Last week An Cathaoirleach sent as special message to the people of Australia on Australia Day. As he states in the video, there are 30,000 Australian citizens living in Ireland and 5 million who have Irish heritage. Furthermore, there are 70,000 Irish men and women living down under.
Our two nations share a special bond, one fostered through a shared history and identity, forged through the prison ships sent from our ports under British rule to make the treacherous 15,000 mile journey, or those who chose to emigrate in pursuit of a brighter future in a land far away. However, this was not just a one way journey. In the late 1980s the Irish Government gifted a statute of Queen Victoria, which once stood outside Leinster House, to the people of Australia on a long-term loan. The Statue now stands in Sydney.
Another connection, and one of the most interesting figures in our shared history is Thomas F. Meagher. Meageher is the creator of our national flag and was transported for life to Van Diemens land after the failed rebellion of 1848. He would later find his way to America where he served as General in the Union Army during the US Civil War and as Governor of Montana.
2021 marks the 80th anniversary of the opening of diplomatic relations between Ireland and Australia. Since then five Australian Prime Ministers have visited Ireland and three have addressed our Parliament. These were Robert Menzies in 1941, Gough Whitlam in 1974, Bob Hawke in 1987, Paul Keating in 1993 and John Howard in 2006. In his address in 2006, Prime Minister Howard told the Dáil that; “It is important not just to see ours as a relationship nurtured by history and sentiment. It is a contemporary, people to people relationship and one of the wonderful aspects is how the young of Australia visit Ireland and the young of Ireland visit Australia in growing numbers”.
To that end, and following in Prime Minster Howard’s words, we look forward to continuing and strengthening the relationship between our two nations. In particular, we hope to further cooperation with Australian Ambassador Gary Gray and that we may celebrate Australia Day together in person next year.