President Higgins praises GAA immigrant link

Sunday 11 May 2014 22.10
Michael D Higgins was speaking at Gaelic Park in Oak Forest
Michael D Higgins was speaking at Gaelic Park in Oak Forest

President Michael D Higgins has praised the importance of the GAA to Irish immigrants, saying it offered a form of shelter to those in difficulty.

Speaking on the third day of his trip to the mid-western United States, Mr Higgins also said the GAA in America was one of the most obvious places to provide a great connection to home for Irish immigrants.

Speaking on the third day of his trip to the mid-western US, Mr Higgins also said that the US offered great opportunities to Irish people to put their skills into practice.

On a visit to Gaelic Park in Oak Forest, on the outskirts of Chicago, Mr Higgins said that the GAA in America was one of the most obvious places to provide a great connection to home for Irish immigrants.

He said for those newly arrived immigrants in Chicago it was important to be able to make contact, especially with something that was already familiar to you, like the GAA.

The President said with the GAA abroad, barriers were broken down and it offered a great assurance, but also was a form of shelter for people in difficulties, and also the Gaelic Games themselves.

The GAA was a global organisation that expanded out from the parish and reached out in a global sense, he said.

While it was useful to make contacts with relatives and family abroad, the network more recently was spanning out around sport, and that the GAA was right at the heart of that, Mr Higgins commented.

He acknowledged that the Irish arriving in the US did "feel a wrench and a sense of loss at having to leave their family, their parish and their locality".

But he said there was not just one kind of Irish immigrant, and that people now were very highly qualified, with high skills and they were getting opportunities to put those skills into practice in the US.

Mr Higgins also said that the flow of work was two-way between Ireland and the US.

He said companies based in the US employed about 110,000 people in Ireland, and Irish companies headquartered in the US , employed about 60,000 Americans.

He said there was a shared connection between the two countries about sharing the challenge of creating employment and improving the economy.

He said that Irish immigrants and second and third generation Irish Americans faced the same problems in the US, as people the world over did, in relation to unemployment, access to education and healthcare.

The President said that he wanted to state very clearly that the Diaspora was not "just a concept" but that it was "a network helping Irish people in several different circumstances", not only with their immediate needs but also in "mapping out futures that we can share together".

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