing the Tasks of Ethical Remembering – Ireland and Australia”
Michael D. Higgins Uachtarán na hÉireann, President of Ireland
University of New South Wales, Sydney Friday, 19th October, 2017
A Leas-Sheansailéir, a mhic léinn agus a chairde Gael, Vice Chancellor, students, friends, I would first like to acknowledge that we meet today on the traditional lands of the Bedegal people, and to pay my respect to their Elders both past and present. Ar an gcéad dul síos, is mian liom mo bhuíochas a ghabháil leatsa, a Leas-Sheansailéir, as d’fhocail deasa réamhráiteacha. [May I thank you, Vice Chancellor, for your kind introduction to me this evening.] It is a great honour for me to be here to address you in this University, whose foundation in 1949 represented such an important egalitarian moment in the expansion of university education in Australia and New South Wales. Your on-going success is a tribute to the enduring wisdom of that decision. This University has contributed so much to writing the history of the Irish experience in Australia, from the seminal scholarship of the late Professor Patrick O’Farrell to the establishment of the Australian Ireland Fund Chair in Modern Irish Studies and the John Hume Institute in Global Irish Studies. Through its partnership with its namesake, the John Hume Institute in University College Dublin, the Institute is an expression of the closeness of the relationship between Ireland and Australia, and provides an example of the kind of scholarly co-operation across national borders that is to the benefit of all mankind. The distinguished history of Irish studies makes this University such an appropriate place for me, as President of Ireland, to make a reflection on the depth of the connection of Ireland and Australia, including the heterogeneity and the complexity of the Irish contribution in the making and shaping of this country, and it gives me the opportunity of engaging with the challenge of what might be the appropriate remembering and reconstructing of that history. I am conscious that to mention a phrase such as ‘the Irish contribution’ brings to mind a certain historiographical tradition. This is a trope evident early in the decades before Federation in particular, which Professor Robert Reece has termed ‘contribution history’, that celebrates the accomplishment of political and economic success as the apotheosis of the Irish achievement in Australia. This tradition has had its moments. It played an important polemical role in its time and with various intent -: James Francis Hogan’s The Irish in Australia, published in 1887, emphasised the facility with which the Irish in Australia had adopted themselves to legislative affairs in the self-governing colonies of the Antipodes, and thus offered a shrewd rebuke to those who wished to deny Home Rule to Ireland. Cardinal Patrick Moran’s History of the Catholic Church in Australasia (1895) recast the Irish convicts as martyrs for religious freedom, virtuous forbearers of a Catholic civilisation being constructed between the Indian and Pacific Oceans. P.S. Cleary’s Australia’s Debt to Irish Nation-Builders, published a decade and a half after the bruising conscription referenda of 1916 and 1917, called up the names of no less than twenty-three Irish-Australian State premiers for the purpose of exemplifying the patriotic bone fides of the Irish and to emphasise their contribution in Australia.
This ‘historiography of the contribution’, which articulates the historical experience of a particular cultural or ethnic group, however narrowly or widely defined, as a succession of individual contributions to a singular, but shared, series of national achievements, was aimed at integrating what had been perceived at times as what might be called a specifically Irish-Catholic ‘Other’ into colonial Australian society. It would not be possible for me today, even if I desired, to simply recapitulate this approach. It always was, I feel, insufficient as historiographical method and, in that insufficiency, tendentious. It requires the regret of too much of that which has passed – for example the nature of the arrival experience from the perspective of those arriving, and the response to it from the perspective of the first occupants. Then too it does not deal with the operation of ‘the System’, that immense apparatus of imperial crime and punishment - and it ignores too, the differing nuanced forms and consequences of settler capitalism, a venture which displaced so many. It is thus a relatively recent historiography that attempts to deal with the collision of those projects of ‘discovery’, ‘place of banishment’, ‘settlement’, ‘domination’ and above all the subject of the treatment of the first occupants, for, let us never forget, Australia was never, except in the ideological hubris of imperialism, a terra nullius (nobody’s land), ‘an empty land’. The problem of historiography is a moral one as well as one of adequacy of scholarship. This should not surprise us, as any historiography and particularly one dealing with such a convention as this is likely to be influenced by the dominant popular historical narrative of the time, a narrative which was often, in the times under consideration, narrowly national in its scope, limited in its inclusivity, and increasingly, being used to provide material for the tracts of polemicists rather than historians, whether professional or dedicated amateurs. We have moved on and we are very fortunate that much new historical work has been carried out on the experience of the Irish in Australia, particularly the writing since the 1980s, by Irish and Australian historians, many of course with Irish ancestry. Many of these writers have been working too from the Centres for Irish Studies established in the past twenty years, here at the University of New South Wales, at Murdoch University in Perth and at the University of Melbourne. We are all surely indebted to this recent generation of scholars who have given us such carefully researched and wellpresented volumes as Thomas Keneally’s The Great Shame, The Playmaker, and The Commonwealth of Thieves; Robert Hughes’ The Fatal Shore; Stuart Macintyre’s Concise History of Australia, which has a relatively recent edition, and a number of
President Higgins and Minister Fitzgerald with H.E. David Hurley AC, Governor of New South Wales 69
specialist studies such as Mark Tedeschi’s Murder at Myall Creek and Claire Dunne’s People Under the Skin. This scholarship provides a richer and ever more inclusive basis on which to reflect on the Irish experience in Australia. As I address the challenge of interpreting history as it affected the Irish who came to Australia, I have an impulse, and it is an advantage, reflecting on the experience of my own ancestor, my grandfather’s brother, Patrick Higgins, born only a few years before the Great Famine – An Gorta Mór – which would leave a million dead and two million fleeing Ireland between 1845 and 1852. Patrick Higgins and his sister, Mary Ann, arrived in Moreton Bay in 1862 aboard the Montmorency, one of the first ships chartered by the land and emigration commission of the government of Queensland. They ultimately established themselves in Warwick, one hundred and sixty kilometres south-west of Brisbane. Patrick was a ploughman, atypical in that he had undertaken a year of study in the Royal Agricultural Society in Dublin. In Queensland, he would become a ploughman, manager of a farm, and a landholder. Both he and Mary Ann, who was a laundress, would go on to find spouses and both made a living from the land. Only months before their arrival, the ‘Erin-go-bragh’ and ‘Chatsworth’ had dropped anchor off Moreton Bay, carrying with them the first Irish colonists recruited by the Queensland Immigration Society, established by Dr. James Quinn, Bishop of Brisbane for the purpose of carrying and supporting immigrants directly from Ireland. I do not know whether these ancestors of mine were aware of Father Patrick Dunne’s promise of a ‘tropical, Hibernian paradise’, or his boast that ‘our people are to be the founders of a great nation’, but I imagine that they and many others saw this land as a new world, free of the oppressions, poverty and suffering of the old, in which they might build a new life. Their accounts of their experience was in terms of engaging with a frontier. This immediately provokes questions. When I think of my ancestors’ arrival, I cannot help thinking also of those who were there before them on this land and who had a culture that scholars put as old as 65,000 years. The words of that great poet and champion of the rights of her people, Oodgeroo Noonuccal (Kath Walker), and her description of the desolation and loss engendered by expanding European influence over what would become the colony of Queensland come to mind. Her words on what was an ancient but now broken symmetry with nature are deeply moving:‘The scrubs are gone, the hunting and the laughter. The eagle is gone, the emu and the kangaroo are gone from this place. The bora ring is gone. The corroboree is gone. And we are going.’ What was the character of the Ireland my ancestors’ left? Those fleeing from conditions of Famine, lucky to survive, survivors of evictions, involuntary exiles anxious to escape, who had been offered a new life were nevertheless entering the lands of people who could foresee their own dispossession. That was the nature of the land to which they journeyed. It was not a terra nullius. What was to be made of such an arrival?
