The Minister of State for New Communities, Culture and Equality, Aodhán Ó Ríordáin TD, kick - started ‘PolskaÉire 2015’, the first ever Polish-Irish Festival, today at the SEN Polish Saturday School in Cabra.
The festival, which runs from March 21st to 29th, and will see a series of events taking place around the country, celebrates the estimated 150,000 members of the Polish community who live in Ireland.
Speaking at the launch, the Minister said:
“I am delighted that we have begun our week of festivities. This week is about celebrating the cultural diversity brought to our island by its largest “New Community”. I am extremely grateful to all of the festival supporters who have made this week possible, in particular the FAI, the Polish Embassy as well as my own Departments of Arts, Heritage & Gaeltacht and Justice & Equality.”
Minister Ó Ríordáin was joined at the launch by representatives of the Polish community, the FAI Dublin City Council and Dublin Bus, who are all supporting the festival.
In support of the festival Lord Mayor of Dublin Christy Burke said: “I am looking forward to marking the special relationship between the Polish and Irish Communities in Dublin during the PolskaÉire Festival. 13,500 Polish people now call Dublin City their home and they have both embraced Irish culture and introduced their own to Dubliners. Dublin City Council is supporting the celebrations and welcomes all to join us at the many music, sporting, food and cultural events throughout the city.”
Intercultural Officer with the FAI, Des Tomlinson, said: “The PolskaÉire Festival has given the FAI a great opportunity to use football to further engage with the Polish Community throughout Ireland. Today's event in Cabra, along with other football events around the country, are made possible by the support of local clubs, the Polish Community and local authority partners.
He added “The activities work on two levels; through the football and sporting aspects on the pitch, but on another level the relationships and connections that have been built with the Polish Community, relationships and connections that we will seek to foster and maintain long into the future.”
Rafal Smoter Vice-Consul at the Polish Embassy said “The Polish Embassy in Dublin feels extremely enthusiastic about the Polish-Irish Festival, which is the biggest integration initiative in Ireland we have been involved in. We are proud to be part of it and we hope that the festival will take place every year. Polish migrants actively contribute to the economic, social and cultural development of Ireland and we, as the Polish Embassy, will support this exciting journey of mutual integration in the future.”
Dublin Bus, Chief Executive Paddy Doherty said "Dublin Bus is proud to support the inaugural PolskaÉire festival, it is important to recognise and celebrate the contribution of the Polish community in our organisations and society and we hope it will become an annual event."
The first event of the week took place in the SEN Saturday School in Cabra, where children from the school have spent the last number of weeks engaging in a football programme.
Speaking at the event the School Principal, Tomasz Bastkowski said:
“When I asked my 15 year old daughter, who has been living in Ireland now for 9 years, which team she was going to support at the Aviva Stadium on Sunday evening, she said, after a moment of hesitation,....she didn’t know. I guess that perfectly reflects the times and circumstances we are living in. On behalf of the Polish Saturday School I would like to welcome all stakeholders and participants of the PolskaEire Festival 2015 to our school today.”
A full listing of the week long programme can be found www.polskaeirefestival.com