Irish ambassador visits SDG
BY STEVEN WARBURTON
News Staff The organizing committee that brought Irish Ambassador Jim Kelly into SDG last Friday could not have picked a more appropriate day than Sept. 21.
For one thing, it fell on the oneyear anniversary of the Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement ( CETA) between Canada and the European Union. For another, it rained heavily that day, which must have reminded Mr. Kelly of his native Ireland.
Mr. Kelly didn’t mention the rain in his speech to a crowd of about 200 at the Cornwall Golf
and Country Club on Friday morning, but he did talk about CETA and Canada’s long relationship with the Irish.
The ambassador spoke briefly about the current NAFTA negotiations, mentioning how Canada currently ships 75 per cent of its exports to the United States and how that could be jeopardized by American tariffs. Then he mentioned CETA as a solution.
“Canada is looking at other trading partners,” he said, adding that Brexit is also prompting European countries, like Ireland, to seek trade partners too.
Indeed, he says that Canada is
already embracing the Emerald Isle and that there has been an increase in the number of flights back and forth between the two countries.
He says that Ireland’s largely anglophone population and its knowledge-based culture has made it an ideal spot for Canadian companies looking to open offices in Europe.
Mr. Kelly also spoke passionately about the Celtic culture he saw that day in SDG. He spoke about the Irish Potato Famine, which killed a million Irish residents in the 1840s and caused another million to leave as refugees.
“Ireland was the world’s
refugee crisis of the mid-19th century,” he said. “The Canadians were generous in helping people who had a disease that couldn’t be cured.”
Mr. Kelly further noted that the Mohawk people were among the first to step forward and offer help to the refugees.
Earlier that day, Mr. Kelly, along with an entourage of local politicians and community members, visited the Cornwall monument that pays tribute to the about 250 Irish who died here as a result of the famine. It was an experience he described as “very moving.”
The ambassador’s visit was made possible, in part, through the hard work of an informal group of local business people and farmers whose mandate is to do a better job of marketing the region.
Group member Eleanor McGrath says she got the idea in June while attending a meeting at St. Lawrence College, where she learned that the institution has links to five universities in Ireland.
“We knew the Irish ambassador from other functions,” she says. “That day, I connected the ambassador with Deb Stada, the college’s dean.“
She says that from there, the trip blossomed and the group made that the area's connection to Ireland could be promoted and explored. She was delighted that the ambassador dedicated an entire day to his visit.
AMBASSADOR VISIT: Irish Ambassador Jim Kelly speaks to a crowd at the Cornwall Golf and Country Club on Friday morning. Shown in the background are United Counties of SDG Warden Ian McLeod and Stormont-Dundas-South Glengarry MP Guy Lauzon.