John's article in The Irish Post 28th March 2013
From the Manchester Ship canal, built thanks largely to Irish 'navvies' in the 19th century, to the thousands of Irish fans who throng to Manchester at the weekends to watch Premier League games, the cultural and sporting contribution of the Irish to the city has been immense, and 2013 is a great time to celebrate that contribution.
With over 200 events taking place in March, the award winning 2013 Manchester Irish Festival is celebrating its 18th anniversary as one of the largest such festivals in Europe outside of Ireland .
This years’ festival is even more special as the festival has joined forces with the Irish Government and its year-long Tourism initiative called the ‘2013 Gathering in Ireland’. The idea is to encourage those of Irish descent around the world to revisit their routes by taking a trip home. I was delighted to play a small part in launching the Manchester-Mayo Gathering which takes place in August at the Houses of Parliament. I am also looking forward to attending the Mayo Gathering promotional weekend which will help kick start this years’ festival on the 8 March.
But the Irish in Manchester have never needed any outside encouragement to celebrate their heritage. The Irish festival was running for many years when such events were less fashionable than they are today, while the culture of Gaelic Games, and Irish music, has always been vibrant.
2013 has started with a bang with the brand new Irish World heritage centre opening just outside my constituency in Cheetham Hill, and Manchester's GAA scene never in better shape.
But whenever I talk to the many thousands of Irish people I represent as MP for Manchester Withington, I am aware that it took an immense effort from Irish people in Manchester, in the GAA and the county Associations, and in groups like Comhaltas Ceoltóirí Éireann, to ensure that the rich Irish cultural thread which runs through Manchester life, remained unbroken, and is now in a position to get stronger.
The Irish Post's reporting of the work of group's like Manchester Irish Community Care, shows that the paper is there for the Irish in Manchester when times are tough, and the paper's decision to once again act as a sponsor of the Manchester Irish Festival, shows the paper is there also in the times of celebration.
From McAlpine's Fuesiliers to the Busby Babes, the Gallagher brothers and the GAA, the Irish have helped make Manchester the city it is today.
The credit for all that belongs to the Irish community, not to any politician, but I hope in 2013 that I can help the community to achieve a celebration which is as memorable for all of in Manchester who have Irish heritage and leaves a legacy which the next generation of Irish emigrants, who are pouring into our Universities and setting up businesses will remember for decades to come.