By HE John Morahan, Ambassador of Ireland
The traditional greeting for St Patrick’s Day in the Irish language is Beannachtaí na Féile Pádraig oraibh, which translated literally means “The Blessings of Patrick’s Festival on you”.
Of late, developments in Ireland have diminished our international reputation. With the largely negative international commentary on Ireland, therefore, you may wonder if an Irish blessing is appropriate for St. Patrick’s Day in 2011. While the past 12 months have been particularly painful for our citizens, I believe that Ireland still has a lot to count its blessings for both at home and abroad.
In the prevailing international doom and gloom, important stories, such as the growing success of Irish companies in worldwide markets, are going untold or ignored both in domestic and international discourse on Ireland. We have a strongly positive story to tell and it is this: Ireland’s best days lie ahead of us and not behind us. We have built a modern, dynamic economy. We are more experienced than ever and more capable than ever. Irish companies are selling innovative, advanced products and services all over the world.
As an open economy, export success is fundamental to Ireland’s economic recovery. Irish companies have had continuous export growth for the last 20 months and Ireland’s indigenous exports for 2010 were an estimated €13.7 billion.
Ireland remains high in international rankings as a place to do business and has also been hugely successful in attracting foreign direct investment. Our industrial landscape now includes household names such as Intel, Microsoft, Pfizer, Google, Facebook and Ebay, to name a few.
Great progress has also been made in strengthening the Ireland-Romania relationship over the past twelve months. Some of the headlines have included:
The first official bi-lateral meeting of an Irish Minister for Foreign Affairs and his Romania counterpart, Teodor Baconschi, which took place in Bucharest in October;
The performance of Shaun Davey’s suite of 12 songs “Voices from the Merry Cemetery” in Maramures, which was subsequently broadcast on TVR Cultural;
The official visit of the Oireachtas (Irish Parliament) Joint Committee on European Scrutiny to the Romanian Parliament last June;
The high profile celebration of the Romanian National Day in Dublin marked by a performance of Voices from the Merry Cemetery and President McAleese’s official reception for the visiting Sibiu Choir.
Furthermore Irish business engagement in Romania is also strengthening. There continues to be a committed Irish presence in the voluntary and charitable sector. In education, we have the Masters programme in Irish Studies in Cluj-Napoca. As we go about the painful task at home of bringing the financial crisis under control, this Irish entrepreneurship and engagement in Romania is very welcome.
Ireland is a nation with a proud history of meeting challenges, of surviving, of recovering, of growing and of achieving. The things that made Ireland a model for others before still exist: our people, our companies and our innovative products and services.
Following the recent historic general election in Ireland, a new government with a record mandate has begun the process of steering a new course through our economic difficulties. We value the support of our European colleagues, including Romania, in this journey.
I look ahead to the coming 12 months with realism – but also with optimism – and consider the celebrations of St. Patrick’s Day 2011 to be a time to put our best foot forward as a nation. I wish Beannchtaí na Féile Padraig to our Irish community in Romania and also to our Romanian friends of Ireland and our other international friends living here in Romania.