Ireland’s economy may still be floundering, but locally the Irish community remains vibrant starting off a weekend of St. Patrick’s Day festivities with a March 11 breakfast at the World Trade Center Atlanta attended by Georgia Gov. Nathan Deal.
Mr. Deal reminded the 80 attendees of historical links dating back to eight signers of the United States Declaration of Independence and 22 U.S. presidents with at least part Irish origins.
He cited the marked jump in imports from Ireland to Georgia last year amounting to $760 million, and praised the country’s corporate tax rate of 12.5 percent as a pro-business incentive.
He also cited Elan Pharmaceuticals, a subsidiary of the Irish company Elan Corp. plc, based in his hometown of Gainesville, as an example of a significant Irish investment in the state.
Mr. Deal participated in ceremonies last month marking the opening of Ireland’s consulate general in Atlanta, the first such opening in the U.S. since 1933.
Paul Gleeson, Ireland’s consul general, underscored that the country’s business fundamentals remained intact and that a rise in exports indicated that the country was still “open for business.”
Mr. Gleeson alluded to the Irish elections in February, which saw the dramatic defeat of the Fianna Fail party voted out of office after 14 years of being in power.
But, he said, the turnover of parties would not impede Ireland’s recovery and that confidence would even be restored in the country’s banking system despite its current problems.
He kidded that Kevin Conboy, president of the Irish Chamber of Commerce in Atlanta, which organized the breakfast, was the go-to provider of Irish news here.
“My very own family when it wants to know what’s going on in Ireland goes to Kevin. Someday I expect to see him texting Bono,” he added referring to Irish rock singer and main vocalist of the Dublin-based rock bank U2.
Mr. Conboy unveiled a new logo for the chamber that joins a shamrock and dogwood blossom and was created by the advertising firm Fitzgerald and Co.
James Flannery, an Emory University professor and Irish drama scholar, announced that Pooja Kapadia, a senior at Thomasville High Scholars Academy whose family immigrated from India, was the winner of this year’s essay contest on the theme “What St. Patrick’s Day Means to Me.”
“St. Patrick’s Day is the only ethnic holiday that has become a national holiday,” Dr. Flannery said prior to reading the essay, which was a personal testimonial of overcoming anxiety about fitting into American society through pursuit of the goals of the “American Dream”.
The city’s 129th St. Patrick Day Parade begins on Saturday, March 12, at Underground Atlanta at noon.
Go to www.stpatsatlanta.com