President Michael D Higgins pays tribute to Argentina’s Irish diaspora
He notes that 500,000 Argentines are of direct Irish descent
By: DARA KELLY | Published Monday, October 15, 2012, 7:08 AM | Updated Monday, October 15, 2012, 9:10 AM
In his address at a reception in Buenos Aires for Argentina’s 500,000-strong Irish community on Saturday, Irish President Michael D Higgins focused on the contributions the Irish had made in creating modern Argentina.
The community has the longest continuously published Irish newspaper outside Ireland, the Southern Cross, first published in 1875.
Higgins praised the bonds between Ireland and Argentina, joking that “bonds in not a word used lightly any more in Ireland.” He also received warm applause for the parts of his speech delivered in Spanish to the largely bilingual audience.
Higgins delivered a speech earlier in the National Academy of Medicine on Ireland’s relationship with the country who received an estimated 50,000 Irish emigrants in the second half of the 19th century.
He also attended a ceremony in Buenos Aires’ Plaza Irlanda in honor of William Brown, the man from Mayo who founded the Argentine navy.
While the Irish community sustained its identity in Argentina by marrying other Irish, after five generations the diaspora is well integrated into Argentinian society, said Lyda O’Farrell, who attended the reception.
“My grandmother asked me why I was marrying a heathen when I told her I was engaged to an Argentinian,” remembers Mrs O’Farrell, whose family originally came from Wexford and Limerick.
“The community is fading away,” says Juan Clancy, whose great-grandfather arrived in 1844 from Wexford. “The president’s visit gets us together, but the modern way of life is diluting the old communities here in Argentina. It is not just happening to us but the German and British communities as well.”