March 18, 2013 – The American Ireland Fund hosted its 21st Annual National Gala featuring a keynote address by An Taoiseach, Enda Kenny, T.D., Prime Minister of Ireland.
At the evening’s Gala, over 750 influential American and Irish political and corporate leaders gathered at the National Building Museum to honor U.S. Senator Patrick Toomey (R-PA) and U.S. Senator Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY) as they were presented with the 2013 American Ireland Fund Leadership Award. In addition, Ambassador Daniel Rooney (former United States Ambassador to Ireland) and Ambassador Michael Collins (Ambassador of Ireland to the United States) received The American Ireland Fund Public Service Award for their contributions to Ireland and Irish-America. Gala Chair Mark H. Tuohey and Honorary Chairs of the Gala: Sir Peter Westmacott, British Ambassador to U.S.; Hon. Peter T. King and Hon. Richard E. Neal ensured evening was a highlight of the DC St. Patrick’s Day season.
Margaret Brennan, CBS News correspondent, served as the evening’s emcee. President & CEO of The Worldwide Ireland Funds welcomed those gathered and outlined the many achievements of The Ireland Funds Promising Ireland Campaign and the difference donors’ generosity was making for hundreds of Irish charities. He announced that earlier that day, John Fitzpatrick had been elected by the board of directors to the role of Chairman of The American Ireland Fund, beginning in 2014. Kieran then introduced Loretta Brennan Glucksman, the current Chairman of The American Ireland Fund. She welcomed supporters and introduced the evening’s Honorary Chair and keynote speaker, An Taoiseach Enda Kenny.
An Taoiseach spoke on Ireland’s ongoing economic recovery and went on to express the deep gratitude to The American Ireland Fund for its commitment to the island through philanthropy and partnership. “The American Ireland Fund has provided extraordinary support for Ireland,” said the Taoiseach. “Its communities and causes and above all, the cause of peace.”
The evening continued with world-renowned flutist Sir James Galway taking to the stage to entertain guests with Irish music and stories. The Belfast-born musician marked the beginning of his US tour with this special performance.
The American Ireland Fund Public Service Awards were given to former Ambassador Dan Rooney and Ambassador Michael Collins. Ambassador Collins spoke about the deep ties between Ireland and the U.S. and noted that The American Ireland Fund had been there for Ireland through good times as well as difficult times. Amb. Dan Rooney delivered a message by video and spoke on the history of the organization and its ongoing mission to assist Ireland. The evening continued with the 2013 American Ireland Fund Leadership Awards given to U.S. Senator Patrick Toomey (R-PA) and U.S. Senator Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY) who spoke about their pride in the contributions of Irish America to society, culture and business.
The evening continued well into the night with guests enjoying an after-party and dessert reception in the grand space of the National Building Museum. The ties that bring Ireland and the U.S. together were highlighted and celebrated by all of those that attended.
An Taoiseach’s Full Remarks
Thank you for such a warm and generous welcome.
I’m delighted to be back at the American Ireland Fund Gala Dinner to meet friends old and new.
I hope you all had a wonderful St Patrick’s Day yesterday.
This evening we continue the national and international celebrations.
For me and for so many of you here the St. Patrick’s Day programme means the Ireland Fund Gala Dinner
At this point let me pay tribute to Ambassador Dan Rooney who recently completed his posting to Ireland.
It was Dan and Dr Tony O’Reilly who set up the Ireland Fund back in 1976.
It eventually became the American Ireland Fund launched 26 years ago almost to the day.
Ambassador Rooney was a truly outstanding US representative in our country.
His warmth, his passion, his get up and go all made him a force to be reckoned with.
I want to thank him for all he did Ireland and for all he did to promote US-Irish relations.
I wish him and his family every luck and happiness in the long years ahead.
Ladies and Gentlemen, the American Ireland Fund has provided extraordinary support for Ireland – its communities and causes – above all the cause of peace.
I particularly want to thank the Fund for the hugely important work you do for and in Northern Ireland.
Unfortunately, recent months have seen worrying trends there violent protests over flags increased dissident activity political criticism of the police, judiciary and Parades Commission.
I met with Prime Minister Cameron in London last week.
We discussed the North at some length and we restated our commitment to the values, principles and institutions of the Good Friday and St. Andrews Agreements.
We also agreed that if we are to avoid slipping back towards darker days then the elected leaders must work not just for one or other side but jointly for all of the people together.
I ask you to maintain the support you have always shown to Northern Ireland.
But I also ask you to join me in insisting that the political leaders recommit to working together to respect and fully implement the Agreements for a peaceful and prosperous society for all. The people deserve nothing less.
When we look at all the Ireland Fund has done we see it takes a certain kind of ruthlessness but in your case always of the best and most generous kind.