These are profound, complex and troubling questions, captured by Judith Wright’s description of walking the beach at Lake Cooloola: ‘And walking on clean sand among the prints of bird and animal, I am challenged by a driftwood spear thrust from the water; and, like my grandfather, must quiet a heart accused of its own fear’. Affecting an amnesia towards this period of history, avoiding contradictions upon which I must reflect is not an option. It would be insufficient for me to simply re-iterate a historiography of the Irish contribution to Australia. Instead, I wish to advance here, in this university, the case for what I dare to call an ethic of remembrance. The construction and contribution of a strategy for an ethic of remembrance has been a project I have been attempting in my Presidency, as a response, partly, to the commemoration of the formative events that took place in Ireland between 1912 and 1922 - which include foundational acts such as the Ulster Covenant, the establishment of the Irish Volunteers, the 1913 Strike and Lock-Out, the 1916 Easter Rising, the First World War, the Suffrage Movement, the Irish War of Independence and our Civil War. Remembering, commemorating these foundational acts of 100 years ago in Ireland, might perhaps be viewed as challenges and compared with similar challenges facing Australians reflecting on the first occupants of Australia sixty-five thousand years ago, or the arrival of the First Fleet in 1788, or the declaration of terra nullius (nobody’s land), or the long conflict between the Europeans and the Indigenous peoples of this land, or the Eureka Rebellion, or the achievement of Federation, or the Maritime and Shearer’s strikes of the 1890s, or the first landing at Gallipoli on the 25th of April 1915, in that these are all important events in the national consciousness and collective memory of Australia, bearing in mind the rigours that are demanded by the very concept of ‘collective memory’.
President Higgins arriving at the University of New South Wales 71
The exercise of scrutinising what comprises collective memory is a worthwhile one. It has the capacity to unleash that healing that may come from the journey of remembering, through understanding to what may in time, make possible forgiving. The challenge of being open to revisiting anew some formative events of the past that we had, as it were, put on a shelf in our mind, is one that could best be expressed as a challenge we all face in all cultures and that includes both Ireland and Australia. The purpose of forgiving, for example, as Hannah Arendt saw it was to rob an event of the past of its capacity to deprive one of the realistic possibilities of the present or the imaginative possibilities of the future. There is nothing truly to be gained from amnesia, as comforting as it may be, and everything to be lost, for it is only by acknowledging, questioning, sometimes revising, but always remembering, in an ever more inclusive way, the events of our collective past that we can begin to build a collective future. That is why, for example, in Ireland, during what we have termed the Decade of Centenaries, we sought, for example, to restore to our national memory those men and women from the Ireland, over two hundred thousand in number, who served in British Forces in the First World War, of whom thirty-five thousand may never have come home. They shared the terrible experience of war in Europe, at Gallipoli, and in the Middle East, but the Irish returnees were remembered and treated quite differently when they returned to the south of Ireland than the Irish men who fought in the Australia and New Zealand Army Corps when they returned to their new homes. In remembering them in our narrative so, we seek not to minimise what remain as important, legitimate and crucial debates regarding the causes and consequences of what was, after all, a collision of competing empires that lost a generation in war. What we seek is to recognise the lives of those Irish soldiers lost, and those whose potential and promise were extinguished. The same instinct of seeking a more comprehensive memory of our past led to a focus on the central role of women in that revolutionary generation of a century ago. A role that had been underemphasised in previous commemorations. Yet as the most difficult commemorations for us in Ireland still lie before us, for over the next six years we enter the centenary of the crucible of Irish history, our Irish Revolution, our independence struggle, our Civil War and the foundation of the new Independent State. The 1918 General Election, in which the plurality of Irish people, newly enfranchised through the introduction of universal suffrage, following the culmination of a long struggle by women and working-class people in Ireland, voted for a nationalist movement committed to achieving a separate and independent Irish republic which was to be achieved by withdrawing from the British Parliament and ‘establishing a constituent assembly comprising persons chosen by the Irish constituencies as the supreme national authority to speak and act in the name of the Irish people’. At the inaugural meeting of that constituent assembly, the First Dáil Éireann, the newly elected representatives of the people ratified the establishment of the Irish Republic proclaimed in Dublin on Easter Monday 1916. They did this through a Declaration of Independence, and approved a Democratic Programme which outlined economic and social principles, including a declaration of the right of every citizen to an adequate share of the produce of the Nation’s labour.
President Higgins and Sabina laid a wreath at the Australian Monument to the Great Irish Famine
The refusal of the British Government to recognise the very existence of this First Dáil Éireann, which was after all the outcome of national consultation, led inexorably to our War of Independence. The war was brought formally to a close by the Anglo-Irish Treaty – one of the Irish negotiators was George Gavan Duffy, son of Charles Gavan Duffy, a former premier of the State of Victoria. Many of those elected to the Second Dáil refused to abide by the terms of a Treaty they claimed was signed under duress. They claimed that they were being asked to accept the status of Ireland as a dominion of the British Empire, which maintained the King as Head of State of the new 26 county jurisdiction. The election which took place in 1922 was fought on the subject of the Treaty, and the pro-Treaty participants in the election prevailed, securing the majority of votes. Divisions that would be destructive for generations then emerged. These divisions led to a Civil War, more terrible and devastating in its consequences than the War of Independence, as former comrades and friends found themselves on opposite sides, divided by their ideals, ambitions, and in some cases in their evaluation of the feasibility of a continuing struggle against the British Empire. We must acknowledge the brutality of that struggle, the viciousness that was unleashed and the brutal tactics that were employed by both sides: Fifty-three thousand men, many of whom had experienced the War of Independence or the First World War, joined the National Army of the Free State, which supported the Treaty. My uncle was among them. 73
Thirteen thousand of those who opposed the Treaty were interned by the Free State. They included my father. Thus, families and communities were cleaved apart in a bitter war that was to cast a shadow for generations and hamper our efforts to meet the republican ideals set out in 1916. It is important too to note that in the years leading up to independence, the nationalist movement represented a plurality of opinion, for many nationalists voted for the Irish Parliamentary Party and the policy of Home Rule for Ireland within the Union. Those from the Unionist tradition, predominantly but not wholly located within the North-East of Ireland, voted for the Irish Unionist Party, which sought to maintain the island of Ireland within a unitary State of Britain and Ireland. For many southern Unionists the partition of Ireland was a bitter disappointment and betrayal. The Democratic Programme of that First Dáil to which I have referred, whose egalitarian promise represented the emancipatory tradition of Irish labour, was viewed by conservative nationalists with apprehension. Tom Johnson, the drafter of the Programme, sought to follow in the tradition of Wolfe Tone and Michael Davitt – which had sought independence not simply to replace flags or substitute personnel, as important as that may be, but to ensure a more equal and more just distribution of wealth, power and opportunity in Ireland. These are some of the grave and difficult matters which we in Ireland will be confronting in the coming years. They concern not only personal memories of consequences of the War of Independence and the Civil War, but also profound questions regarding the economic and social trajectory of the new Irish state. Conscious of my role as President of Ireland during this time of intense public remembering, I argued that the activity should be placed in an ethical framework. In doing so, I was influenced by the works of Paul Ricoeur, Richard Kearney and Hannah Arendt. I believe their work has a relevance for Australian historiographers as much as it has for ours. There are some principles to such an approach. First, an imperative to include and recognise those voices in the past marginalised or disenfranchised, whether through the distorted lens of that historiography which E.P. Thompson termed the ‘enormous condescension of posterity’, or by the simple exclusion of certain groups as subjects of history on the grounds of class, race or gender or indeed as indigenous people with an ancient culture. I think we have succeeded somewhat in fulfilling this principal to some degree in the case of more fully recognising and remembering the vital role of women in the revolutionary movement that culminated in an independent Irish State. Second, against historical amnesia Paul Ricoeur advocated a disposition of ‘narrative hospitality’, which involves being open to the perspectives, stories, memories, and pains of the stranger, the other, the enemy of yesterday, however dissonant they may be. The process of ethical remembering invites us all to critically evaluate our often-competing foundational myths and beliefs which define and shape our national consciousness and our image of the nation, and to draw our attention from the national to the global, from high politics to the social and economic.
