New Irish Consul, Noel Kilkenny, is off to busy start
“It was just great to be here seeing all this progress happen. New York and Washington had a very significant role in developing the Good Friday Agreement and it was wonderful to be part of that,” he said.
Also during his tenure in Washington, Kilkenny witnessed the surge of young Irish people coming to the U.S. to escape the poor economy at the time in Ireland.
“I was here to see so many young people get good news from the Morrison visa program, and that was another exciting time in my career,” he said.
“The feel good factor with the Morrison visas was fantastic. Just meeting young people who were below the radar -- as it is now too -- who benefited from the visa was wonderful.”
Kilkenny was quick to make note that he “will work closely with Washington and the Irish Embassy there” to do what he can “to find a solution” for the Irish undocumented currently in limbo in the U.S.
“I know what it’s like. They came here when they were younger, but now their parents are getting elderly and they can’t go back home to see them,” he said, adding he can “only imagine” the hardship they face in that situation.
“While posted in Washington I lost both my parents but I had the freedom to visit them. Not to be able to do that would have been awful,” said Kilkenny. “The situation really breaks my heart."
Although his feet have only just touched the ground in New York, Kilkenny said he already gets “the feeling that New York is going to be a very special post.”
Said Kilkenny, “I’ve heard from my predecessors that New York was a great place, and I can safely say I’m already realizing that.”
Kilkenny, father to two grown children, is ready to hit the ground running.
“The first thing I plan to do is to serve our Irish community,” outlines Kilkenny. “We celebrate 80 years of serving the community in New York this week, and I plan to continue to build on that service.”
Kilkenny also plans to ensure the government support for programs throughout the U.S., and “particularly the programs that support the welfare of the Irish immigrants” through continued funding from the Irish government.
“Liaising with the young Irish networks out there is also an integral part of my job. I will support them in their efforts,” he said.
Kilkenny also sees the need to highlight the presence of Irish culture in New York. In the past few weeks he has attended various Irish plays and festivals and has thoroughly enjoyed them all.
“There is great work being done in the arts in New York in all aspects, and of course being from
Clare music is very close to my heart, so I’m looking forward to feeding into the image of Ireland as a place of culture and vibrancy through the arts,” he said.
Touching on the arts again, Kilkenny said the meeting of the Global Irish Network -- born out of the Irish government hosted meeting at Farmleigh in Dublin last year -- in New York this November will be an exciting time for the consulate.
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