Warm Wicklow welcome for Canadian ambassador
THE CANADIAN ambassador to Ireland, Loyola Hearn, paid a visit to Wicklow Town - along with his wife Maureen - last week.
Mr. Hearn was given a tour of the Wicklow Gaol before making his way over to County Buildings where he was introduced to elected officials at the April County Council meeting.
Cathaorileach Jimmy O’Shaughnessy said it was ‘a great honour’ to welcome the ambassador to the County Chamber. The two last met during Canada Come Home back in September - County Wicklow’s flagship Gathering event at Coollattin House near Shillelagh - where Canadians were invited to revisit the site from which their ancestors departed for Canada during land clearances from 1847 to 1856. Their descendents are now among the over four million Canadians of Irish descent.
Mr. Loyola said it was a ‘pleasure’ to be back in Wicklow again, further describing the Wicklow Gaol as ‘ a treasure’ and the type of thing ‘ that tourists want to see.’
He went on to reference his own Irish heritage (his ancestors departed for Canada from Carrick-on-Suir in Tipperary in 1797) as well as his background growing up in Newfoundland, a province where half the population claim Irish ancestry.
Mr. Hearn alluded to the resilience of the initial Irish arrivals contributing to the Candian national character as well as how Canada has welcomed a new wave of Irish emigrants in more recent times and reaffirmed Canada’s commitment to Ireland moving forward.
‘ These young people will come home with skills to help improve the Irish economy,’ he claimed. ‘We [Canada] will do what we can to help push and promote Ireland.’
Mr. Hearn has already been involved in substantial efforts to this end, playing a pivotal role in opening up the first direct flights to and from Ireland and Canada, which he claimed would help tighten links between the two countries and greatly assist Canadian tourists hoping to visit Ireland, labelling the tourism potential for County Wicklow as ‘phenomenal.’
He also praised the EU- Canada Trade Agreement as an ‘immense opportunity’ for building economic bridges between Ireland and Canada and informed the chamber of efforts to make the first transatlantic cable ( laid by Wicklow man Robert Halpin between Valentia Island in Kerry and Newfoundland in 1866) declared a World Heritage Site.
Many of the councillors then took the opportunity to thank the ambassador for his work in office and contribution to Canada Come Home, as well as praising the past and present ties between Canada and Ireland.
‘Ireland and Canada share a fantastic history,’ said Cllr John Brady. ‘It is unfortunate that so many of our young people have had to emigrate, but many of them have gone to Canada and they are treated very well there.’
Cllr Pat Vance recalled his own memories of Canada and the ‘wonderful people there’ while Cllr Tom Fortune praised the ambassador for the ‘massive impression’ he made on everyone at Canada Come Home.
Cllr Pat Fitzgerald affirmed that ‘Canada has been good to Ireland’ down through the years while Cllr Conal Kavanagh insisted that the historic links between the nations were ‘very strong’ while decrying Irish foreign policy over the last few decades for setting its trans-Atlantic on the United States at the expense of cultivating stronger connections with Canada
Mr. Loyola was then presented with a piece of Killarney glass by the Cathaoirleach while his wife Maureen received flowers on behalf of Wicklow County Council.
Lynn Loftus and Cllr. Tom Fortune, Chairman of Wicklow County Tourism, make a presentation to Canadian Ambassador Loyola Hearn and his wife Maureen Hearn during their visit to Wicklow Gaol.