When I was at the University of Melbourne a week ago, I suggested that serious intellectual work must address questions of morality, and of ethics. In this light, I suggested that our publics would gain if economics were to be grounded again in both an ethical and cultural framework: ethical to take account of moral questions, and cultural, to take account of difference and diversity. Eschewing amnesia then and with some trepidation as to meeting the standards of ethical remembering, I attempt to reflect on the Irish experience of migration – forced, impelled and voluntary in the century following the arrival of the first fleet. The story of those who were displaced, dislocated, and relocated, sometimes directly by the state, sometimes due to the development of a precocious industrial capitalism, and sometimes of their own volition, that is perhaps most salient to a discussion of the Irish arrivals in Australia in the late eighteenth and through the nineteenth centuries. The first European permanent arrival to this land occurred 65,000 years after humans first set foot in Australia. This was largely the consequence of a policy of transportation whose origins arose in late sixteenthcentury England, at time of acute social crisis, harvest failures and widespread starvation when the English countryside was being slowly transformed by the enclosure of common land, as the public purpose yielded to private power. Thomas More vividly described, in his Utopia, that sheep would ‘eat up and swallow down the very men themselves’ as tillage gave way to pasture leading in some places to rural depopulation. So-called ‘vagabonds’ and ‘sturdy beggars’ dislodged by this development roamed the land, frightening a governing class always fearful of social unrest. In response, the English Parliament declared, through legislation, that such ‘rogues… should be banished from out of this Realm… and shall be conveyed to such parts beyond the seas as shall be… assigned by the Privy Council’.1 Initially confined to England in the early seventeenth century, the use of convict transportation was extended to Ireland by the English Commonwealth during the Cromwellian invasions, when prisoners of war, priests, and vagrants were sent to labour in Virginia and the Caribbean. This represented both a tool of conquest, and an expression of the brutal political economy of primitive accumulation: the most turbulent opponents of Cromwellian rule were removed, and upon arrival were disposed of as unfree labourers, to serve sentences of seven or fourteen years, in the plantations of the New World. The transportation system represented a quite different logic in eighteenth-century England, reflecting its origins as a mechanism for social control and, but for some, an instrument for reform and an alternative to the death penalty. In England, it was driven not by the imperatives of conquest but by the remorseless expansion of the market economy, a process given a new life and new impetus by the Revolution of 1688, and the transformation of the relationship between the people and the land in which they lived and worked, as complex customary rights to the commons, established over many centuries, were extinguished by Parliamentary fiat. To protect the newly acquired rights to this new private property, the statute book – for this was a Parliamentary process – was marked by a great expansion of criminal offences to which capital punishment applied. The great legal scholar Blackstone complained in the 1760s that there were 160 of such in force, as parliamentarians sought to maintain their faith in the deterrent effect of the hangman even as perceptions of criminality continued to rise. 75
Recourse to a system of transportation was not a peculiarly English or British phenomenon, but rather a universal expression of the fears and ambitions of empire, a way of disposing of, disciplining, and reforming troublesome, surplus peoples. It was seen as a strategy for dealing with overcrowded cities filled with vagrants considered to be subversive of good order. In addition to its early period, transportation was used as a means of opening up new frontiers to cultivation and exploitation: Dutch, Spanish and Portuguese convicts were used as indentured agents of imperial expansion, circulating the Indian and Pacific Oceans, to the Americas, Cuba, the Philippines, Java, the Cape of Good Hope, Goa, São Tomé, Brazil, Mozambique and Angola; Russian convicts were shipped to Siberia and Sakhalin Island; and Qing China used convict labour to open up its western frontier after conquest.2 We must, then, situate the system of convict transportation within this broader context, and recognise that there is no monopoly on suffering or victimhood. The Transportation Acts of the eighteenth-century British Parliament were faithfully followed by the Irish Parliament, but adapted for Irish circumstances, so that by 1735, the judges and magistrates of Dublin were authorised to order transportation as a punishment for vagrancy, a measure which was used far more frequently than in England. More than 13,000 Irish men and women were transported to North America in this way in the fifty years before the American Revolution of 1776.3 We must recall that Ireland in the 1780s and 1790s was in state of intellectual, economic and social ferment. A Patriot party in the Irish parliament, inspired by the American Revolution and reinforced by an armed militia, the Irish Volunteers, agitated for an expansion of the suffrage, an enlargement of the powers of the Irish Parliament, and, though here there was some disagreement, the repeal of the Penal Laws which locked Catholics and Dissenters out of politics and the professions. Inspired by Thomas Paine’s Rights of Man, and disillusioned by the failure of the Patriot party, the Society of the United Irishmen was founded to create an independent Ireland based on, and ultimately with the assistance of, the French example. Meanwhile in rural areas, secret oathbound societies such as the Whiteboys protested the payment of the tithe to establishment Anglican Church, and sought, often violently, to defend the rights of tenant farmers. It was in these years that the term ‘Protestant Ascendancy’ came into common use to describe the precarious social, political and economic dominance of a landed, Anglican establishment, whose greatest threat came, as they saw it, not from any sectarian conflict of the structural contradictions of the society they occupied but from the ideas of the French Revolution. In such an environment, the British-appointed executive in Dublin was eager to re-commence transportation. It was particularly needed, as they saw it, as nothing like the Hulks - those ageing, decrepit warships which held prisoners previously condemned to transportation off the coasts of England - could be, or were likely to be procured in Ireland. This placed increasing pressure on already overcrowded prisons. Despite this readiness, and several abortive attempts to transport Irish convicts to Newfoundland, the Caribbean, and North America, no vessels from Ireland joined the First Fleet. The first convicts sentenced to transportation in Ireland departed Cork City on 21 April 1791 aboard the Queen, an overcrowded American-built three-masted, square-sailed West Indiaman, and smallest vessel to participate in the Third Fleet. The contractors, the slaving firm Camden, Calvert & King, to whom the Irish administration agreed to pay £17 for each convict on board, had been responsible for the infamous Second Fleet, which lost over a quarter of its passengers to disease and insufficient victualling, made all the worse by the use of slave shackles to restrain the prisoners. 76
President Higgins delivering his keynote address at the University of New South Wales
The 133 male and 22 female convicts, four of whom travelled with young children, aboard the Queen were still treated cruelly. The second mate, whose duties including the dispensing of the convict rations, reportedly used short weights to serve out 60 pounds of beef in each sitting instead of the 132 pounds agreed as part of the terms of the contract. The convicts who arrived on the Queen were the first of 36,000 Irish people sentenced to transportation to be sent to New South Wales, Queensland, Tasmania and Western Australia between 1791 and 1868. The transportation of non-political Irish convicts followed the general pattern outlined by Robert Hughes: i.e. a period of ‘primitive transportation’ from 1787 to 1810; the second period was from the terminus of the Napoleonic War and the fifteen years after its conclusion, as rapid demographic and economic transformations and an expansion of the capacity of the state drove an increase in transportations; the third phase, from 1831 to 1840, the height of the System; and the final phase, from 1840, when the introduction of the penitential system and the New Poor Law in England in the previous decade provided a carceral solution to social problems hitherto dealt with by transportation.4 A minority of those transported were political prisoners - this consisted of veterans of the 1798 Rebellion and the risings of 1803, 1848 and 1867, who were to be exiled from Ireland. The arrival of four hundred United Irishmen and three hundred members of their allies the Defenders, including some experienced fighters, caused considerable alarm to the colonial authorities in Sydney, who pleaded with London ‘not to send any more of the Irish Republicans’ who ‘keep us in a constant state of suspicion’.5 These fears were augmented by the presence of some of the leadership of the United Irishmen, including ‘General’ Joseph Holt, and later, one his most able lieutenants, Michael Dwyer, whose grave now lies in Waverley Cemetery.
