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 at Pullman Brisbane King George Square, Brisbane City

Queensland Irish Association St Patrick’s Eve Dinner

Premier of Queensland and Minister for Trade; representing the Ambassador of Ireland to Australia, Ms Sexton-Morel; representing the State Leader of the Opposition, Mr Mander MP; Justice Daubney; elected representatives; distinguished guests; ladies and gentlemen.

I at once acknowledge the Traditional Custodians of the lands on which we gather, and pay respect to their Elders past and present – with encouragement to their young emerging leaders.

It is a tremendous pleasure to celebrate with you two enduring Irish institutions – St Patrick’s Day and the Queensland Irish Association.

St Patrick’s Day began as a religious feast to commemorate the Patron Saint of Ireland, and has now expanded into a broader celebration of Irish history and culture; one which we all have the pleasure of experiencing.

Queensland’s first official St Patrick’s Day festivities were held in Brisbane in 1862. Banks were closed, and many observed the occasion as a public holiday. 

A steamship took revelers to a picnic lunch on the banks of the Brisbane River, with organisers heralding a “first-rate band” and a “first-class luncheon”.

In true Irish style, there was dancing, good food, music and, of course, plenty of laughter.

What was most important though, was that all people, irrespective of Irish ancestry, were welcome to join in the celebrations, an indication of the strong bond that has always existed between Australia and the Emerald Isle.

And the sentiment of inclusiveness for all, ‘irrespective of creed’, became the bedrock of the QIA’s constitution when it formed in March 1898.

Tonight, we are here not only to enjoy some famous Irish hospitality and conviviality, but also to applaud the efforts of the Association in staying true to its core purpose: to promote and preserve Irish cultural heritage, traditions and aspirations.

Almost every year over its 121-year history, the Association has hosted a St Patrick’s Eve Dinner to commemorate the festival of St Patrick, but this is just one of the many and varied activities it provides its members to encourage participation.

Last November’s highly successful Speeches from the Dock, which amply demonstrated the remarkable Irish gift for words, is just one example of the QIA’s quest to educate and inform.

The Association has experienced both ups and downs, but with the tenacity, fortitude and spirit for which the Irish are renowned, the President, the Honourable Jeffrey Spender QC and the Board, continue to work tirelessly to rebuild and rejuvenate.

I pay tribute to the officeholders, and indeed to all QIA members, for your efforts.

I congratulate you on reaching your 121st anniversary, and for preserving Irish culture, not only for those with Irish roots, but for all Queenslanders.

As we anticipate the sea of green across the State on Sunday, I am reminded of the saying: “Everyone is a little Irish on St Patrick’s Day”.

Enjoy your evening, and thank you.