Looking to the future on St. Patrick’s Day

A foundation of 75 years of diplomatic relations apart, Ireland and India can build an even more enduring partnership by tapping young talent

March 16, 2024 12:08 am | Updated 09:12 am IST

‘Protecting and supporting each other, and building enduring partnerships, has become vital’

‘Protecting and supporting each other, and building enduring partnerships, has become vital’ | Photo Credit: Getty Images

St. Patrick’s Day 2024 in India is especially important. This year we celebrate 75 years of diplomatic relations between Ireland and India. We remember the proud history of Ireland’s partnership with India in the struggle we both went through for freedom from colonial oppression. We remember the conversations, exchanges and meetings that took place between our founding fathers and mothers as both countries charted a path towards independence and the creation of proud and modern republics. And, we celebrate the links that have only grown since then, in trade, education and in people-to-people connections.

We realise that, in Ireland, we are fortunate to have a National Day that almost everyone knows. St. Patrick’s Day is an opportunity to celebrate Ireland with the more than 70 million people globally who claim Irish ancestry and the many more who show their fondness for Ireland in any number of ways.

Stand on conflicts

And yet, even the notion of “celebrating” in our world today provokes doubt and hesitation for many people, and for good reason. We have witnessed more than two years of unprovoked Russian brutality in Ukraine. The appalling attack by Hamas on Israel on October 7 last year was stark in its depravity. The killing of tens of thousands of innocent civilians in Gaza in the period since has also been viewed with horror around the world.

Ireland has a clear and principled position on these conflicts. We have demanded accountability, internationally, for Russia’s illegal invasion and we are one of the strongest supporters of Ukraine’s path to European Union membership. We condemned outright Hamas’s terrorist attack in October and we have called at every juncture for all hostages in Gaza to be released unconditionally.

We have also strongly argued, since the early weeks of the conflict, for an upholding of international humanitarian law, a humanitarian ceasefire and for sustained humanitarian assistance to be provided for the over two million desperate civilians in Gaza. Protecting civilians in conflict — all civilians, everywhere — is our highest priority.

Ireland’s own history includes experiences of famine, poverty and forced migration. Even the relative growth and prosperity we have enjoyed since joining the European Union in 1973 co-existed, at least until the 1990s, with conflict very close to home in Northern Ireland. These experiences have, to an obvious degree, shaped how we view the world around us today. And yet, whatever resilience or empathy these experiences can engender within us — even that sense of eventually making our way through the most difficult of times — can be tested for all of us when we read or scroll through news of our world in 2024.

A young talent pool

And so, it should be no surprise that we look to young people. Young people have been to the fore in opening our eyes to the climate emergency and to the innovative solutions that can reduce our dependence on fossil fuels and deliver a clean energy future. Young people globally have demanded respect for international law and for multilateral institutions, and for key actors such as the United Nations Security Council to speak and act coherently in support of a rules-based order, sustainable development and human rights.

Indeed, it was these priorities that Ireland sought to emphasise in our own most recent term on the Council over 2021-22. During our tenure we sat alongside India and we sought to take a strong and principled stance on the burning issues of the day.

Young people are at the heart of what makes Ireland a great place to invest, trade, visit and study too. Ireland is home for all five of the world’s top software companies and 14 of the top 15 medical technology companies globally. Those companies, and very many others, have put down roots in Ireland because of our economic track record, stability, ease of doing business and access to a European Union market of 450 million people. But they are also in Ireland because of our talent pool, with brilliant globally-connected young people from across the European Union, who are a key part of our dynamic workforce. Ireland is a country where enterprise is valued and young entrepreneurs are supported to bring their products and ideas to international markets. And many of those ideas have blossomed in a world-class Irish university system that attracts thousands of students from around the world because of the safe, welcoming and culturally rich environment on offer in Ireland for young people.

Ireland, like every country, faces plenty of domestic and international challenges on an ongoing basis. But we also recognise how fortunate we are to feature in the top 10 countries in the UN’s Human Development Index in recent years and the obligation this places on us as global citizens to be a voice for progress, for peace, for human dignity and for equality for all.

The Indian link

We hope that this is the experience of the almost 10,000 young Indian boys and girls who go to study in Irish universities every year. And we also trust that the over 80,000 Indians who now live in Ireland feel at home in the Emerald Isle. We certainly appreciate the great contribution they are making to Irish society as leaders in IT, health care and a number of key sectors. They breathe lifeblood into the bilateral relationship of today, as much as our Irish and Indian freedom fighters provided the soul of our partnership in the past.

There is an old Irish saying, “Ar scáth a chéile a mhaireannn na Daoine (We live in each other’s shadow”). This will remain true for our young people in the world of the years to come. Protecting and supporting each other, and building enduring partnerships, has never been more vital. It is our focus too this St. Patrick’s Day (March 17).

Kevin Kelly is the Ambassador of Ireland to India

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