THE Irish Ambassador to Britain had paid tribute to community organisations across the country and the 14,000 men and women working in the NHS in a special St Patricks Day message.
This week marks Ambassador Adrian O’Neill’s fourth St Patrick’s Day in London.
While it will be a second year with no physical festivals or parades going ahead across Britain due to ongoing Covid-19 restrictions, he told The Irish Post he remains “proud to be representing Ireland, and to reflect on the experience of the Irish community in Britain this past year”.
“On the occasion of St. Patrick’s Day, my wife Aisling and I would like to extend our very best wishes to the readers of The Irish Post and the wider Irish community and friends of Ireland across Britain,” Mr O’Neill said.
“As we near the anniversary of the current public health crisis, St Patrick’s Day presents an opportunity to reflect on the enormous changes the past year has brought to bear on all of our lives, and to look forward with hope to the future.
“We can take heart that we are moving through the winter of this crisis, and that spring and summer lie just ahead.”
Mr O’Neill praised the work of the community in its response to the Covid-19 pandemic over the past 12 months, in particular those organisations who have continued to support those older and more vulnerable among us amidst the pandemic.
“Although we may have been physically apart for much of this past year, I take great pride in the fact that the resilient spirit of the Irish community has not just endured but thrived during this time,” Mr O’Neill states.
“We cannot understate the difficulties faced by our communities in the last year, nor the illnesses endured and the sad fatalities sustained,” he added.
“However, neither can we fail to notice the ingenuity, adaptability and generosity of spirit of Irish community organisations across Great Britain in responding to this terrible pandemic.
“I have been deeply impressed with the dedication of those who, over the past 12 months, have shown such togetherness, creativity, and goodwill in adapting to the new normal.”
He explained: “Since the beginning of the Covid-19 crisis, community organisations have risen to the challenge and evolved their services to meet the needs of the most vulnerable members of our community.
“I am glad to have this opportunity to pay tribute to you all.
“In their tireless efforts, these organisations have once again emphasised the positive contributions that the Irish community makes to the UK.”
The Ambassador also took time to acknowledge the Irish men and women who work within the NHS, on the frontline of the pandemic.
“In a year where our wellbeing and lives have depended on the wonderful care provided by the National Health Service, I am especially proud of the nearly 14,000 Irish women and men who work in the NHS,” he said, adding: “Thank you for all that you do.”
With all of this month’s St Patrick’s festivities being held online, Mr O’Neill encouraged the community to celebrate their heritage in style in the coming days, despite the restrictions.
“Being Irish on St Patrick’s Day is an expression of fellow feeling or cultural affinity, as much as of citizenship or heritage, and is open for all to join if they feel so inclined,” he said.
“Although this year we will not have the normal parades and other festive gatherings, there are still other great ways to celebrate our heritage.
“While the Embassy would usually be preparing to open our doors to hundreds of guests and members of the community throughout St Patrick’s week, this year we are planning a very different kind of celebration.
“I hope you can all don your green and join us virtually at lunchtime on 17th March to mark the day. We have an exciting St. Patrick’s Day celebration planned, so stay tuned to our social media for further details of our fantastic line-up.”
He added: “In what has been a very challenging year, it is heartening to see the tradition of celebrating St Patrick’s Day across Great Britain continuing, albeit in a slightly different format.
“Organisations are continuing to show their resilience and imagination in arranging a programme of virtual community and cultural events, and I want to thank all those involved in making St Patrick’s Day such an inclusive, vibrant and joyful celebration.
“So, once again on behalf of myself, my wife Aisling and all the Embassy team, I’m delighted to wish all the readers of The Irish Post a very happy St Patrick’s Day.
“I hope you all thoroughly enjoy the (virtual) celebrations. Beannachtaí na Féile Pádraig oraibh go léir.”