In tackling our economic problems at home we took a leaf out of your book.
You could say starting with what so many told us was the impossible.
Just two years on our focus and determination are starting to pay dividends.
We kept to our plan and because we did our economy has edged constantly significantly towards our key goals stability, recovery and growth.
Sure we have a way to go before our recovery is complete.
But our vital signs are good and getting better all the time.
The toughest part of the treatment has been applied and it is shown to be working.
And because it is Ireland’s economy is entering its third consecutive year of growth.
We have made significant competitiveness gains with prices and costs falling back to 2003 levels.
Our successful phased return to the bond markets continues apace.
During the second half of last year the number of people working rose over a six-month period for the first time since 2008.
Maybe Ireland could be seen as the Comeback Kid – a determination between government and the people to rebuild our economy and lay the foundations for a better, brighter, more prosperous future.
Exports & FDI
The welcome and current growth we’re seeing is being driven by our export sector where as you know US companies play such a vital role.
We value the contribution they make.
We work hard to guarantee the kind of environment that helps them do more and better business.
And we’re getting it right US companies continue to invest and make us their ‘home’ in Europe.
Last year alone we had Apple, PayPal, EA Games, SAP, Cisco and Eli Lilly.
We’re growing differentiating and future-proofing by making sure to attract companies in ICT, biotech, pharma, nanotech and renewable energy.
In 2012 we had the highest number of net, new jobs in multi-national companies in Ireland, in ten years.
EU-US Trade Agreement
As you all know Ireland is the current President of the European Union.
At a time of acute transition for the EU our Presidency themes are stability, jobs and growth.
A top priority of our EU Presidency is to see the launch of negotiations on a US-EU Free Trade Agreement.
A Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership would spur new opportunities for exports investment and employment boosting economies on both sides of the AtlanticI believe Ireland is well placed to advance this important agenda, and during our Presidency we will do all we can to give this Agreement the fair wind it deserves.
It’s right and fitting that we should because for centuries the United States has been a good and loyal friend to Ireland and the Irish people.
You gave us succour and shelter.
You gave us the chance of a new life in a new world.
We gave you as I always remind you at this time of year the genes that built America.
We gave you men and women with names such as O’Connell and O’Hara and O’Donnell who have brought light and life and love to so many communities from the Atlantic to the Pacific.
And of course then came the O’Bamas who arrived from Moneygall.
In the past the Ireland Fund and America helped that precious and fragile peace ‘that came dropping slow’ over our island lives.
Right now America is out to help us again.
The Administration and Members of Congress on both sides of the aisle are working to help the Irish who find themselves here in the United States as undocumented migrants.
We thank you all of you for your human kindness and your political efforts in this regard.
I look forward to a successful outcome on this so very significant issue.
As I have mentioned to many of you before, Ireland is hosting ‘The Gathering’ this year and I look forward to welcoming many of you ‘home’.
The Gathering is a year-long celebration of the best of who and what we are our culture our history our music our food our dance our theatre.
Communities the length and breadth of Ireland are rolling out the red or should I say green carpet for all of you.
So whether you’re Irish by birth or by marriage or simply by desire.
We your Irish family are looking forward to welcoming you ‘home’.
I believe ‘family’ is the best word to sum up how we feel about one woman here tonight.
Over the years through her generosity her insight her love of Ireland and all things Irish she has become as we say ‘one of our own’.
In fact in so many ways she is our one and only.
Loretta Brennan Glucksman we just don’t have the words to thank you for all you have done for Ireland for all you have been to us and all you have meant to us for so many years.
You are stepping back but only slightly.
And I look forward to your counsel and your kindness in the long years ahead.
I want to wish your successor John Fitzpatrick every success.
I assure him of our full support all our encouragement as he steps up to turn the page and begin what will be a bold and bright new chapter in the great story of the America Ireland Fund.
Kieran your leadership and creativity are gifts for which we are continuously grateful especially at what is for us Irish a blessed and sacred time of year.
I would like to thank you, Susan O’Neill and her team here in DC not alone for your great friendship but for the fabulous efficiency you apply to all the work you do for the Fund and for Ireland.
I would also like to join in honouring Senators Gillibrand and Toomey.
The sons and daughters of Ireland have indeed done some service for the United States through its Congress.
Tonight is a night we honour that service and indeed the service of the Ireland Fund and all they have done and do for Ireland.
But above all it is a night to celebrate.
The Irish are and have always been a people of the light.
Our national day St Patrick’s Day comes when the earth turns and turns again towards the light at the Spring Equinox.
I wish all of you and all your people the best and the brightest of our shared Irish heritage
Beannachtaí Lá Fhéile Phádraig daoibh go léir – Happy St Patrick’s Day to you all!