In November 2012, President Michael D Higgins visited the Northwest of England and made a number of speeches, including this address at the University of Manchester, which we are delighted to publish for the first time: President Higgins studied at the university more than 40 years ago and his speech remembers the formative intellectual experiences of his time here, in the city and at the university, before producing a brilliant survey, drawing on the work of a wide range of scholars including Manchester-based Liam Harte,  of emigrant engagements with this industrial city:  his speech at the university challenges writers, as much as academics, to consider changing historical and civic responsibilities as well as acting itself as an example of the value of an education in the humanities.

A dhaoine uaisle, a chairde. Tá an-áthas orm agus ar mo bhean chéile Sabina bheith anseo libh inniú.

Professor Brown, distinguished guests, ladies and gentlemen, thank you for your warm and generous welcome.

It is a special pleasure to be back in the University of Manchester speaking about this great city’s Irish connections. It is a subject that is particularly close to my heart and this University is a wonderful and apt venue in which to discuss this subject. This University has a long and venerable history of academic excellence across a wide variety of fields and has very strong Irish connections; it has attracted thousands of students from Ireland over the years. I wish to express my gratitude for the welcome you have extended to so many Irish students over the years and the welcome you have extended to me today.

The title of my address is Thinking of Manchester and its Irish Connection. I have just spent the last day and half in Liverpool, a city that is sometimes considered the most Irish of British cities. But the Irish connection in Manchester is no less evident than in Liverpool.

And where Liverpool was a gateway for so many Irish people, Manchester tended to be for many the end of the journey, a home. So it was for my own sisters and their families.

My first direct connection with Manchester was when I was about 19. We were as a family in Co. Clare about to begin our scattering. We lived near a railway station – Ballycar – from which beet was transported to the factory and on Saturdays women visited the market in Limerick which generated their egg money. From that station too our parish sent the children of the cottages, the non-inheriting farmers’ sons to work as navvies and their sisters, to train as nurses, if they were lucky, or indeed any job that was offered.

The recruitment strategy of British Rail included a ticket from the nearest railway station in Ireland and accommodation in a hostel near the station in Manchester was provided.

Both of my sisters married in Manchester, one to a railwayman from a multi-generational railway family. He was from Oldham where my sister and her family still live. My other sister married an Irishman from Mayo, all of whose family except one, lived in England. That family lived in Corby Street near Bellvue. When I came as a post graduate student to Manchester University in 1968 I regularly moved between the two worlds of an Irish construction worker’s family in Manchester and the world of a British Anthropologist recently returned from Africa that was turning into a social anthropology of urban life.

My brother-in-law worked on the buildings as a heavy machinery driver when work was available. He also rented a space for a scrap yard where he assembled and disassembled sections of cars and machinery when work was not available.

From Corby Street I travelled every day to Dover Street where the Departments of Sociology, Social Anthropology, Anthropology, and Government too, I think, were crowded into a red brick building built for purposes other than academic seminars in another century.

At the end of the sixties British anthropologists had come home from Africa from such places as the Rhodes Livingstone Institute. They were falling back as it were on studying their own people, particularly in urban settings. This would lead in time to studies of networks among urban dwellers and such publications as Social Networks in Urban Situations from Manchester University Press and thus the Azande, the Xhosa, the Barotse; gave way to the industrial settings and urban communities in the Midlands, as sites for research.

I was interested in urban sociology, above all in migration, and I remained indebted for years later as a university teacher for the literature and research to which the late Professor J. Clyde Mitchell, Valdo Pons, Peter Worsley and others introduced me, both in terms of theoretical models from migration studies in Africa and their own research of the experience of migrants from tribal settings in towns, be it Clyde Mitchell’s Kalela Dance, The Causes of Labour Migration or Valdo Pons’ study Stanleyville, which had Patrice Lumumba as a research student, or his later Contemporary Interpretation of Manchester in the 1830s and 1840s.

With the Anthropology Department under two scholars, Max Gluckman and Emrys Peters, I did not have that much interaction. As to the view of Ireland from Dover Street, Arensberg and Kimball’s Family and Community in Ireland, an extension of the authors’ fieldwork of 1934 in Ireland, published as The Irish Countryman, had just appeared, and was regarded as the major sociological work on Irish rural life.