These fears were given substance and form in the Castle Hill Rebellion, as Irish political prisoners, led by Philip Cunningham, fired by news of Robert Emmet’s rebellion of 1803, uttered the familiar cry of ‘Death or Liberty’ and, it is said, the more unfamiliar ‘and a ship to take us home’, and planted the Tree of Liberty at Government House. Following the death of Cunningham, the remaining ring-leaders were court-martialled and hung in chains at Parramatta, Castle Hill and Sydney. Joseph Holt, despite his protestations that he was not involved, was sent to Norfolk Island, where he chronicled an experience that, in his words, ‘exceeds in cruelty anything that can be credited’.6 Dr. Anne-Maree Whitaker has traced the fates of many of the other United Irishman and found that some prospered under the rule of Governor Macquarie, which is unsurprising. The leadership of the United Irishmen tended to reflect the same social composition as did their French revolutionary comrades, as skilled tradesmen, professionals and merchants.7 Schooled in radical democratic politics, a number became leaders of the emancipist faction - the eldest son of Richard Dry, a prominent anti-transportation advocate, became the first Australian-born Premier of Tasmania. Integration into the new colonial society did not dissolve bonds of solidarity between political prisoners. For example, James Meehan, the deputy surveyor general of New South Wales and most influential 1798 man during Macquerie’s term as Governor, befriended Edward Ryan, who was transported to Australia in 1816 for his participation in the Whiteboys, a secret agrarian society dedicated to defending tenant rights. Ryan, emancipated in 1830, established a pastoral empire at Boorowa, three hundred miles west of here.8 Thomas Keneally, in his wonderful book The Great Shame, has recounted the sometimes tragic stories of the gentlemen revolutionaries and intellectuals of the Young Irelander Movement of 1848 – William Smith O’Brien, John Mitchel, Thomas Francis Meagher, Patrick O’Donoghue, Terrence Bellew McManus, Kevin Izod O’Doherty and John Martin. Let us not ignore, however, that despite their romantic and generous vision of the Irish nation, profound ethical differences later, emerged between them: after escape to America John Mitchel supported the slaveowning Confederate States while Meagher served as the General of the Irish Brigade in the Union army. The forces which influenced the free migration of a third of a million Irish people to Australia, like my ancestor, were more complex, for it was the rhythms of the new global capitalist economy of the long nineteenth century which structured their experience. The Irish economy after the Famine was a small, poor, agricultural one and as such, extremely open to world markets. Fluctuations in agricultural prices and poor harvests could have devastating effects, against a general background of a long transition from arable to pastoral farming, enforced, at times, through evictions, leaving some with no option but to emigrate. How free or voluntary was such a choice? As David Fitzpatrick reminds us, Irish emigration to Australia was influenced more by the availability of assisted migration, the fortunes of the Australian economy, and phenomena of chain migration than conditions in Ireland, though they surely were important as to the decision to emigrate rather than the destination.9 My own ancestors made the journey in 1862, during a period of poor harvests in Ireland and at a time when the American Civil War was raging. The number of Irish born living in Australia peaked in 1891 with 228,000. Since then numbers have reduced in overall terms and as has the proportion of Irish-born residents relative to the overall population. 78
One can discern a combination of push and pull factors affecting rates of migration, with the relative health of both economies, and the ease of entry to alternative migration destinations having a clear influence on the numbers of Irish choosing to come to Australia. When one thinks of a Diaspora it is inevitable that one engages with the circumstances of a scattering, the structure of a departure, the strangeness of arrival. For the migrant, it involves a multitude of sensations that are called forth, the challenge of holding on to what had formed one’s mind and one’s life. Then too, what maybe near-overwhelming is the challenge and the magnitude of risks not anticipated, and the urgency that is attached to retaining, recovering, the fabric of friendships, too important as sustenance for the future, to be lost. If there is a suggestion that emerges from such an experience, one that is repeated again and again in conditions of migration, it is built around the importance of the construction one takes on of the first crucial encounters between those arriving and those who are receiving strangers. These early assumptions are crucial, built as they are on pre-conceived ideas. Is the Other a curiosity? Is the Other a threat? Is the Other a resource? How one interprets the behaviour that is offered by way of answer to such questions is inherently moral choice. As to an ethical approach to commemoration, to the act of remembering ethically in Ireland or Australia, if we are to learn for the future, surely it seems that what is required is a necessary, radical hospitality of the Other which must be paralleled in the new circumstances by hospitality of discourse that is radical in its inclusiveness – a hospitality of narratives, courageous in restoring that which was elided, courageous in its offering of respect for complexity, above all courageous in defending the right of new futures impelled by the pursuit of moral worth, validated by good scholarly work, never dismissed by obsession with the tools of the inadequate present, or trammelled by a closed historiography. Re-engaging with the past in such a fashion releases us from the trap of being moulded by past errors, their justification, or our fear of revisiting circumstances. Re-visiting our circumstances with an ethical regard for the importance of placing ourselves in the shoes of the Other enables us to be free to interpret our present circumstances and above all imagine alternative emancipatory futures that reach beyond ourselves, any narrow individualism, and that might offer hope to future generations of a symmetry recovered and a planet characterised by the pursuit of peace rather than the preparation of that aggression of thought that is always the preliminary of war. Our words matter and in our present circumstances, when anger is the temper of our times, we need to use our words for healing rather than wounding. In doing so with ethical empathetic intent will I believe, be something that can enormously help our understanding of both our possibilities and our dangers. Go raibh maith agaibh as ucht éisteacht liom agus guím gach rath agus beannacht oraibh don todhchaí. Thank you all for your attention.
Robert Hughes, The Fatal Shore: A History of the Transportation of Convicts to Australia, 1787 – 1868, Vintage Books: London, p.40.
Clare Anderson, ‘All the world’s a Prison’, History Today, April 2016, Vol. 66, Issue 4.
Bob Reece, The Origins of Irish Convict Transportation to New South Wales, Basingstoke, Hampshire, and New York: Palgrave, 2001.
Robert Hughes, The Fatal Shore: A History of the Transportation of Convicts to Australia, 1787-1868, Vintage Books: London.
H. McQueen, ‘Convicts and Rebels’, Labour History, No. 15 (Nov., 1968, pp. 3 – 30).
Joseph Holt, Memoirs of Joseph Holt: General of the Irish Rebels, in 1798, Volume 2, Harry Colburn: London, 1838, p228
Anne-Maree Whitaker, ‘Swords to Ploughshares? The 1798 Irish Rebels in New South Wales’, Labour History, No. 75 (Nov., 1998), pp. 9-21.
Malcolm Campbell, Kingdom of the Ryans: The Irish in Southwest New South Wales 1816-1890, University of New South Wales Press: Sydney, 1997.
David Fitzpatrick, Oceans of Consolation: Personal Accounts of Irish Migration to Australia, Cork University Press: Cork, 1994.
