Mr President, Julie and I are so pleased to welcome you here to the Australian Parliament.
The warmth of the history and the family ties between Australia and Ireland couldn’t be greater. Australia is the most Irish country in the world, a part from Ireland, of course, [Laughter] with so many millions of Australians having a Irish ancestry.
And, of course, so much of our culture, our history, our politics, our literature being influenced by, inspired by, written by Irish Australians.
As we were discussing earlier Lucy’s family, the Hughes family came from Drumshanbo in about 1840 or thereabouts. And Lucy’s uncle Robert wrote that magnificent history Fatal Shore which of course is a story in many ways of Irish suffering and Irish triumph in Australia.
You’re so warmly welcomed. You’re among friends and among family.
In fact, the President has 243 third cousins in Australia. [Laughter] And I’m sure that you’ll find a few more while he’s here – there’s no doubt about that!
But this is an enormously strong, sentimental, historical, cultural, familial foundation but upon that we have the opportunity now to build an even stronger relationship on economic grounds, on commercial grounds, on political grounds because we share the same values - we share the same values and the same vision for democracy, for rule of law, all of those traditions which the Irish in Ireland and in Europe defend and of course, so many of their descendants are building and defending in Australia.
Welcome. You should feel very much at home, Mr President and Mrs Higgins.