I do recall being asked after an afternoon seminar, about Arensberg and Kimball’s Family and Community in Ireland by some of the anthropology staff. “Michael some afternoon you must tell us about your own people”. I travelled daily at that time, between my Irish world of the real in Corby Street and the abstract world of the social sciences where I moved among PhD students from abroad who arrived with field material from their own people and would, plaintively at times, say “I have all the material I’m just looking for a theoretical framework”.

Later, and feeling more secure, I moved to Wythenshawe to share a house with two post-graduates, one from Oxford, the other from Cambridge. It was an amicable arrangement, and, of course Wythenshawe was in yet another world from Corby Street. Roy Hattersley’s political career was taking off in the constituency.

My life was further complicated by my having become a Labour Party national executive member in Ireland which involved frequent travel between Manchester and Dublin and I was beginning to experience too the long gamut of left wing activism in Manchester of the late sixties as well.

As to the University life itself – in the Student Union some students had read Althusser – in French – and found it difficult to talk to Labourites or the syndicatist-minded who could not deal adequately with either ‘Hegemony’ or ‘mode of production’. At other times the two Communist Party sections faced off. One group admired Berlinguer’s, Italian Revisionism. The other sold the paper, the Daily Worker and were content to dismiss their intellectually-minded rivals with the derisory inquiry – ‘who do you report to’.

Out in the wider world of public meetings, at a May Day rally Michael Foot was trying to dislodge Harold Wilson and was attacked in Ardwick Green by little old ladies with umbrellas who were ‘all for Harold’.

But there were moments of unity too. Everyone on the Left combined, on one occasion, to go to Salford to protest at Enoch Powell’s appearance as the guest of the Tory Party.

All of this experience of my own as a migrant studying migration at the end of the Sixties in the twentieth century was long after the great tidal wave of Irish arrivals at the end of the 19th Century and before the terrible events that were to come including the Manchester bomb of 1996. The times in which I studied at Manchester University were ones of hope and promise. But in many places dark forces were at work which would define the decades that followed, and threaten all of those possibilities upon which we are now embarked together.

Twenty-five years later I returned as Minister for Arts, Culture and the Gaeltacht to visit the Irish World Heritage Centre where so much was, and is, being done for the Irish and many others and to be part of the celebrations of the centenary of the Manchester Ship Canal. On that occasion I met Roy Keane and Denis Irwin: They brought me to see the changes at Old Trafford.

Over the years I have often come and gone to Manchester for family visits and matters of football. But now, I am back as Uachtarán na hÉireann, President of Ireland, almost twenty years later, and I am invited to make a further reflection on Manchester and its Irish contribution.

As to Manchester and British-Irish relations today. Over 55,000 directors who are Irish sit on the boards of British companies, while many British people serve on Irish companies, and a considerable number on boards of both, while Irish people are present in nearly all of the listed occupations of the census in Britain, and have risen to distinction in all of the professions, I continue to be moved by the contribution of those who, in previous times, in one generation, built the canals, in another the railways, and then the roads, and in my own lifetime, formed such a large proportion of those who built the Channel Tunnel. I speak of the Irish construction workers or as they were proud to be called the Irish navvies.

The Manchester Ship Canal is not a bad place to begin. Ultan Cowley, to whom we all owe so much for his The Men who Built Britain tells us that:

The Irish on the Manchester Ship Canal, as far as the author could ascertain, numbered upwards of five thousand, or just under, one third of the labour force of sixteen thousand men.

This extraordinary project 36 miles long, which would claim lives, is one of the monuments to the Irish navvies.

The canals would be followed by the railways and in time, into the modern period Irish workers would work on the Channel Tunnel. Yes, Ultan Cowley is right – the Irish contribution to building Britain is immense.

It is important to remember that Irish navvies worked on the 4,000 miles of navigable water in the British Isles built between 1745 and 1830, and Irish navvies too were part of the great railway building that began in 1830; and that built 20,000 miles of route line in Britain alone.

That is one powerful dimension of the Irish/British relationship. Ireland the country from which this labour came had been having a population explosion. Between 1735 and 1785 the population of Ireland increased from 3 million to 4 million, and between 1785 and 1841 from 4 million to 8 million, and of course with the Great Famine deaths and emigration fell back to just over six million.

But now, of course, Irish people serve in every profession as one generation follows another in British life.

