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Europe in Brussels part 13: The Irish diaspora

03:21 15/03/2017
17 March is St Patrick's Day. We meet representatives of the Irish community in Brussels

Ireland joined the European Union in 1973 and the Irish embassy estimates that there are between 10,000 and 15,000 Irish people living in Belgium.

"Being an island it was a really good way for Ireland to connect with the rest of Europe, so our European Union membership is very important to us and Brussels is the place where that is taken forward," says Eamonn Mac Aodh, the Irish Ambassador to Belgium.

In 2007, the Irish language, Gaelic, became an official EU language. "There is something quite special about the Irish language," says Mac Aodh. "First of all it’s a very ancient language, it’s also kind of unique, there are no other languages that connect directly to it … and it’s very particular to Ireland and while the number of speakers has fallen over the years the fact that there’s official recognition for the language at a European level gives it an extra dimension and it’s one that we fought for hard here and we were very pleased to get."

Saint Patrick’s Day, on 17 March, is of course Ireland’s national holiday and celebrated around the world. It was made popular by the proud Irish diaspora who left the country during times of conflict and famine while Ireland was still under British rule.

“It started as a way of marking Ireland’s Christian heritage but in these times it’s much more a symbol of Ireland generally," says Mac Aodh. "As a national day there is no doubt that it is much more broadly recognised by not just Ireland and the Irish but also by the Irish diaspora, for them it’s very important too, people who may have family links going back to Ireland but who may not necessarily be first-generation Irish themselves."

To mark Saint Patrick’s Day in Belgium the Irish Embassy in Brussels will be involved in a number of events. The Manneken Pis in Brussels will be dressed up in traditional Irish clothes, the embassy will host its annual reception and the Grand Place and other Belgian national monuments will be illuminated in green as part of Tourism Ireland’s Global Greening initiative.

“We’re doing that again in Belgium this year on a really big scale," says Mac Aodh. "We’ll have the Grand Place in Brussels going green and some new ones this year, Dinant, the Cloth Hall in Ypres and the townhalls in Bruges and Antwerp and we’re really looking forward to that and it should give a very big profile to Ireland over the course of Saint Patrick’s week."

Margaret Slattery, an Irish citizen living in Belgium for the past 40 years, enjoys Brussels “because there are lots of places to visit and lots of things to do and the people are nice”. It is also very central, Paris and Amsterdam are only a train trip away. “When it comes to cultural events in art and architecture, there’s a big variety in Belgium," Slattery says.

Saint Anthony’s Parish in Kraainem was established in the 1970s to meet the spiritual needs of the Irish and UK Catholics coming to Brussels at that time. “We have a big Irish community here," says Slattery, who is on the organising committee for the Saint Patrick’s festival which is held in Kraainem every year. Over the weekend, the local community centre, De Lijsterbes, becomes a centre for Irish music, dance and food with two world champion Irish dancers also hosting a workshop.

While both Belgium and Ireland have distinctive national dishes, there isn’t a huge difference in food preferences between the two countries. “It’s no problem to cook Irish food in Belgium because everything is available in the supermarkets, in fact you can get wonderful Irish steak in my local supermarket”, says Slattery.

Another aspect of life that’s important for Irish people is their native games of Gaelic football and hurling. All Irish children begin to play these games at school so it’s important for the Irish community to continue these games when they move abroad. That is why you will find a branch of the Gaelic Athletic Association in Brussels providing training and matches for people of all ages.

“There’s a whole organisation where children can join up and play Irish football and hurling and I believe around Saint Patrick’s Day they also have games," says Slattery.

It’s not very difficult to make contact with other Irish people if you live in Brussels as both the Embassy and the large Irish community in Brussels ensure that there are places and events where Irish people can meet each other.

Ambassador Mac Aodh says: “The Irish Embassy, over the last two or three years has hosted TradFest, a music festival which allows Irish people to access Irish music and which is also, of course, an offer to the international community here. And of course the Irish pub is ubiquitous and Brussels is no exception, there are many Irish pubs here doing a good job and also promoting Ireland because every time people see an Irish pub it puts Ireland in mind and that has spin-off effects in terms of tourism."

