The rise of the Irish Diaspora in Britain was in full view last night in London at the swish Park Lane Hilton when the Irish Post awards were handed out before 750 community leaders.

Three years ago the Irish Post, the revered newspaper of the Irish in Britain was bankrupt, no longer publishing, and seemingly bound for the sad place where newspapers go to die.

Then a dynamic young businessman Elgin Loane, already a successful publisher, took it over and the newspaper has come roaring back.

In an era of fading newspapers it was no easy task. In addition, the years of The Troubles meant that it was always far more difficult to be Irish in Britain than in America.

That has all changed now and the level of accomplishment in the room would match the most prestigious events in the US.

It is wonderful to see and witness a new generation, many born in Britain, who made last night another first, the largest Irish event in years.

The leaders were celebrating a heritage that was never as easy to acknowledge as being Irish in America but in some ways more valuable as a result.

Hollywood star Jonathan Rhys Meyers and dancing legend Michael Flatley were along to help with the celebrations and both men gave wonderful testaments to the importance of their heritage.

Rhys Myers gave an impassioned speech about the importance of being Irish in Hollywood and his love affair with Irish American director John Ford, truly one of the legends.

The Cork-born Golden Globe winning actor admitted to many down episodes in his life but stated his ability to rise again was purely down to his Irish pluck and drive.

The six honorees on the night included football (OK - soccer) legend Liam Brady, one of the greatest Irish players of all time, Sean Mulryan, Chairman of the largest Irish construction company in Britain, fashion designer Louise Kennedy, who has dressed queens and presidents, Michael Ford, the community award winner who created an amazing Irish center in Manchester, and technology award winner Sir David McMurtry an Irish-born inventor.

I was delighted to get the opportunity to talk about the importance of Irish heritage to the Irish worldwide. I talked about the Irish who fled to Britain during the Great Hunger and the pain and hardship they endured.

Hushed crowd whilst Mr Niall O'Dowd speaks at @theirishpost awards! @NiallODowd @irishamerica @IrishCentral

— The Irish Post (@theirishpost) October 23, 2014
I talked about how they and the following generations of Irish nurses, nannies, navvies, teachers, etc. helped build the opportunity for each successive generation, always keeping the community spirit alive through some very tough times.

I said the Irish Post was their flagship back then and it is their flagship now as the Irish forge ahead.

I talked about the extraordinary meeting between the Irish President Michael D Higgins and Queen Elizabeth in April of this year during the first state visit to Britain by an Irish president – two equal heads of state greeting each other.

It was powerful symbolism after years of each ignoring the other and it sent a powerful message around the world. The Irish Post is now leading the next generation of Ireland into a much more promising future.