Australian politicians in Ireland

President of Ireland pays tribute to Bob Hawke

The late Bob Hawke pictured recently with current labor leader Bill Shorten.

The late Bob Hawke pictured recently with current labor leader Bill Shorten.

President of Ireland Michael D Higgins has added his tribute to the late Bob Hawke, who died on Thursday.

"I have learned with sadness of the death of Bob Hawke, Australia’s 23rd Prime Minister, former leader of the Labor party and trade union leader,” the president said in a statement.

”Bob Hawke inspired great enthusiasm and faith among Australians of all generations in the power of politics to make meaningful changes in society, to the benefit of those often excluded. His emphasis on consensus-driven change and social partnership arrangements left an important legacy.

“He will also be remembered for the international leadership he gave, as trade union leader, in his opposition to the Apartheid regime in South Africa. On behalf of the people of Ireland, may I express condolences to the people of Australia and in particular to his family, friends and colleagues.”

Ireland’s ambassador to Australia Breandán Ó Caollaí with Bob Hawke.

Ireland’s ambassador to Australia Breandán Ó Caollaí with Bob Hawke.

Mr Hawke, who was 89, was Australia's longest-serving Labor Party prime minister.

In a tweet, Ireland’s Ambassador to Australia Breandán Ó Caollaí described Mr Hawke as a “great friend of Ireland”.

In October 1987, Mr Hawke became the third Australian Prime Minister to visit Ireland after Bob Menzies and Gough Whitlam.

But he became the first Australian Prime Minister, and only the third foreign political leader after John F Kennedy and Ronald Reagan, to address a joint sitting of the Oireachtas.

In that speech, he described Ireland as “the head of a huge empire in which Australia
 and the United States are the principal provinces”.

“It is an
 empire,” he said, “acquired not by force of Irish arms but by force of
 Irish character, an empire not of political coercion but of
 spiritual affiliation, created by the thousands upon thousands
 of Irish men and women who chose to leave these shores or
 who were banished from them, to help in the building of new
 societies over the years.
“

“It is true that more of your fellow-countrymen and forefathers
 became American than Australian. But it is true, too,
 that the Irish form a greater proportion of the Australian
 population than of the American. Indeed, almost one-third
 of Australia's population proudly claim Irish ancestry.


Bob Hawke (right) during his visit to Ireland in 1987. Also pictured is Jacqueline O’Brien, Taoiseach Charlie Haughey, horse trainer Vincent O’Brien and Maureen Haughey.

Bob Hawke (right) during his visit to Ireland in 1987. Also pictured is Jacqueline O’Brien, Taoiseach Charlie Haughey, horse trainer Vincent O’Brien and Maureen Haughey.

He also paid tribute to the “seminal role” of the Irish in the establishment of the trade union movement and the Labor Party itself.

“A number of my predecessors as Labor Prime Minister including 
the incomparable John Curtin and Joseph Benedict
 Chifley were of Irish extraction. In the way Curtin devoted
 himself to the task of leading Australia through the Second
 World War, the Irish attributes of dedicated and selfless
 commitment, determination, character and courage shine
 through.

“It is equally easy to see an Irish-derived compassion
 and vision in his successor Chifley's sweeping reconstruction
 of the Australian economy to equip it for the challenges of
 peacetime.

“Among today's generation of Labour leaders, the Irish
 tradition is still strong and if you looked at a list of my
 Ministers you would see enough names like Bowen, Keating,
 Hayden, Kerin, Walsh, Young, Ryan, Duffy and Kelly to
 satisfy even the most nationalistic among you. indeed, half of my Ministry claims Irish origin so now you may understand 
even more clearly why I feel at home [here].


“Australia is very much the richer for having been able to
 draw on the generous influx of Irish aspirations, Irish traditions,
 and Irish spirit. We would not be the country we are
 today were it not for you.”