Written by Noreen Donovan


Denis J. Buckley

Happy Greetings from the Irish in Europe for the Saint Patrick´s Day Weekend of Celebrations-Wear the Green & Share with your friends

You may also  read   more in detail about many  Saint Patrick´s events   that  are taking place in at least 10 venues in Brussels on the Irish in Europe Meetup site.
Events in Brussels:
Below are some highlights and details of our events on Sunday 19 March.

 Saint Patricks Day Pre-Parade Breakfast with Irish Harp & Violin Concert
Sunday, March 19, 2017
9:30 AM to 12:15 PM
The Old Oak Irish Pub and Restaurant 
Rue Franklin 26, Brussels
(Metro Schuman)
Saint Patrick’s Day Parade of the Nations & Regions 
Pre-Parade Traditional Irish Breakfast
Doors open from 9.30 am(Special Sunday Morning Opening) 
Guest of Honour - Parade Grand Marshal 
Everyone is Welcome! Admission Free.
Formiga & Cigale - Irish Harp & Violin concert and lots of Irish Craic....with a wide range of European traditional songs; not only Irish, but also Catalan, French, Scottish, Bretagne, etc.
To secure a good seat for Breakfast best to reserve at Or with Old Oak Bar Staff.
Traditional Irish breakfast at €14.00. Also a mini (children) Irish breakfast for €7.00.  Seats reserved  in main concert area have to be filled by 10.15 am to facilitate audio/visual recordings.
We can only guarantee the reserved seats  in main area until about 10.15, we need to fill seats  to facilitate audio/visual recordings and TV cameras. Your  reserved seat will be allocated on first-come basis.
 Brussels Saint Patrick’s Day Parade  of the Nations & Regions -2017
Park Cinquantenaire, Brussels 1000 & Etterbeek 1040 (Metro Schuman)
Sunday 19 March, 2017 @ 13h00
Every one welcome to ‘Wear the Green’ &‘Be Irish for the Day’!!!!
Assembles at statue of ‘Le Chien Vert’  from 12.45
Led by the Brussels Caledonian (Corneymusers) Pipe Band- Ends at the Family & Sports Day in Military Field.
Individuals, Music & Dance Groups,NGO´s Social, Sporting and Cultural organisations welcome to walk in Parade-No entry fee! Banners are allowed-no political slogans. Groups & organisations- Please let us know you are walking in Parade!!! Write to: Parade Secretary:
Parade organised by: Irish in Europe Association (International) aisbl.

Saint Patricks Post Parade Event --Trad Irish Evening with Dance
Sunday, March 19, 2017

5:00 PM to 10:00 PM
The Wild Geese
2-4 Avenue Livingstone, 1000 Brussels
The Rainy Four seasons will delight us with a Trad Irish Music Session.
The Rainy Four Seasons is a Folk and Celtic music group , which brings together four students of the Brussels Jazz Conservaory. Come along and dance to
its jigs, reels and other traditional rhythms! With Guillaume Malempré (percussionist), Damien Brassart ( onflutes), Marvin Burlas (fiddle) and Pierre
Gillet (guitarist). A little taste of what they play.
Everyone welcome. Admission Free- Family friendly.
We will also have an exposition of Irish Dancing from the Newe Academy of Irish Dance
( circa 5pm to 7.30pm) Perfect opportunity for anyone who wants to find out more about Irish  Dancing and of course enjoy the craic!!  Ciara, Orla, Aoife and Indra and then Aisling and Aoife Newe will show you the steps! 

Irish in Europe Association (International) aisbl
(Incorporating the Brussels Saint Patrick’s Day Parade of the Nations & Regions Committee)  Established 2011 by Royal Decree to help the Irish Diaspora and promote
Irish Culture & Integration at local Chapter level in Europe
Non-Profit International Association - Registered in Belgium - Enterprise Number 835467433
International Association Centre,
Rue Washington 40,
1050 Brussels,
Events in Brussels:
  2017  Irish in Europe Year Theme
     ´´Volunteering Makes the Difference
                    at Home & Abroad´´

Mar 18, 2017 09:51

Irish Gaelic is a Celtic language belonging to the wider family of Indo European languages.
It is similar to Scots Gaelic and Manx Gaelic.

It is also related to Welsh,Breton and Cornish.

Although the number of native speakers is in decline,there has been an upsurge of interest in non Gaeltacht areas and in Irish language schools throughout the 32 counties of Ireland

Recent census figures ,North and South indicate ,that about 1.5 million Irish people have a knowledge of Irish.

Mar 19, 2017 09:05