Speech by Prime Minister Julia Gillard to the Lansdowne Club’s St Patrick’s Day lunch, held in Sydney, on March 17, 2011.
“My Lord Bishop, Reverend Fathers, Irish Consul-General Caitríona Ingoldsby and Deputy Head of Mission Orla Tunney, Tony Burke, Minister for Sustainability and Environment, Senator Michael Forshaw is here with Jan and Senator Ursula Stephens is here with Bob, and I know Johnno Johnson is here — Johnno is an icon.
Federal, state and local government colleagues, and my fellow speakers today — Kristina Keneally, Premier of New South Wales, you’re a lucky woman, married into Irish-Australian nobility, and there’s some Kenneallys here today. They stick, I reckon.
Tony Abbott, Leader of the Opposition — It’s great to see a bloke who loves his job, isn’t it? I’ll do my best to keep him in it for as long as I can.
I’m glad Tony is here today because I know there was a last-minute flurry when he checked his diary this morning and discovered that this is a green event celebrating a saint, but once he worked out that the saint was named Patrick, not Bob, it was all okay.
Barry O’Farrell, also Leader of the Opposition — I hope you have more fun today than you do Saturday week.
And a special welcome to Frances Fitzgerald, Irish Minister for Education — welcome to Australia! And congratulations on your election. We know the Irish people and economy have done it really tough in the last years and we look forward to the fresh start your Government is going to offer your people.
I’m very pleased to be here for the Lansdowne Club St Patrick’s Day luncheon, especially on your 25th anniversary.
Congratulations Peter Brennan, the Board of Directors and all of the members on that wonderful milestone.
St Patrick’s Day is a great day for the Irish in Australia.
The new exhibition titled Not Just Ned that opens today in Canberra at the National Museum of Australia shows the far-reaching influence of the Irish well beyond the Kelly Gang. The Museum worked with national and international partners to secure the loan of many significant objects for this display.
I’d like to acknowledge the role of the Embassy of Ireland for their efforts in seeing this project become a reality, and to the Lansdowne Club for your support.Congratulations to all who played a part in bringing us this great tribute to Irish-Australian history.
We can’t talk about the Irish influence without knowing who they are.
Who are they? English schoolchildren grew up with Arthur Mee’s famous children’s encyclopaedia in the 1950s.
Mee’s answer — and I am not making this up, this is a genuine school textbook quote — is that there are three Irish “types”.
“There is a very primitive type still to be met with in the West … the one formerly used in Irish caricatures by unfriendly observers. The forehead is low, the mouth and lower part of the face are large, there is an inclination to a squat figure, and the general effect is that of a survivor form an early period in human history.”
Now Barry, I just want to say, I think that is deeply unfair.
But Mee goes on:
“There is the businessman, chiefly from the north, who carries in his speech and form and features signs of being of a stiffer and less pliant breed, as from Norse, Scottish, or English forefathers.”
Any Ulstermen here? Does that sound right?
And the third type:
“Then there is the tall, often blue-eyed, engaging Irishman of easy address and good humoured air, who would wile a bird from a bough by his fluent tongue, ready for adventure anywhere.”
The amazing thing — Arthur Mee had never met Tony Burke.
I believe the real legacy of the Irish in Australia is the example: A fair go through education, hard work and respect.
I love the story of the Irish labourer looking for work on a building site. First day in Australia, the foreman, very sceptical, says:
“Mick, you don’t look like you know a girder from a joist.”
Mick, very offended, replies:
I most certainly do know my Goethe from my Joyce. Goethe wrote Faust and Joyce wrote Finnegan’s Wake!
That to me is the true example of the Irish in Australia: An educated people who knew how to work.
The Irish landed just a few miles east of here. They landed in chains. Yes, they brought a song and a smile and a tear, and “drinking, praying, fecklessness” — all that malarkey.
But we know you a bit better than that. We know what really happened. Our Irish worked. And they taught their kids. And I don’t see too many chains in the room today.
People have made the point before me – these kinds of Irish people and these kinds of Irish values were how Irish emigration created a kind of Irish empire. Not like the empire that the Romans or the British built, but an empire nevertheless – an empire of song and story; an empire of education.
The Roman Empire’s strongholds were its legions. The British Empire’s strongholds were its ships. The Irish Empire’s strongholds are its schools, the thousands of them in Australia today; St Mary’s, St Joseph’s, St Edmund’s, St Pat’s – the strongholds of the Irish empire.
It has been said, somewhat unfairly, that the Irish are the Celts who could swim.
My parents obviously were not swimmers, remaining in Wales until 1966 — and even then making the journey on a boat.
But as a Welsh migrant, I do feel the need to leave you with one rather significant observation about St Patrick; he might have converted the Irish to Christianity; he might be the patron of half our Catholic schools; his feast day might be the day all Irish celebrate their roots; but the historical record is unambiguous – St Patrick was Welsh. We remember the great influence on Australia that the Paddys have had, butlet’s not forget it took a Taffy to get the ball rolling!
So today, we join to acknowledge that great Celtic saint, Patrick.
So, congratulations to the Lansdowne Club on your 25th anniversary. Thank you for your all you do for the Irish Australian business community, and thank you for the invitation to join you on this great Irish day.
An Irishman will cry at his brother’s wedding and sing at his brother’s funeral. No wonder he’ll laugh at a Prime Minister’s jokes.
No matter how many hours of lunch you still have to go, have a happy St. Pat’s Day.”
Read Federal Opposition leader Tony Abbott’s speech to the Lansdowne club HERE.