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Ireland celebrates St. Patrick’s Day

Ambassador Madam Aingeal O’Donoghue of Ireland hosted a reception at the Grand Hyatt Seoul on March 14, 2014 to celebrate the St. Patrick’s Day, the National Day of Ireland, with the attendance of Minister of Children and Youth Affairs of Ireland, Madam Frances Fitzgerald TD.

Toasting on the occasion of the St. Patrick’s Day of Ireland, Minister of Children and Youth Affairs Madam Frances Fitzgerald TD of Ireland (center) is flanked by Ambassador Madam Aingeal O’Donoghue of Ireland (left) and Chairman Cho Yang-Ho of Hanjin Business Group, who is concurrently Korean honorary consul of Ireland.

There were many Korean and international guests present. From the Korean side came many distinguished guestgs who included Chairman Cho Yang-Ho of Hanjin Business Group, to which Korean Air belonged, and representatives from the business community and mass communications media, including Publisher-Chairman Lee Kyung-sik of The Korea Post that has four English and Korean media units, namely an English Internet edition, a Korean-language Internet and an English E-Daily as well as the 29-year-old English monthly print edition.

From the Seoul Diplomatic Corps came many mission chiefs accompanied by their spouses, who included Ambassadors Petar Andonov of Bulgaria, Grecia Fiodalicia Pichardo of Dominican Republic, Nikoloz Apkhazava of Georgia, Gustavo Adolfo Lopez Calderon of Guatemala, Khalil Ismai Abdul Sahib Al-Mosawi of Iraq, Dulat Bakisher of Kazakhstan, Ngovi Kitau of Kenya, Jose Luis Bernal of Mexico, Paul Menkveld of the Netherlands, Ceferino Adrian Valdez Peralta of Paraguay, Konstantine V. Vnukov of Russia, Dusan Bella of Slovak Republic, Mohamed Ali Nafti of Tunisia, Hakan Okcal of Turkey, Vasyl Marmazov of Ukraine and Alisher Kurmanov of Uzbekistan.

Welcoming the guests, Ambassador O’Donoghue said: “I welcome you all to this celebration of St Patrick’s Day - the Irish national day. This is my first St Patrick’s Day as Ambassador to Korea and it is a great honour to host this event and work to build stronger and closer relations between Ireland and Korea.

Ambassador Madam Aingeal O’Donoghue of Ireland (left) poses with three winners of the Irish Korean Essay Competition 2013, Minister of Children and Youth Affairs of Ireland Madam Frances Fitzgerald TD and Chairman Cho Yang-Ho of Hanjin Business Group (fifth and sixth from left, respectively).

“Ireland has a reputation around the world for our friendliness, our music and our culture. Tomorrow, all that will be on show at the St Patrick's Festival at D Cube in Shindorim. It promises to be a great family day out with Irish storytelling, music and dance. A big thanks to the Irish Association of Korea for all their work in organising the festival.” (See excerpts from the speech at the end of this Article.)

The ambassador’s welcome speech was followed by one by Minister of Children and Youth Affairs of Ireland Madam Fitzgerald TD, who said: “I was very moved this morning to lay a wreath at the Irish memorial at the Korea War Memorial. Ireland was not yet a member of the United Nations when the Korean War broke out but many of Irish birth and heritage did fight and die in that war. I was honoured to be accompanied by the Minister for Veterans and Patriots Affairs at this morning’s ceremony and we are deeply appreciative of the Korean Government’s support for this memorial to the Irish contribution to the Korean War.” (See excerpts at the end of this Article.)

Ambassador Madam Aingeal O’Donoghue of Ireland (center) is flanked by Ambassador Madam Grecia Fiodalicia Pichardo of Dominican Republic (left) and Mrs. Celestina Dora Diaz De Valdez (spouse of the ambassador of Paraguay)

Excerpts from the speech of Ambassador O’Donoghue:
Ireland also has a reputation for its lush green countryside, sustainable agriculture and high quality food and drink products. I am delighted that we have been able to bring you a little taste of Ireland tonight and I'd encourage you to sample some of the Irish food products on the table in the centre of the room. A special mention and big thanks to Diageo and to Pernod Ricard who have supplied the Guinness and Jameson whiskey for tonight's reception - bringing you a 'taste of Ireland' in a glass!

As many of you know the colour green has long been associated with Ireland and I'm delighted to see so many of you here this evening wearing 'a touch of green'. What you may not know is that in recent years this has been taken to new heights with a global greening project turning major monuments and iconic buildings green for St Patrick's Day - monuments such as the Empire State Building, Sydney Opera House and the Pyramids of Egypt.

From right, Ambassadors Vasyl Marmazov of Ukraine, Alisher Kurmanov of Uzbekistan, Hakan Okcal of Turkey and Dulat Bakisher of Kazakhstan; and Publisher-Chairman Lee Kyung-sik of The Korea Post

I am delighted to announce that this year Seoul will join this exciting project - from dusk until midnight on 17 March the N Seoul Tower will be bathed in green light. My thanks to Seoul Metropolitan Government and Ambassador Lee for their collaboration and support for this initiative.