Irish Community Reception
Speech by Michael D. Higgins President of Ireland
Paddington Town Hall, Sydney Thursday, 19th October, 2017
A dhaoine uaisle agus a chairde. Tá an-áthas orm bheith anseo libh inniu. I am delighted to be here in Sydney and to have the opportunity to meet you all this evening. Thank you to Paddington Town Hall for providing us with such a wonderful space for our reception. The Irish nation stretches far beyond the boundaries of our small, island state and one of the great pleasures of our visits abroad are the opportunities Sabina and I get to visit and meet with representatives of the vibrant and diverse Irish community organisations that exist right across the globe. And so I am very pleased to be able to acknowledge and thank you in person, the representatives of the Irish community living in Sydney and New South Wales who do so much to help each other, to support your homeland in so many ways, and who are such valued ambassadors for Ireland. We can all be proud of the great contribution our Diaspora has made across the generations to their new homes across the world, making such a significant impact as they have in the areas of business, public service, education, health, sports and the arts and so many other important areas which lie at the heart of a vibrant society. Your presence here this evening is a testament to that. Between 1840 and 1914, approximately a third of a million Irish people emigrated to the Australian colonies. Although outnumbered by expatriates from Britain and the United States, the Irish were to become an important force in the building of modern Australia, their impact a deep and lasting one. Today, over 90,000 Irish-born people live in Australia and 2 million Australians record their ancestry as Irish in your national census. The migratory stories of the many Irish who have travelled to Australia across the decades and the centuries are myriad and complex. They are stories that have created a profound link between our two countries, and a friendship that stretches across the many thousands of miles that separate us. Some emigrants came here as prisoners, many convicted for their role in seeking and fighting for an independent Ireland. Others came in a spirit of optimism and hope, inspired by a vision of a better life for themselves and their families. Many, particularly those who arrived on Australian shores after the Great Irish Famine – An Gorta Mór – came as refugees from hunger, oppression and grinding poverty, their journey a desperate search for new beginnings. For some, the journey to Australia was prompted by a desire for adventure and a sense of new possibilities. For others, it was a sad but necessary leave taking, driven by the need to support themselves and often the loved ones they had reluctantly left behind in Ireland. Whatever the individual stories, the influence and contribution of Australia’s Irish community is woven deeply into the rich and multi-cultural tapestry of modern Australia. Through distinguished careers in politics, law, industry, and academia; active engagement in education and in the development of the Catholic Church; a proud and generous sharing of our culture and heritage; and the development of settlements and the creation of strong communities, the role played by Irish men and women in the building of modern day Australia is a profound one. And the contributions of the Irish community to Sydney and New South Wales are significant. As we all know, the Irish were well represented among those who arrived with the First Fleet and after. Yesterday Sabina and I visited Hyde Park Barracks and the Monument to the Great Irish Famine where we had the opportunity to acknowledge the dire circumstances which led to so many leaving Ireland to come here, either willingly or not. And as we passed by the first statue erected in Australia to honour a colonial governor, I was reminded that once 82
here, whatever the circumstances were that caused them to leave their homeland, the Irish were determined to build new lives and in seeking a better and fairer way to live, influenced so deeply the development of the society around them. The statue is of Sir Richard Bourke, the Irish-born governor of New South Wales from 1831 to 1837 and who introduced reforms for the more humane treatment of convicts, established trial by jury and was an active advocate for the education of the poor. Though dedicated to one man, that statue is a reminder of the incredible contribution of many thousands of Irish immigrants who have come to this land over the generations since 1788, bringing with them their skills in areas such as manufacturing, agriculture, science, the law, medicine, mining and engineering which were to prove so vital to New South Wales’s economic and cultural development. This commitment continues today with so many Irish men and women using their education, talent and creativity through their jobs, hobbies and volunteer positions to contribute so positively to every aspect of Sydney life. It is therefore extremely fitting that the GAA has chosen Sydney to be host for its first international hurling festival. To be held in November 2018 at the Sydney Showgrounds, the festival will bring together the All Ireland and the League Champions in what will be the first elite level hurling competition to be held outside of Ireland. I am confident that, with all your support here this evening, the festival will be a huge success and will bring in many new fans to one of the world’s most spectacular and historic sports. I will of course be watching with particular interest as one of the teams participating will be the current All-Ireland Champions, my home county of Galway! You will all be aware that Ireland has recently come through a chapter of severe economic crisis; a time which brought difficult challenges and much hardship to many of our citizens. We are determined to learn from the experience. We greatly appreciated the support of our Irish family abroad, who supported, encouraged, advised and criticised as is always required if real change is to be achieved. It was a reminder of our great fortune in having a generous and pro-active global family, who remain deeply connected to the country of their birth or the birth of their forefathers. Those challenging years have been a timely reminder of the importance of strong and dynamic Irish communities abroad as so many left Ireland to find support, assistance and family in the global Irish diaspora. I am deeply grateful for the generosity with which the Irish community in Australia unfailingly and generously reached out a hand of friendship to these new arrivals as they began the challenging task of building their new lives in one of the furthest places, geographically, from Ireland. And as things improve back in Ireland, it is essential that we continue to remember and celebrate the role of the Irish community abroad and all that it does to support Ireland and the wider Irish family. Finally, I must say again how wonderful it is to be here tonight with such an impressive, vibrant and diverse community to celebrate together our Irishness and our friendship. Successive generations of Irishmen and women have made the long journey south to the possibilities and opportunities of Sydney and each generation has left its own unique mark on the city and the state. You too will leave your indelible mark on your community and your society here as you weave the best of your Irishness with all the possibilities and opportunities of life in Sydney and New South Wales. I thank you all for coming here today and wish you continued success as you craft, together, a shared future in this evolving and increasingly interdependent world, full as it is not only of great challenges but also of immeasurable potential. Go raibh míle maith agaibh. 83
Tourism Ireland Travel Trade and Media Lunch
Speech by Michael D. Higgins President of Ireland
The Calyx, Royal Botanic Gardens, Sydney Friday, 20th October, 2017
A dhaoine uaisle agus a chairde, Is mór an pléisiúir dom bheith anseo libh inniu i gcathair álainn Sydney. It is a great pleasure to be here in the wonderful city of Sydney, and to have this opportunity to speak to the representatives of the travel trade and related media of the value we in Ireland attach to tourism exchanges between our two countries. Australia and Ireland have much in common. As well as our shared history, both of our cultures attach great importance to extending authentic warm hospitality to guests, indeed as I have experienced at first hand on this State Visit. Australian visitors are always very welcome in Ireland, and I know that Irish people in all the generations feel very much at home here. In Ireland, we are aware of the powerful global reach of tourism, and of its importance to international perceptions of a country. Visitors to Ireland often write of our beautiful landscapes, our rich musical tradition, and the warmth, affability and wit of the Irish people - key attributes that provide memorable encounters and uplifting experiences for visitors from abroad. We are determined to take great care of this immense resource of esteem the Irish enjoy globally. We are also aware that what we offer tourists is not simply an idealised image of Ireland, or a commodified version of Irishness.
