The links between Ireland and Wales were firmly welded when the Irish Minister for Foreign Affairs, David Andrews, officially opened the office of the new Consulate General in Cardiff on Thursday 27 May, 1999.
The opening came the day after the Royal opening of the new National Assembly for Wales at which Mr Andrews and ambassador Ted Barrington represented the Irish Government.
During his visit, Mr Andrews discussed a range of political issues with new members of the Welsh Assembly. He also spoke with optimism about the development of the British-Irish Council, one of the institutions under the Good Friday Agreement, which will bring together the Irish and British Government and the new devolved administrations, in Wales and Scotland.
Before leaving Cardiff, Mr Andrews laid a wreath on the Wales National Memorial to the victims of the Great Irish Famine and all the Irish who had lived and died in Wales. He paid tribute to the Wales Famine Forum which had established the Memorial.
He was the first member of the Irish Government to visit the Memorial since it was unveiled on St. Patrick’s Day, by the Consul General for Wales, Conor O’Riordan and Welsh Office Minister John Owen Jones.
Nearly 100 people greeted Mr Andrews at the cemetery where the Lord’s Prayer in Irish was led by Wexfordman Canon Tom Dunne, Parish Priest of St. Brigid’s, Cardiff and in Welsh by the Reverend Matthew Hill, of St. Michael’s (Church in Wales), Cathays, Cardiff.
Mr Andrews thanked the Wales Famine Forum and the people of Wales for remembering the victims of the Great Famine and spoke with pride of the contribution that people of Irish descent had made to Wales which had given a home to thousands of refugees from the famine years.
After the wreath-laying ceremony, Mr Andrews visited the grave of Cardiff’s greatest boxing son, Peerless Jim Driscoll, where he was greeted by Mike Flynn of Dungarvan, County Waterford, landlord of the Royal Oak, Cardiff, which has many links with the legend who died in 1925. Mr Andrews also met Paul Burns, Secretary of the Newtown Association, whose family was related to Peerless Jim.
After the formal proceedings the crowd gave David Andrews a send-off with a rousing version of 'We’ll Keep a Welcome in the hillsides…'!
Wales Famine Forum Chairman John Sweeney said:
There will always be a welcome to visitors from Ireland and other parts of the world to the Memorial which recognises the part which the Irish have played in Wales throughout the generations.