The Irish Embassy in Pretoria celebrated St. Patrick’s Day on Friday, March 15, 2024, at The Ambassador’s Residence.

H.E. Mr Austin Gormley and Minister of Housing, Local Government, and Heritage from Ireland, Mr Darragh O’Brien, warmly welcomed guests to the reception. H.E. Mr Gormley thanked South Africans for the warm welcome both he and his wife have received since arriving in South Africa six months ago.

There are 70 million Irish people (those with an affiliation) around the world who celebrate St. Patrick’s Day in some style. Historically speaking, St. Patrick was, in actual fact, not Irish; he was from Wales. It’s a multinational celebration and reflects Irish openness.

Minister Mr Darragh O’Brien thanked the guests for attending and remarked on his first-ever visit to South Africa. While traveling around the country, one of the moments that stood out for Minister O’Brien was his visit to Robben Island, where he had the distinct honor of himself and the Ambassador and his team being given a tour by three former political prisoners for two hours. The men remembered Mary Manning, a shop worker who, on July 19, 1984, in the Henry Street, Dublin outlet of Dunnes Stores, refused to handle the sale of grapefruit from South Africa in protest of the apartheid regime. The Dunnes stores news reached the prisoners on Robben Island, and it was a small victory from a small country, and as the Minister said:

“Small is good too if your values are right and if your values are correct.”

Ireland has been able to use its influence in a positive way in a partnership approach with countries right across the world, no less so than in South Africa, to advance the cause of human rights and equality and to ensure that injustices are called out.

The Irish government chose to send a senior minister to show that South Africa and the relationship with Ireland are crucially important in business for both countries so that they can grow together, 5 billion Euro worth of business each year, 15 000 South Africans living in Ireland and 35 000 Irish living in South Africa.

Minister of Basic Education, Ms Angie Motshekga, congratulated Ireland on their day of celebration.

Today, South Africa is a leading export partner to Ireland on the African continent. Ireland has always been a significant supporter of South African development.

Minister Motshekga took the opportunity to wish Ireland well in the upcoming summer rugby tour that takes place in July and peace and prosperity to all.

Happy St. Patrick’s Day!

by Marion Kate