The connection between Ireland and Britain had been continually defined by different strands of migration related to the changes and demands of the British economy from stable agricultural production, production at war time and the emerging and expanding industrial revolution. It was a time too of restrictions to production in Ireland itself even if it was part of the Union. Then came the Great Famine which would change Ireland forever and, in so far as the response to the famine was defined in large measure by the laissez faire ideology of markets without state interference, the horrific consequences would leave a mark on Irish/British relationships that would take generations to heal; the memory too of which would cross the Atlantic and become part of the ineradicable memory of the Irish in America as to the experience of their people at home.

But as to Manchester itself, – what was it like, this city that personified the Industrial Revolution under way – in those decades prior to the Famine? Much had indeed been written and observed in the decade 1830 – 1840 of this first and greatest of creations – the industrial city of Manchester. Valdo Pons, from whom I took courses at Manchester University on urban sociology and the life of migrants in cities, and indeed who became a friend as well as an external examiner at Galway University much later. He introduced me to the extensive and rich literature on Manchester in the period 1830 to 1840, and its rise to fame as the greatest industrial city, in perhaps the world, in the Nineteenth Century.

In this writing two versions of Manchester collide – one a response to poverty, the other an extraordinary exercise in urban and beneath this collision entered a tidal wave of Irish migrants. Friedrich Engels, J.P. Kay, C.W. Cooke Taylor, and Richard Parkinson wrote of working conditions in Manchester between 1830 and 1840 but from very differing perspectives.

What these writers did share was a concern for the inhabitants of a city crowded with workers in the new industrial environment of the factories.

As to the factory owners themselves – they had sought security and status in landed estates far from the squalor of the habitations of the new and powerful industrial city. The British system of status, class and title was still land-based. As Cooke Taylor put it:

There is no town in the world where the distance between the rich and poor is so great, or the barrier between them so difficult to be crossed …. The separation between the different classes, and the consequent ignorance of each others’ habits and condition, are far more complete in this place than in any country of the older nations of Europe, or the agricultural portions of our own kingdom …. I mention this not as a matter of blame, I state it simply as a fact.

There is not disagreement on the fact of the squalor of mid 19th Century Manchester and if the writers I have mentioned varied, it was in their prescriptions. There is no dispute as to the facts, the poverty, the misery, the diseases that were part of the lives which were given to the new factory system. As to the differing perspectives, Engels saw a great revolutionary change coming, the seeds of which were contained in the factory system. Kay’s work which began from humanitarian interest that came from his training as a doctor would later be distorted and become the flawed source for a serious anti-Irish combination of fever, poverty, crime and absence of character. Cooke Taylor’s work is closer to Engels – seeing as he does in the new industrial society a new phenomenon. He had a greater interest in the surrounding towns than Manchester itself and in his defense of the factory system wrote:

Contrary to general belief experience has shown me that Manchester does not afford a fair specimen of the factory population in any of the conditions of its existence …

He saw what he called “the special evils” which afflicted Manchester as a result of the rapidity of its growth. He had a clear awareness of class differences and saw the potential force of an exploited factory worker class as a threat that was being neglected.

I love the men of Manchester, but I will not flatter them and I tell them that they have done much to alienate from them the affection of the working classes. I would say to them, you have public places of recreation, Zoological and Botanical Gardens, but have you rendered them accessible to the operative? Have you not, on the contrary, availed yourself of the most flimsy excuses to shut every door of recreation against him? Does the working man believe your excuses? Ask him, and he will laugh in your face.

However, this deep analytical literature which identified suffering, poverty and careless expansion of a city was not left unanswered.

Those who held power in Manchester had an early respect for spinning, in the modern sense of image creation and manipulation. Valdo Pons refers to what he calls the work of “The Eulogists” among whom he numbers Robert Lamb, J.P. Culverwell and J.S. Gregson. While praising Manchester they also replied to the critics in stringent language. Pons tells us of Lambe for example:

The most significant difference between Lamb and writers like Kay and Cooke Taylor is that Lamb does not betray any ambivalence towards the city and its problems. Despite expressions of concern, he is unequivocal in his attitude to Manchester. He admires it, and he openly and unambiguously aligns himself with the bourgeoisie and their values.

As to Culverwell, Pons tells us that he was even more brash. He tells us that:

Culverwell emerges as a petty near-fanatic in his concern that Manchester should be allowed to develop unfettered by outside interference. His enthusiasm for the city was euphoric; his philosophy was crudely expressed, but quite clear.