President Higgins at a lunch meeting hosted by Tourism Ireland
At the heart of any tourist’s best experience lie real encounters. We want people from across the world to come to know us, to continue to visit our island again and again, experiencing the genuine hospitality at the heart of the Irish community. We understand the relationship of the visitor and the visited as quite a moral one, drawing on trust, friendship, and the care of the stranger within an ethic of hospitality. For generations, Tourism has been part of the fabric of Irish society and, today, it remains at the heart of many communities across the whole island of Ireland. Tourism is a very important part of the Irish economy. It accounts for over 10% of all Irish jobs. Last year we welcomed over 10 million overseas visitors to our shores – up 9% on 2015. This contributed a very significant €5.3 billion to the Irish economy and helped to support 280,000 jobs. This year looks set to be another great year for travel to Ireland. So, we have a great deal to celebrate today. 85
I am pleased to report that Australia has played an important role in the growth of Irish tourism over the years. Last year alone, we were delighted to welcome almost 230,000 visitors from this part of the world, an increase of over 50% in the last 5 years. Why did they come? Well, for many reasons. Ireland is a wonderful place to start or end a holiday in Europe. Visitors come for the scenery, for our unique and diverse culture but, most of all, they come for the genuinely friendly people, our more relaxed pace of life and the great Irish welcome. Tourism Ireland continues to work with energy and enthusiasm here in Australia, and in all the key markets, to promote sustainable tourism such as holiday experiences like the Wild Atlantic Way, Ireland’s Ancient East, Dublin – ‘A Breath of Fresh Air’ and Northern Ireland. We are also highlighting how easy it is to get to Ireland this year from this part of the world. It has never been easier to get to Ireland from any part of the world – but particularly from Australia/New Zealand. There is a growing range of convenient one-stop flight options and many new developments in the pipeline. The expanding services of Emirates Airlines and Etihad Airways have been the catalyst for developments by Qatar Airways and, most recently, the announcement by Cathay Pacific of a new Hong KongDublin service from next June. The continuing expansion in air access augurs well for Ireland’s success as a world-class holiday destination. One of our most exciting developments of recent years has been the Wild Atlantic Way – a captivating 1,500 mile coastal drive along Ireland’s western seaboard. The aptly-named Wild Atlantic Way offers visitors an opportunity to sample our stunning coastline, while connecting with friendly, welcoming people in unique towns and villages along the way. It is a great way to experience our heritage and culture; to enjoy our great, locally-grown, food and freshly caught seafood. Tourism Ireland is also capitalising on The Skellig Ring’s inclusion on the prestigious Lonely Planet list of top ten places to visit in 2017. Ireland’s Ancient East offers Australian visitors a great opportunity to experience 5,000 years of history in just 500 miles. It can include visits to historic towns and villages to explore our diverse history from earliest times to the present – including early Christian monasteries, round towers, ancient castles, symbols of our many invasions and their legacy, emigrant ships recreating the condition in which Irish people travelled to the New World. This is all accessible in a very compact part of Ireland that brims with culture, festivals and fun. Dublin’s unique appeal as a vibrant capital city is bursting with a variety of surprising experiences, cultural institutions with open access, literary heritage and a music-filled ambience, where city living thrives side-byside with the natural outdoors. Dublin can be more than just a city experience – it is so easy to go rambling in the Dublin mountains or sailing or kayaking on the famous, crescent-shaped Dublin Bay. Northern Ireland is also a must-see for visitors from all over the world, and is especially popular with visitors from Australia and New Zealand. Obviously, there are strong familial ties with the region and its people – as there are with other parts of Ireland - but world-class attractions like the Giant’s Causeway and Titanic Belfast are also on the bucket list. For golfers, Ireland has truly world-class golf courses where our famous golfers honed their skills – including Rory McIlroy, Padraig Harrington, Shane Lowry, Darren Clarke and many others. Golf in Ireland combines world-class playing experiences with our unique brand of hospitality and welcome. Ireland is also bidding to stage the world’s biggest Rugby Union tournament, the Rugby World Cup, in 2023, in cooperation with the Northern Ireland Executive. This summer we hosted the 8th Women’s Rugby World Cup, with fixtures in Dublin and Belfast. Teams from all over the world enjoyed the Irish sporting experience, our excellent sporting facilities and our famed welcome. Reaction from the players suggests we delivered the best Women’s Rugby World Cup to date. We hope that will be a good omen for us – and that you’ll be cheering 86
us on – when the successful Rugby World Cup bid is announced this November. Once again, I would like to thank you all for coming today. On behalf of the people of Ireland and Tourism Ireland, I would like to thank you for your continuing support in making Ireland in all its diversity known to so many. We look forward to working closely with you during the remainder of 2017 and for many years into the future. Mar fhocal scoir, is mian liom mo bhuíochas ó chroí a ghabháil libh ar fad as an fáilte a d’fhear sibh romham inniú agus guím gach rath agus beannacht oraibh agus ar bhur gcuid oibre. Go raibh míle maith agaibh go léir.
President Higgins and Sabina at a lunch meeting hosted by Tourism Ireland, in the Royal Botanic Gardens, Sydney 87
Ireland Funds Australia Dinner
Speech by Michael D. Higgins President of Ireland
Museum of Australia, Sydney Friday, 20th October, 2017
A dhaoine uaisle agus a chairde Gael, Is mór an pléisiúir dom a bheith anseo inniu i Músaem na hAstráile. It is a great pleasure to be here in the company of so many great friends of Ireland to celebrate the 30th anniversary of the Ireland Funds Australia. May I thank the Chair of the Funds in Australia, Yvonne LeBas, Kieran McLoughlin, CEO of the Ireland Funds and Teresa Keating, Executive Director of the Ireland Funds Australia for their kind invitation to speak here this evening. At the outset, may I congratulate you on your achievements during these three decades – the Ireland Funds Australia is one of the most active and fastest-growing chapters of the Ireland Funds worldwide, which has raised almost $600m for 3,000 not-for-profit initiatives across the island of Ireland and among Irish communities overseas. What is even more impressive than these numbers is the generous spirit of community which lies at the heart of all the achievements they made possible. It is your ability to look beyond the horizons of our normal, everyday lives and to envisage the real impact in terms of solidarity and transformation that we can all make on the lives of our fellow citizens that truly defines the ethos on which the Ireland Funds was founded. What must have begun as a modest exercise in practical philanthropy has become a powerful force, driven by a determination to make Ireland a better place, and its relationship with the fullness of Australian life an opportunity that is forever deepening in terms of cooperation. Mar Uachtarán na hÉireann, as President of Ireland, may I express my respect and gratitude for the mission and work of the Ireland Funds. In a healthy and functioning society we should all accept the responsibility of making a contribution to our community. It is in all our interests that the bonds of community be strong, that we be aware of our achievements together and the possibilities we share. Nationally, regionally and internationally, the issue of social cohesion is becoming even more important. The range and breadth of the initiatives undertaken by Ireland Funds Australia to ensure a better quality of life for our citizens at home and abroad is impressive, encompassing as it does over 100 projects in education, science, youth and academia. These initiatives are an inspirational example of the positive social impact that can be achieved when we operate in a spirit of ethical awareness and generous philanthropy by actively engaging with the community for the benefit of all. We have all now agreed that the future of Northern Ireland will be achieved by efforts at freeing young people from the dangerous legacies and prejudices of the past. Ireland Funds Australia has supported Integrated Schools, educating Catholic and Protestant children jointly, and Northern Ireland Children’s Enterprise. The importance of a quality education for young people, regardless of their background and social context cannot be underestimated. An empowering and nurturing approach to the education of our young people is the most critical factor in enabling our children to become independent minded, yet socially informed and responsible, citizens committed to democracy who will not be afraid, who will be encouraged to question, to think critically and to envision the possibilities and the means to a better and fairer society. This is so obvious in Ireland but also, may I suggest, in Australia. I was so pleased therefore to learn of an initiative with the Australian Indigenous Education Foundation, which committed significant funding for indigenous scholarships at four leading Australian schools for the next 5 years. Figures published by the Australian Bureau of Statistics show secondary school retention rates for Indigenous 89
students are still well below the average for non-Indigenous students. In 2014, only 59.4% of Indigenous students completed their schooling up to Year 12, compared with 84.8% of non-Indigenous students. The work of the Australian Indigenous Education Foundation seeks to reverse this trend. In 2014, Australian Indigenous Education Foundation Scholarship Students achieved a 92% retention and Year 12 completion rate – almost double the national average, and the highest Year 12 completion rate recorded by any federally funded program in Australia, a clear example of making a difference in the lives of some of the more vulnerable in our global society. I was also pleased to hear that the Fund is supporting Science Gallery Melbourne this year. The University of Melbourne has secured the rights to Australia’s only node in the highly successful Science Gallery International network, founded at Trinity College in Dublin. Inspired by the innovation at the inaugural Science Gallery in Dublin, the Ireland Funds Australia have partnered with Science Gallery Melbourne for a recent exhibition and when it opens in 2020, Science Gallery will be a public-facing, dynamic and engaging space to inspire young adults into the STEM workforce. With 75% of future jobs in Australia expected to require STEM qualifications, Science Gallery programs will surely help spark the minds of tomorrow’s innovators. Since the earliest days of settlement, Sydney has been a major destination for Irish migrants. The Ireland Funds Australia, University of New South Wales and the Irish community have shared a longstanding history as champions of the endowment campaign for Irish Studies at the University which was launched in 1998. The Ireland Funds Australia Chair of Modern Irish Studies was funded for a five-year period from 2010 to 2015. As a result, University of New South Wales has become a hub of activity where researchers exchange ideas, students learn about Irish literature and culture and the community immerses itself in the richness of understanding the Irish experience. There is much that connects our islands and the Institute of Irish Studies plays a huge role in shaping that relationship, through its research, events, student programmes and expertise, promoting a vision of constructive relationships between our two countries that preserves our
