|Prime Minister Enda Kenny|
The Grand Hall at the former Kilmainham hospital in Dublin is a relic of British times, a beautiful piece of architecture that conjures up colonial Dublin from centuries ago.
The lords and ladies who graced the dance floor of long ago must have turned in their eternal sleep last night as Irish from all over the world gathered to hear President Michael D. Higgins and Prime Minister Enda Kenny address the Global Irish Forum over dinner. James Galway added a music interlude after dinner that was the melody of angels.
Kenny outlined the Irish abroad role as similar to the “meitheal” the old coming together of farmers and farmers’ sons to help a local farmer who was in need in rural Ireland.
The expatriate Irish were again answering Ireland’s call, Kenny told the assembled crowd, from Seattle to Singapore to Sydney they had showed up and Argentina and Vancouver and Turkey too.
Practically every minister in the government, including foreign minister and Deputy Leader Eamon Gilmore, showed too, a sure sign of how seriously the government was taking the foreign friendly invasion.
Ministers sat hosting each table. The dinner was four and half hours long -- only in Ireland murmured one Irish American, but no one was leaving.
President Higgins was no less eloquent, welcoming the global family back home and saying wherever they were from in the world there was a great welcome for them.
Earlier in the day the meitheal had split into various working groups discussing issues such as tourism, youth unemployment, investment, small business and much else. Ireland is in trouble still, paying off massive debts but the arrogance of old is gone and a deep connection to their expatriate tribe is now evident.
From the initial Gathering sprang the first seeds of the actual gathering in 2011. That has proven a tremendous boon for the tourism industry and the small businesses that thrive on it.
Also, from the last forum, came the Connect Ireland initiative which pays individuals to seek out and direct potential investors to Ireland. At the conference it was announced that 83 further jobs had been added to the hundreds already created.
What will be the big idea to emerge from this Forum? No one knows yet and the final day sessions will reveal many potential initiatives that could into great acorns grow.
Friday was a good day for the Irish abroad, paid the utmost acknowledgment by the state so many feel such deep connections to. Only good things can happen as a result.