From all of this it is clear that the reception that the Irish received in the decades prior to and surrounding the Great Famine was not simply or solely a reaction generated by their numbers. Perhaps it was exacerbated by their concentration, but the city of Manchester itself was in the throes of a great change and the interpretation of that change had drawn conflicting ideological and popular responses into being. On the one hand those in power were anxious to define a great city that had a ‘destiny’. On the other hand an entirely new form of living had emerged into which workers from the region and from abroad were poured and their conditions of work and habitation had drawn its own literature.

Manchester had, in somewhat earlier times been of course, a significant centre of Irish settlement even before the Famine. In 1836, Peter Ewart, a Manchester cotton manufacturer, told the 1836 government inquiry into the Irish Poor that:

[…] about thirty five years ago there was a great influx of Irish to supply the extraordinary demand which existed at that time for hand-loom weavers; that was the first great immigration of Irish into Manchester. A good many also came about the same time on account of the [1798] rebellion.

Manchester’s early Irish inhabitants found themselves living in poverty. They often crammed into houses with little air and light, concentrated in an area that became known as “Little Ireland,” a slum area in the Ancoats area of Manchester. It consisted of a cluster of about 200 structures in very close proximity to each other that housed about 4000 people (primarily Irish). Factories encircled the area, the sanitation was poor, and the area was dark with poor ventilation. The slum-like conditions that existed in “Little Ireland” rivaled the densely populated Irish communities in Liverpool, London and Glasgow Scotland.

A tax on windows caused many landlords to block up as many openings as possible, making the houses dangerously dark and lacking ventilation. Overcrowding forced many to live in the cellars of houses where the conditions were damp, dangerously dark and lacking sanitation.

A cholera outbreak as early as 1821 in Manchester brought the over-crowded unsanitary conditions to the city officials’ attention, but conditions prevailed for years until the government implemented “sanitary acts” to improve the cities squalid conditions.

These objective conditions of squalor and misery from overcrowded conditions came to be described as aspects of Irishness, of habit and culture. The Manchester Irish were destined to play a key role in the creation of popular attitudes towards the Irish migrant in urban Britain. This was initially due to the work of the local doctor to whom I have already referred, James Philips Kay who in 1832, from his experience in dealing with cholera, produced a pamphlet intended to rouse local and national authorities to the extreme urgency of improving the urban working class, as he predicted social and political revolution otherwise. His seminal tract was the source of later uncritical borrowings that helped to establish early prejudices against the Irish who were regarded as providing a bad example to the local working class on how to spend little on housing, clothing and furniture, save nothing, and spend the rest on alcohol.

The pamphlet was widely read in Britain and particularly used by the stream of British and overseas analysts who were drawn to visit and write about Manchester as the first great manufacturing centre of the industrial revolution. Unfortunately they used tracts from the pamphlet without confirmation, and the Irish were now broadcast more widely as a negative stereotype character of ill repute.

Davis describes how it became accepted orthodoxy not only that the Irish in Britain were always to be found crowded into densely populated, distinctively Irish quarters characterised by poverty, low skilled employment, poor housing, crime and drunkenness, but that these features were a direct result of their own inherent inadequacy and fecklessness.

Unfortunately this stereotypical image was taken as fact and presented major difficulties to new Irish immigrants. It was already a difficult process for the mainly rural Irish to adjust to urban living without the extra burden of hostile local reactions.

By 1841, a tenth of the city’s population was Irish and many lived in the district known as “Little Ireland”. This area of the city was so overcrowded that the sudden Irish influx during the Potato Famine could not be accommodated and had to turn to other English cities, notably Liverpool and Birmingham.

Friedrich Engels in 1845 having viewed the various living conditions of the different communities, described Irish Town as “the most disgusting spot of all!” Like Kay he attributed much of the blame for this on the native character of the Irish:

[…] these folks have grown up in a virtually uncivilized condition. They are uncouth, improvident and addicted to drink.

Engels claimed the Irish could only do unskilled work and were introducing brutal behaviour into sections of British society who themselves were not noted for civilized habits or moral principles.

The consistent repetition of these anti-Irish opinions were to establish a stereotype that suggested that the Irish had only themselves to blame for their high levels of poverty, lack of skills, poor housing conditions and crime; and that it was their habits that led them to live in a squalor which lowered wages and corrupted the behaviour and health of native workers.

