Queensland Irish Association 2021 Saint Patrick’s Day Eve Dinner
Premier; Your Excellency the Ambassador of Ireland to Australia; Your Honours; Lord Mayor; Members of Parliament; President of the Queensland Irish Association; Chairman of the Saint Patrick’s Eve Dinner Committee; distinguished guests; ladies and gentlemen.
I at once acknowledge the traditional owners of these lands and extend respectful greetings to Elders and emerging leaders.
I thank the Queensland Irish Association for this splendid opportunity to celebrate with you all things Irish.
It is not possible to go anywhere in our State without meeting someone who has Irish heritage, and is mighty proud of it.
Just yesterday, for example, I had the great honour of attending St Laurence’s College in South Brisbane – Queensland’s largest Catholic school years 5 to 12 which draws significantly on the compassion of Irishman, Blessed Edmund Ignatius Rice.
It is also the alma mater of none other than our President, the Honourable Jeffrey Spender – an association of which they remain very proud. Upon arrival I was given a most rousing and sustained welcome from the 1,900 students; we understand, the first visit to the School by the Governor since its inception in 1915: I am pleased to have at last rectified that omission.
That experience reminded me – if I needed reminding – that the greatest ever Irish export to Queensland is not a certain dark, brewed beverage with a creamy head, but Ireland’s people and their many talents.
This annual celebration of Saint Patrick, who was a gifted snake-whisperer as well as a prodigious gatherer of souls, is testament to the strength of the Irish connection in Queensland.
That connection extends to many professions in our State, including my erstwhile colleagues from the Bench.
Now of course, dignified representatives of the esteemed people of the Emerald Isle are known for their restraint around St Patrick’s Day activities.
It remains, as always, a great honour to celebrate this special community occasion with such a diverse and spirited crowd, especially given the necessary constraints on festivities last year.
Celebration for those with Irish blood must involve music and song.
It’s a rule. There will be plenty of both this evening, and there might be a few tall tales told as well.
The music, we know, will be a mix of the sweetly sad, and the irresistibly joyous.
‘Sweetly sad’ gives us pause to remember the courage of those who left their homes in the Emerald Isle to go to the far side of the world – most of them voluntarily!
And ‘joyous’ brings to mind their boundless hope for a new life for themselves and their families in Australia.
They and their descendants are responsible for a long and illustrious chapter in the history of Queensland, one that is still being written.
Indeed, there is a wonderful anecdote in the latest Government House publication, ‘The Governors of Modern Queensland’, authored by David Fagan and Madonna King, which I launched last night. The book draws on interviews with all living Governors back to Leneen Forde.
Ms Forde's husband, Angus McDonald, was fond of belting out an Irish tune at the end of formal dinners held in Fernberg’s State Dining Room. At one such memorable dinner, Sister Angela Mary sang a blessed hymn to St Patrick, while Terry O’Gorman is said to have sung the Irish rebel song, ‘You’ll Never Beat The Irish’.
While Queenslanders of Irish descent remain frequent guests at Fernberg’s dining table, I confirm Kaye and I have been a little more restrained in the Irish song department! I was asked on ABC radio yesterday whether I would be signing ‘Danny Boy’ on Wednesday. I said I would certainly be singing it at this memorable event tonight.
Ladies and gentlemen, on the eve of Saint Patrick’s Day, the long and illustrious chapter of Irish influence in our State is worthy of our great gratitude, of great Irish pride, and of a great Irish celebration. Have a wonderful evening. Thank you.