Foreign Affairs Minister Charlie Flanagan praises 'great leadership' of the Irish in Britain in a challenging year
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Foreign Affairs Minister Charlie Flanagan praises 'great leadership' of the Irish in Britain in a challenging year

IRISH Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade has called on the Irish in Britain to continue to have their say on issues affecting Britain and Ireland.

In his end of year message Minister Charlie Flanagan he spoke about Brexit, describing how Britain's decision to leave the EU "is one that has a unique impact on Ireland".

As Ireland comes to the end of its centenary year, he said the Irish diaspora would continue to be central to the vision of the country over the next 100 years.

"As you know we would have wished for a different outcome but we respect the democratically expressed view of the UK electorate," he said.

"I want to assure you that we will work to ensure the continued outstanding friendship and close ties between our two countries.

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"We will also continue to listen to the many views and voices from the Irish community here in Britain as we look to the next chapter of this exceptionally close relationship," he added, praising the community's leadership qualities.

The minister also spoke of the Presidential Distinguished Service Awards for the Irish Abroad, and the many centenary commemorative events that took place in communities across Britain.

He then went on to praise the Irish community in Britain.

"Recently, I had the privilege to hear tributes to members of the Irish community who have shown great leadership, during the presentation of the Presidential Distinguished Service Awards for the Irish Abroad at Áras an Uachtaráin," he said.

"Among them were some exceptional recipients from Britain. We remembered the late Terry Wogan and his legacy.

"Hearing about the drive and vision of Angela Brady in the world of architecture, and the warmth and tenacity of Nora Higgins’ work with the Southwark Irish Pensioners, illustrated to me the lifeline that we provide for each other as a community at home and abroad."

Read the Minister's message in full below...

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As we look forward to 2017, it is clear to me how 2016 has been so remarkable in terms of how we, as Irish people worldwide, understand and engage with our country's history.

Earlier this month at the Embassy in London, I had the opportunity to meet and thank many of the contributors to the Ireland 2016 programme in Britain. There was a rich and diverse programme of commemorative events, reflecting the complex interactions between the histories of our neighbouring islands.

With events in institutions of major cultural significance like the Southbank Centre, Wigmore Hall and the Barbican, to community spaces from Glasgow to Camden, and Birmingham to Liverpool, I hope that many of you had an opportunity to engage with these initiatives. Indeed it is not too late to listen on podcast to the Embassy’s fascinating lecture series on all aspects of 1916, including both the Easter Rising and the Somme.

This time last year I expressed a wish that at the end of 2016, we would be able to look back on a commemorative programme that served to deepen understanding and mutual respect between our two countries and peoples. At home and abroad, I believe the commemorative programmes to mark the Rising and the Somme have helped achieve this and have deepened understanding of our sometimes shared, sometimes overlapping history.

Recently, I had the privilege to hear tributes to members of the Irish community who have shown great leadership, during the presentation of the Presidential Distinguished Service Awards for the Irish Abroad at Áras an Uachtaráin.  Among them were some exceptional recipients from Britain. We remembered the late Terry Wogan and his legacy.

Hearing about the drive and vision of Angela Brady in the world of architecture, and the warmth and tenacity of Nora Higgins’ work with the Southwark Irish Pensioners, illustrated to me the lifeline that we provide for each other as a community at home and abroad.

I am delighted that the Irish State has such an award to recognise such important contributions and also that we continue to provide financial support to community organisations throughout Britain, with funding from the Emigrant Support Programme helping vulnerable members of the community and cultivating connections for the Irish abroad.

At this moment of reflection, I look back on a year when the relationship between Britain and Ireland has been a key element of my work as Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade.

This will of course continue in 2017 and the years ahead, not least as we face the challenge of Brexit. The decision of the UK to leave the EU is one that has a unique impact on Ireland.

As you know we would have wished for a different outcome but we respect the democratically expressed view of the UK electorate. I want to assure you that we will work to ensure the continued outstanding friendship and close ties between our two countries.

We will also continue to listen to the many views and voices from the Irish community here in Britain as we look to the next chapter of this exceptionally close relationship.

2016 provided us with an opportunity to remember the events of a hundred years ago, and the events since, that shaped the subsequent history of these islands. As we have looked back, we have also had the opportunity to see how much has changed during this century and to begin to reflect on the vision for Ireland and for the Irish, at home and abroad, in the next hundred years.

Our diaspora are central to this vision and I look forward to engaging with you on this as we move from 2016 into 2017 and beyond.  I would like to wish you a very happy Christmas and New Year. Nollaig Shona agus Ath Bhlian faoi mhaise daoibh go leir.