A chairde, every year Irish people and friends of Ireland come together on St Patrick’s Day to celebrate our culture and the common love that we share for our small Atlantic island home. The day is usually marked by parades in major cities around the world, by parties and gatherings big and small and offers a day of respite for many people who are fasting for Lent!
St Patrick’s Day 2021 marks the second year in a row that these celebrations have been curtailed, as we all continue the collective fight against Covid-19. The Embassy, in collaboration with partners in Romania and Ireland, has prepared an exciting programme of online events over the next few days. Those of you who are in Bucharest can see the National Bank of Romania illuminated green until 22:00 this evening as part of the global “Greening” campaign. I am hosting an online reception for all friends of Ireland at 18:30 on tonight, and I wish to extend a warm welcome for you all to join us in marking Ireland’s National Day. The celebrated author Cecelia Ahern will be taking part in a Zoom event in collaboration with Cărturești on the evening of 18th March, as part of their Festival of Irish Literature. Please do check out our Facebook page for further information on how to join these events.
One of the greatest challenges of the past year has been the change to work practices, with organisations moving to remote working and entire industries having to adapt to delivering services at a distance. For our team at the Embassy, we have had to adapt our work practices to ensure the continued safety of our staff, and to allow us to continue delivering a high quality service to Irish citizens in Romania. Much of the meeting and networking that is usually central to our work now takes place online, aided by Romania’s impressive internet infrastructure. Despite all the challenges, we are delighted that the bilateral relationship between Ireland and Romania continues to grow, with over €500 million worth of trade between our two countries in 2020. The Romania Ireland Business Association (RIBA) continues to thrive, and is hosting a series of “Business Shaper” events online to facilitate networking between Irish business that operate in Romania.
The past year has also highlighted to people in Ireland and all around Europe just how interconnected we are in our common European future. The response to the pandemic has seen extensive European cooperation in repatriating citizens stranded abroad, in sourcing essential goods such as PPE and vaccines and in providing support and guidance on how to combat the virus through the European Centre for Disease Control. The end of the Brexit transition period has also offered Irish people a chance to reflect on the solidarity and support shown by our European neighbours to us as we work to develop a new relationship with the United Kingdom that protects our common interests as well as the hard-won peace on the island of Ireland.
Whilst the pandemic has involved switching to remote working for most, many people have had to continue working as normal, to ensure that our economy keeps functioning and that essential services are delivered. We are all indebted to the retail and transport workers and medical staff who have kept essential goods on shelves and done their best to care for those afflicted by the pandemic. The Romanian diaspora in Ireland continues to play an essential role in our healthcare sector, and in keeping essential goods moving between Ireland and the rest of Europe. We owe them our thanks for their resilience and hard work.
All that remains is for me to wish you all safe and Happy St Patrick’s Day wherever you may be.