Irish President Visits Gaelic Park in Oak Forest
President Michael D Higgins continued his weeklong visit to Chicago today by visting Gaelic Park in Oak Forest after attending the Irish Community Monthly Mass celebrated by well-known undocumented Irish supporter and activist, Fr Michael Leonard.
Over 1000 turned out to welcome the President on his visit where he spoke of the GAA in America as being one of the most obvious places to provide a great connection to home for Irish immigrants stating also that it offered a form of shelter to those in difficulty
Speaking on the third day of his visit to Illinois, President Higgins also said that for newly arrived immigrants in Chicago it was important to be able to make contact, especially with something that was already familiar to you, like the GAA.
The President said with the GAA abroad, barriers were broken down and it offered a great assurance, but also was a form of shelter for people in difficulties, and also the Gaelic Games themselves.
The GAA was a global organisation that expanded out from the parish and reached out in a global sense, he said.
While it was useful to make contacts with relatives and family abroad, the network more recently was spanning out around sport, and that the GAA was right at the heart of that, Mr Higgins commented.
He acknowledged that the Irish arriving in the US did “feel a wrench and a sense of loss at having to leave their family, their parish and their locality”.
But he said there was not just one kind of Irish immigrant, and that people now were very highly qualified, with high skills and they were getting opportunities to put those skills into practice in the US.
Mr Higgins also spoke of the flow of work between Ireland and the US as being two-way.
He said companies based in the US employed about 110,000 people in Ireland, and Irish companies headquartered in the US, employed about 60,000 Americans.
He said there was a shared connection between the two countries about sharing the challenge of creating employment and improving the economy.
He said that Irish immigrants and second and third generation Irish Americans faced the same problems in the US, as people the world over did, in relation to unemployment, access to education and healthcare.
The President said that he wanted to state very clearly that the Diaspora was not “just a concept” but that it was “a network helping Irish people in several different circumstances”, not only with their immediate needs but also in “mapping out futures that we can share together”.