President Higgins addressing the audience at a meeting hosted by the Ireland Funds Australia 90
unique character and which embodies the richness of our interdependence. By teaching Irish studies and global literature at University of New South Wales they are helping to educate and inspire a new generation of students who might otherwise remain unaware of the momentous Irish contribution to Australia and the world. The Fund is seeking to create a subvention to endow the Irish studies Chair at University of New South Wales to ensure that the work in research, teaching and community engagement continues. One of the finest names we recall when we speak of the Irish abroad in contemporary times was Australian Rules football legend, the late Jim Stynes, and I was so pleased to see his statue at the Melbourne Cricket Ground when I was in Melbourne last week. It is a fitting tribute to the man who made such a contribution to the sport and wider society in Australia. Jim established the Reach Foundation, which strives to ensure that every young person has the support and self-belief they need to fulfil their potential and dare to dream. Jim Stynes was inspired by his need to give back to the community that was so good to him by reaching out to disaffected youth to nurture and encourage them to dare to dream and to be the best they could be. I was very pleased to present Jim’s wife, Sam, with a richly-deserved posthumous Presidential Distinguished Services Award in 2012 for his work with the charity, which helps 30,000 young people every year to cope with the struggles of modern life. The Jim Stynes legacy also inspired Tony Griffin in Ireland to found Soar, an early intervention programme for young people. These are just some examples of initiatives promoted by Ireland Funds Australia, which have channelled creativity, created peace, supported communities and most importantly of all had an impact on the lives of people, unparalleled by any other organisation in Ireland. The Ireland Funds Australia has benefitted from outstanding leadership in the thirty years of its existence and we should acknowledge the significant contribution of the current Chair, Yvonne Le Bas, and former Chairs, John O’Neill, Alan Joyce and Charles Curran. They are supported by a very active and generous board, who I was so pleased to meet earlier this evening. In conclusion may I suggest that the context of the Ireland Funds is an exemplar of the values of openness, generosity and hospitality. You are recognised as one of the most dynamic and successful Diaspora and Philanthropic Organisations in the world. We are proud of the work you do and are grateful for it. We thank you for doing it, because it is making a real difference to the lives of people on the ground. You are a vital part of the new Ireland which is being created, one which we hope has learned many lessons from the financial crisis of the last decade. May I wish you all every success and thank you again for the generous welcome you have extended to myself and Sabina and the delegation travelling with me. It has been a great pleasure to join you tonight and we congratulate you on reaching your thirtieth anniversary. Gur fada buan sibh agus go raibh míle maith agaibh go léir. Mar Uachtarán na hÉireann gabhaim buíochas libh as an obair thábhachtach atá ar siúl agaibh.
Reception for the Irish Community
Speech by Michael D. Higgins President of Ireland
Abbey of the Roses, Warwick, Queensland Sunday, 22nd October, 2017
A Chairde Gael, a Dhaoine Uaisle, Tá áthas orm féin agus ar Saidhbhín an oiread seo de phobal na hÉireann a bheith againn mar chomhluadar anocht. Is é seo ár gcéad cuairt ar an Astráil agus ar Warwick agus gabhaim buíochas ó chroí libh as an fáilte sin a d’fhear sibh romhainn. [Sabina and I are delighted to see so many from the Irish community here this evening. This is my first visit to Australia and to Warwick and I thank you for the warm welcome we have received]. The Irish nation stretches far beyond the boundaries of our small island state and one of the great pleasures of our visits abroad are the opportunities Sabina and I get to visit and meet with members of our extended Irish family in countries and communities right across the world. Today is one of those pleasurable occasions and I am very pleased to be able to acknowledge and thank you in person for being such committed and inspiring ambassadors for Ireland here in Warwick. We Irish can all be proud of the great contribution our Diaspora has made across the generations impacting so positively in the areas of business, public service, education, health, sports and the arts and so many other important areas which lie at the heart of a vibrant society. Your presence here this evening is a testament to that. Today, over 90,000 Irish-born people live in Australia and 2 million Australians record their ancestry as Irish in your national census. The migratory stories of the many Irish who have travelled to Australia across the decades and the centuries are myriad and complex. They are stories that have created a profound link between our two countries, and a friendship that stretches across the many thousands of miles that separate us. So many of you here today are custodians of those stories, stories that have become an important part of family history. They are also, however, stories that speak of the profound connections which have linked Ireland and Australia across generations and centuries and are critical elements of the fuller story of Irish migration to Australia. My own family is part of that rich and complex story. When members of my father’s family emigrated to Australia in the late 19th century, it was here in Warwick that they sewed the roots of a new life that would grow and flourish, and would result in the Higgins name becoming deeply woven into the history and life of this town. It is a story that began in April 1862 when Patrick and Mary Ann Higgins arrived in Queensland, aboard the ‘Montmorency.’ Like so many Irish emigrants, they made their way here to Warwick. Over the years, Patrick, who arrived here as a skilled migrant having attended the Royal Agricultural Society and trained as a ploughman, worked his way from farm worker to farm manager before eventually buying his own farm at Sandy Creek, which I had the great pleasure of visiting earlier today. Patrick and Mary Ann both married and had large families, first generation Australians who would bear Irish surnames while also making their unique contribution to Australia - the country of their birth. Across the years many members of my family have been married or christened in St Mary’s Cathedral. Generations have been buried here in Warwick including my aunt Bridget. My uncle died in Southern Queensland and is buried in Toowoomba. Today, a new generation of my family continues the strong connection between family members in Ireland and family members here in Australia, continuing to form the ongoing and interconnected story of our two countries.
President Higgins addressing the Irish community in Warwick, Queensland
As I travelled through this town I thought, also, of the many other families whose names bear witness to a proud Irish heritage. The T.J. Byrnes Monument here in Warwick pays tribute to Thomas Byrnes, the son of impoverished Irish immigrants who came to Queensland in search of a better future. Thomas Byrnes made a profound contribution to Australian society as Representative for Warwick in the Legislative Assembly before becoming the first Roman Catholic Premier of Queensland. There is no doubt that his untimely death at the age of 38, after just five months in office, was a great loss of the potential of a man dedicated to a life of public service. Nonetheless he has lived on as an inspiring example of triumph over humble origins and his political ideals left their important legacy, and have played their role in shaping modern day Australia. The greatest link between Ireland and Australia has always been our people. In their different circumstances Irish citizens have travelled to Australia since the beginning of European settlement here and continue to come today to seek out new opportunities. Warwick is home to a thriving and dynamic community, who draw on all that is best about our Irishness while also contributing to a city and country to which you, or your ancestors came as strangers and remained as active and participative citizens. Today, as President of Ireland I would like to thank the Irish communities who extend a hand of friendship to new waves of emigrants from Ireland, as they too begin new chapters in a country that has welcomed and supported so many of our people. Warwick is no exception and the Irish celebratory, social and cultural events that take place here and across Queensland provide a space of welcome and friendship to new Irish emigrants as they seek to create a fulfilling life in Australia. As a nation we in Ireland also remain very conscious of the enormous debt of gratitude we owe to those who have left our shores over so many years. Their hard work, and generous support and encouragement to those who remained at home have played a significant role in the shaping and crafting of the modern Ireland 94
we know today. I am, therefore, always so very pleased to be able to acknowledge and thank in person, the representatives of our Irish communities across the globe who do so much to help each other, to support your homeland in so many ways, and who are such valued ambassadors for Ireland. The Irish who came to this country have played a crucial part in the forging of a distinct Australian identity. As part of the global Irish diaspora they have also done much to shape the country they left behind. Ireland’s relationship with its diaspora is enshrined in our Constitution which states that “the Irish nation cherishes its special affinity with people of Irish ancestry living abroad who share its cultural identity and heritage.” It is an honour and a privilege to be among you today as we celebrate that special affinity and celebrate our culture and heritage. In conclusion, agus mar fhocal scoir, is mian liom mo bhuíochas a ghabháil libh as an fíorchaoin fáilte a d’fhear sibh romham féin agus roimh Saidhbhín inniu, agus sibh a mholadh as dea-cháil na hÉireann a scaipeadh anseo san Astráil. May I thank you for the very generous welcome you have extended to Sabina and me today and thank you once again for being such valued ambassadors for Ireland. Go raibh míle maith agaibh go léir.
