OZ tales - PM reflects on the luck of the Irish

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PM reflects on the luck of the Irish

The Prime Minister of Ireland, Mr Bertie Ahern, stood in a hotel room above Sydney Harbour yesterday, while the Premier, Mr Carr, explained what had happened below in 1788 and how the Irish had been involved.

The Irish had been part of Australia ever since, Mr Carr said. They had fought at Gallipoli, where the mixture of heroism and gentle self-mockery was both Anzac and Irish. Six Australian Prime Ministers, between 1929 and 1949, were of Irish descent and Irish politicians in NSW were too numerous to mention.

Perhaps Mr Carr could provide a list of Australian political leaders who were not Irish, Mr Ahern joked.

He will meet one such person, the Prime Minister, Mr Howard, in Canberra today, while keeping one eye on the troubled peace process in Northern Ireland and the other on Australian hospitality.

The peace process was undergoing a difficult period, he said yesterday, quoting from W.B.Yeats's The Lake Isle of Innisfree: "And I shall have some peace there, for peace comes dropping slow."

He was not surprised Northern Ireland secretary Peter Mandelson had rejected his call for a troop reduction in the north, but Mr Ahern was concerned young Irish people would "swing back to the militant road" if harassed by the British presence.

Mr Ahern was keener to talk about the Irish economy - growing at about 8.5 per cent this year, with unemployment down to 4 per cent - and of those Irish links with Australia.

Twenty thousand Irish graduates were coming to Australia every year on one-year visas, not to mention the technology companies, the pubs, the music and the Book of Kells exhibition.

Speaking of pubs, Mr Ahern went to the Mercantile in The Rocks late on Saturday night after an early St Patrick's Day ball, and to The Mean Fiddler at Rouse Hill on Sunday night.

His visits to migrant resource centres at Bankstown and Campsie yesterday morning were prompted by the fact that, for the first time, Ireland is having to deal with inward migration.

Mr Carr told Mr Ahern that an Australian fireworks company would be doing the honours in Dublin on Friday, St Patrick's Day. Mr Ahern said fireworks in Ireland had all sorts of connotations but, if Mr Carr could convince his colleagues that fireworks could help ease Ireland's problems, Mr Ahern would be a happy man.

The Prime Minister left the lunch to lay a wreath at the monument to the Great Irish Famine at Hyde Park Barracks, through which most of the 4,114 young Irish orphan girls who came to Australia during the famine had passed.


From convicts, 'The hungry Forties', and post WW2 migration, the Irish came to OZ to make a better life for themselves than the one left behind in the fog. Once here these dapper jokers made the humour of Australia what it is today, along with the humour of another 160 odd ethnic groupings.

Contrary to popular notion there are no leprechauns Down Under. They all migrated to America and became members of Congress.

Regards from the fairy fields of OZ

-- Pieter (zaadz@icisp.net.au), March 13, 2000

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