As the historian Roger Swift has commented, in a situation of dire overcrowding, inadequate sanitation, unhealthy diet, disease, squalor and casual violence

the Irish became an easy target and the poor Irish, who were the only visible Irish, became convenient scapegoats for environmental deterioration.

An 1848 example is a letter from James Harvey of Liverpool to the National Public School Association in which he said:

Education can do the very poor no good. It would be ‘a kind of refined cruelty’ to educate them ‘and then expose them to the contact of ignorant neighbours and especially the inroads of the savage, dirty, demoralised idle Irish, who flood Manchester and Liverpool with dirt, faction, superstition, typhus fever and beggary’.

By 1851, over 13% of Manchester’s population was Irish-born (52,504) – the second highest population density of Irish people in England after Liverpool. Twenty years later numbers had fallen to 34,066 (9%).

In the late 19th Century, over 80% of Irish emigrants went to the United States. From the mid-1930s, however, England became the main destination for Irish emigrants and by the 1950s over 80% of Irish emigrants headed for mainland Britain.

We have, I repeat, many Irish migrant streams and it would be a great mistake however to accept that there is any single Irish migratory experience, even to Britain. Nor is there indeed a single dominating version of the experience of being Irish in Britain as the very fine study The Literature of the Irish in Britain by Professor Liam Harte clearly indicates. What I learned from my experience at Manchester University was the importance of recognizing circular migration as the neglected part of migration theory. With that neglect the powerful evidence of transience, the defining element of migration, was lost through the application of models that were sedentary in their assumptions. Models such as simplified push-pull thesis needed to be modified by drawing distinctions which I learned in Manchester, distinctions between the causes and incidence of migration for different groups and peoples.

It was my own experience of studying migration theory at Manchester University at the end of the Sixties, under Prof. J. Clyde Mitchell, Valdo Pons and others that led me to see the importance of circular migration. Later I would teach some of the first sociology of migration classes in Ireland at UCG using qualitative as well as quantitative materials.

I have long thought that the migrant is better represented in literature than the over-determined models of the social sciences. Be it Patrick McGill, Donal MacAmhlaigh, or later, Tom Murphy and Edna O’Brien, they captured the flux of the migratory experience, caught between two worlds but belonging fully to neither.

The literature of the Irish in Britain does not reflect any single migratory experience of Irishness in Britain. This reality is captured superbly by Dr Liam Harte in his book, The Literature of the Irish in Britain 1725-2001 which is clearly aimed at demolishing, through the witness of literature, the myth of a homogeneous Irish migratory experience throughout England, Scotland and Wales.

Dr Harte describes this literary output in terms of its significance and its limitations:

The best are powerful acts of imagination in their own terms, meditations on how journeys ‘across the water’ breed strange and unexpected dichotomies, produce new patterns of seeing, living and remembering, prompt different stories about who we are and where we belong… In offering us intimate glimpses of interior worlds, these variegated acts of self-portraiture help us to understand better the role that migrant imagination and its witness have played in shaping those fluid, contrapuntal concepts – home, place, belonging – that are themselves cognates of that most labile and vexing of abstractions: Irishness.

He also sees much of the material as

[…] a form of resistance writing through which culturally disempowered and displaced subjects seek to become known autobiographical agents taking charge of their own representation – a case of the written-off attempting to write themselves back into social and cultural history, if you will.

This anthology by Dr. Harte put one in mind, in its respect for qualitative material, of the seminal work of James C. Scott, in such books as Domination and Arts of Resistance. Linked to this struggle of the migrant in a new and strange place is a sense of invisibility. Because so much of our migrant experience was invisible – and the voice of the migrant was rarely captured – we could easily overlook it and its richness and complexity can often be lost to us.

Even before my time in Manchester University in the late 1960s, I had been greatly interested in migration studies. I had a particular interest from my summer work in Sussex, while I was at university in Galway, in how anti-Irish stereotypes continued through the centuries. My first letter to an English newspaper was in reply to such in the London Evening Standard in 1962.

Migrants have always been at risk from stereotyping, seen as marginal people, reluctant to forget what they were, unwilling to be just like the home population. The stereotyped stage depiction of the Irishman is as old as the first production of Sir Robert Howard’s The Committee produced in 1662 on the Restoration stage, and it is a stereotype that continued through the centuries.