Irish Community Reception
Speech by Michael D. Higgins President of Ireland
Stamford Hotel Plaza, Brisbane Monday, 23rd October, 2017
A Chairde Gael, a Dhaoine Uaisle Tá áthas orm féin agus ar Saidhbhín an deis seo a bheith againn bualadh libh inniu. Is é seo ár gcéad cuairt ar Brisbane, bhíomar ag súil go mór leis an turas seo le fada an lá. I am delighted to be here with you in Brisbane and thank you for such a warm welcome! Most of you present here this evening are members of the Irish community in Brisbane. You are a very important part of our small nation and the lives you have built for President Higgins addressing the Irish community in Brisbane yourselves here in Brisbane and around the world extend our reach to a global Irish family of up to 70 million. But you are not only members of the Irish diaspora – you are also a vital part of society here in Australia. I know you are all incredibly proud of your Irish heritage and I am sure you are, quite rightly, equally proud of the contribution you have made here in Brisbane. As President of Ireland I am delighted to receive so many opportunities to meet and engage with Irish communities all over the world. In most cases, such interactions form part of my visits abroad for official engagements – and, as always, Irish community events are a key part of these visits. I commend the commitments outlined in the “Global Irish: - Ireland’s Diaspora Policy”, which led to the holding of the first Global Irish Civic Forum, attended by representatives of the many organisations directly working with and supporting our Irish emigrants abroad. It is a pleasure to bear witness to the great work and support to our Irish community here in Brisbane. I am particularly grateful to all the representatives of groups working with Irish emigrants and I am delighted to have this opportunity to thank you all for the often unseen work which you do on a daily basis to support our sons and daughters as they make new lives in their adoptive countries. Many of the organisations here this evening have served a vital purpose over the decades in providing sanctuaries of Irishness around the globe. In halls the length and breadth of Australia; here in Brisbane, and also Perth, Sydney, Melbourne, Canberra, to name just a few, Irish people gather. They have satisfied the need in our emigrants to reconnect with their culture and ethnicity, and the deeper need to form communities in new and often alien environments. While the context may have changed, the groups you represent continue to fulfil those functions today. I know there is a great diversity of organisations ranging from welfare bureaus who support our most vulnerable and marginalised emigrants such as those who seek to support Irish prisoners incarcerated abroad or supporting LGBT Irish in Brisbane, to bodies aimed at promoting our rich cultural heritage and contemporary culture, to networks who seek to leverage Irish connections to develop mutually beneficial business relationships. The common thread running through all these bodies is a sense of pride and solidarity in our Irish identity. Without the tireless work done by Irish community organisations throughout the world, current efforts to build new links with the global Irish would not be possible. Through your sustained engagement, generations 97
of our people abroad have made, and continue to make, an enormous contribution to Ireland’s development. In joining with you today, it is my hope that a web of interlinking and overlapping connections will be made which will enhance the work that you do. It is also an important opportunity for reflection on some of the wider issues associated with migration from this island; the importance of Irish culture as a unifying factor, the continued maintenance of the links that bind our global Irish family to Ireland and the impact of the evolving patterns of emigration on our Irish communities abroad. Mar a deirtear go minic, is gné shainiúil lárnach de mhuintir na hÉireann í an eisimirce. Cé go ndéanatar díol suntais de líon na ndaoine a dfhág an tír seo le linn an Drochshaol agus sna mblianta ina dhiaidh, agus is cinnte gur tharla imirce mhór d’ár muintir dá bharr, caithfear a rá go raibh claonadh againn, mar náisiún, leis an imirce riamh. As is often stated, emigration has been a defining characteristic of the Irish people. While some often focus on the large numbers who left Ireland during and following the dark days of the Famine, and it is true that it represented a mass exodus of our people from their shores, over the generations it has been our propensity to be a migratory people. Whether by choice or through necessity generations of Irish people have left this island to start new lives in distant lands. Figures vary with many estimating up to approximately 70 million people throughout the world claiming some Irish heritage. The history of the different waves of migration from our island is one that is incredibly varied and rich. This legacy provides a unique opportunity for global engagement through the links that bind Ireland to her diaspora and to the countries to which our people have moved. There were very many thousands of young Irishmen and women from villages and parishes throughout Ireland, who left home for distant shores in search of a better life for themselves and their children and they were not able to simply pick up their mobile phone to call home. In my youth I recall the letters and parcels from emigrants in the US arriving to neighbours. This oft-read correspondence was often the only link across the Atlantic to family members who had departed. Advances in modern technology mean that cities such as Brisbane, Perth, Sydney or indeed San Francisco, Dubai and Dubrovnik, are no more than a click away. While this has untold advantages - allowing grandparents to see and interact with their grandchildren, facilitating instantaneous conversations across many thousands of miles - it nonetheless remains the case that emigration can often be a painful experience. Telecommunications has altered this experience but it has not negated the importance of emigrant groups represented here being able to provide that human solidarity of a ‘home from home’. Indeed, modern communication tools can sometimes increase the sense of loneliness and isolation as the lives of loved ones are watched from afar. President Higgins and Sabina visit Flight Centre HQ (IDA client) 98
Emigration is at its root an experience that is intensely personal. While the successive departures of Irish emigrants to such distant locations left indelible gaps in families and communities throughout Ireland and deprived our island of their talents, in a testament to the enduring spirit of the Irish, many of these emigrants thrived in their new country of residence. For many, the experience is an immensely enriching one filled with exposure to new cultures and peoples with innovative opportunities to develop their talents. Often grappling with new cultures, new languages and unimagined challenges they succeeded in developing new lives for themselves and their families. For others the experience is more challenging. The distance from friends and family and from familiar social supports can be difficult for many of our emigrants. For those Irish in particular, we have a special responsibility to reach out and embrace them as part of our community and of our shared Irish identity. It is your organisations who do that invaluable and essential work on behalf of us all, and I am delighted to be here with you all and to have this opportunity, as President of Ireland, to thank you for that. It is important, too, that we as a State continue to recognise the considerable debt that we owe to previous generations of Irish emigrants themselves. The sacrifices made by past emigrants to ensure that families left in Ireland were afforded increased opportunities and prospects have not been forgotten. In many cases remittances from emigrants provided for educational opportunities for younger siblings and underpinned economic advancement in the Irish economy. I am keenly conscious of the important role played by the Irish diaspora in supporting our fledgling State in its early days. Mar fhocal scoir, is mian liom arís mo bhuíochas ó chroí a ghabháil libh as ucht na hoibre go léir a bhíonn ar siúl agaibh, lá i ndiaidh lae, chun tacaíocht, comhairle agus lámh chúnta a thabhairt d’ár ndeoraithe thar lear. In conclusion I would like to once again thank you for the valuable work which you undertake on a daily basis to support, advise and promote the cause of our emigrants abroad. The global Irish family is a unique and extraordinary body of people which I deeply value. I hope that the discussions you are having over these two days are informative and enriching and one of the fruits of these deliberations will be increased links with other organisations working with Irish communities throughout the world. Go raibh míle maith agaibh go léir.
President Higgins and Sabina visit Flight Centre HQ (IDA client) 99
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