The Irish Government harnesses the occasion of St Patrick's Day to promote Ireland around the world, build stronger relations with our friends and allies and engage with the Irish diaspora.

We are very honoured that Frances Fitzgerald TD, Minister for Children and Youth Affairs has included Korea in her programme for St Patrick's Day. Minister Fitzgerald was first elected to the Irish Parliament in 1992 and she has had a long and distinguished career in Irish politics. In 2011 she was appointed Ireland’s first ever Minister for Children and Youth Affairs and in that role she has been leading the Irish Government’s comprehensive reform of Child Protection in Ireland.

Excerpts from the speech of Minister of Children and Youth Affairs Fitzgerald TD of Irealand:

I salute the very positive and growing relations between Ireland and Korea.
Our two countries share many of the same perspectives and policies on the international issues and global challenges facing the world to-day.
I was very moved this morning to lay a wreath at the Irish memorial at the Korea War Memorial. Ireland was not yet a member of the United Nations when the Korean War broke out but many of Irish birth and heritage did fight and die in that war. I was honoured to be accompanied by the Minister for Veterans and Patriots Affairs at this morning’s ceremony and we are deeply appreciative of the Korean Government’s support for this memorial to the Irish contribution to the Korean War.
Today Irish and Korean soldiers work side by side in UN Peacekeeping missions such as the UNIFIL mission in the Lebanon and Ireland and Korea work together as active members of the UN Human Rights Council.
To-day Ireland looks to Korea as a force for stability in this region and as a key partner and ally in Asia.
To-day our two countries have a growing trade and economic relationship.
As many of you are aware, on 15 December Ireland became the first eurozone country to successfully exit its EU/IMF programme. Our country is well on its way to economic recovery.
We have made a full return to normal market funding. The public finances are firmly under control. Unemployment, while still unacceptably high, is coming down. I don’t need to tell a Korean audience that this progress was hard won - it was the result of collective national determination and sacrifice.
Trade has been the driver of our economic recovery and in that context we are strong supporters of the EU-Korea Free Trade Agreement and keen to explore further the opportunities for Ireland and Korea offered by the FTA.
We have one of the most open and progressive economies in the world. Forbes magazine recently ranked Ireland as the best country in the world for business. Ireland is home to more than 1,000 global companies, many are world leaders in sectors such as life sciences, ICT, financial services and digital media.
Just as Ireland and Korea are both export driven economies, so too do we now face new challenges to become more innovative and creative economies. I have been learning with interest of President Park’s ambitious plans for the ‘Creative Economy’.
In recent years Ireland has been building a reputation for excellent research and supporting significant academic-industrial collaborations. The same factors which draw overseas firms to Ireland make our indigenous enterprises and start-ups among the most dynamic and innovative in the world. Irish innovation in sectors such as information technology, gaming, medical devices, pharmaceuticals and engineering is changing and enhancing people’s lives around the world, every day.
Focus on building capacity within Ireland’s indigenous SME sector and supporting ‘high potential start ups’ is a key priority for my Government. I am convinced that Ireland and Korea have much to learn from each other at this moment of economic transformation and I look forward to sharing experiences and expertise and forging new business partnerships.
St Patrick’s day is a very special day ? it is a time of celebration not just in Ireland but for all those of Irish descent and affinity around the world. It is a time when we celebrate our unique culture and heritage which makes us proud of our Irishness. No matter where I go, I am struck by how much Irish literature, music, film and dance resonate with different audiences around the world.
We value enormously our global Irish community and the work of those - such as the Irish community here in Korea - who do so much as advocates and ambassadors of Ireland. Your continued connection and contribution to your home in Ireland and to fostering linkages among the Irish living in Korea is deeply valued.
I would like in particular to acknowledge the contribution of the Seoul Gaels, the Irish Association of Korea, the Irish business community in Korea and the Irish missionaries who have been here for over 80 years. As Minister for Children and Youth Affairs I am especially delighted to learn of the new people-to-people links developing among our young people. The Irish community in Korea is expanding with the arrival of many young Irish coming here to teach English and there is a growing interest among young Koreans in Ireland. Our working holiday visa programme is very successful, Koreans come to Ireland to learn English and we have a much sought after scholarship programme for Korean teachers of English.
One of those young Koreans who will soon share the experience of learning English in Ireland is Ms Choi In Gyeong who has won the Irish Association Essay Competition this year. I understand that she wrote about The Dokkabi and the Pooka ? two imps of myth and legend in Korea and Ireland. I’d like to invite Ms Choi to join us on the stage now to share a toast.
In conclusion, I am enormously impressed and energised by what I have seen here in Korea and I would like to raise a toast to a bright future for Ireland and Korea and strengthening friendship and cooperation between our two countries.

이경식 기자  edt@koreapost.com

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