The Nineteenth Century marked a transition in the content of the stereotype from that of the savage Celt to primitive ape in negative cartoon images of the Irish. The image of Parnell in Punch likened him to an orang-utan. Such images crossed the Atlantic where a Harpers cartoon showed a set of scales with a black from the South on one side and an apelike Irish figure on the other, with John Bull and Uncle Sam conferring in the corner as to whether democracy could survive either.

Perry Curtis summarised it as follows in Apes and Angels:

The simianising of Paddy in the 1850s thus emanated from the convergence of deep, powerful emotions about the nature of man, the security of property, and the preservation of privilege. Since the very integrity of English civilization seemed to be menaced by Darwinism, democracy, republicanism, socialism and Fenianism, one convenient way of epitomising those fears was to shift the burden of proximity onto the burly shoulders of those Irish agitators who wanted nothing better than to strike terror into the hearts of their oppressors.

But now we live in different times, times of an ever deepening one, warm relations between our peoples with their diverse origins. The Irish in Manchester have given the city countless talented footballers, vibrant cultural festivals, talented students, writers, and business people.

In Liverpool yesterday, I reflected on the Irish heritage of the Beatles, that most Liverpudlian of bands. But similarly the work of The Smiths, perhaps the most quintessentially English of bands of the past decades and certainly one of the bands most associated with Manchester, also resonates with the Irish heritage of its members, and of the migrant experience, in the lyrics of Morrissey and the music of Johnny Marr.

May I also, as a writer, point to the important work of the Salford playwright Sheelagh Delaney, grandaughter of Irish migrants, who passed away a year ago on Tuesday.

While justly celebrated in Britain, I believe that Delaney should also be acknowledged as part of a long tradition of Irish writers finding success in Britain, from Oscar Wilde to Martin McDonagh, via Tom Murphy, whose work, explicitly or implicitly explores and questions received wisdoms and traditional norms.

Delaney was a pioneer in women’s writing, no easy feat for a young woman from the north of England working in male-dominated theatrical circles in the late 1950s. Her seminal work, A Taste of Honey, recently revived in Sheffield, challenged accepted views of race, gender, class and sexuality, much as Edna O’Brien’s early novels were to do in Ireland just a few years later.

To conclude then, let us all welcome the changes that have taken place and the new circumstances in which we can celebrate a parity of respect and esteem, the ability to listen to each other’s narratives. The closeness and warmth that we laud today was founded to a large extent upon the lives and sacrifices of generations of Irish emigrants who settled in this country – generations of Irish people who came here and contributed so positively to nearly every aspect of British society, who did so much to make Britain what it is today while at the same time fostering understanding, tolerance and cooperation between our two countries.

It is largely thanks to these generations of Irish emigrants and their willingness to remain engaged and supportive of the land of their birth, that we now enjoy such a close and strong relationship with Britain. So it is essential that we remember their stories and celebrate their role in creating the links between Manchester and Ireland that we sometimes take for granted today.

It was their spirit of community, their willingness to invest their time, energy and imagination, which ensured the survival and continued success of Irish community and cultural organizations in Manchester and its surrounding area. And they continue to contribute so much today to make Manchester the vibrant and diverse city it is.

Though the Irish community has thrived in Manchester, the work of the many Irish organizations supporting the vulnerable and nurturing our heritage is still as vital as ever. This is recognized by the Irish Government. Through its Emigrant Support Programme, the government has awarded over £2 million over the last five years to Irish organizations in Manchester alone and its surrounding area is an acknowledgement of that spirit and a reflection of the great esteem which the Irish Government and Irish people have for the vital work of these organizations. Sabina and I are very much looking forward to meeting representatives from these organizations later today when I attend an Irish community reception in the Town Hall.

And I am also looking forward to visiting the site of the new Irish World Heritage Centre tomorrow. The fact that the Centre, which will commemorate the tragic but in some ways uplifting story of Irish emigration throughout the world, is in Manchester is a testament to the depth of the Irish connection with this city and with its people. I am very glad that the Irish Government has been able to support the Centre and I would also like to take this opportunity to thank Manchester City Council for all their support in getting this inspirational and impressive project off the ground.

May I, as President of Ireland, salute the people of Manchester and their Irishness in a great city that is today home to migrants from many cultures and nations and to thousands of Irish people who have put their mark on the city and its people over so many years. May they all live in peace and prosper.

Go raibh maith agaibh as ucht éisteacht liom.

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