Speech by Minister of Culture, Heritage and the Gaeltacht, Josepha Madigan TD, at celebration of the culture and tradition of hurling in Paris


Monsieur l’Ambassadeur, Mesdames et Messieurs

On behalf of the Irish government it is my pleasure to welcome you to the home of the Irish Ambassador to France, Her Excellency Patricia O’Brien. I would also like to acknowledge His Excellency Dermot Nolan, who many of you are well-acquainted with through his work at the OECD and UNESCO. I also want to acknowledge the presence of the Secretary General of my Department, Katherine Licken, who was able to join me here this evening to support this event.

I am delighted to welcome the President of the Gaelic Athletic Association, John Horan, and the Acting Chief Executive of the Camogie Association, Louise Conlon, who is still an active camogie player and one of our speakers here tonight, as it is the work of their organisations that has been instrumental in the practice and tradition of hurling in Ireland.

Ça m’a fait beaucoup de plaisir d’être ici à Paris ce soir. C’est incroyable mais Il y a vingt-trois années depuis ma dernière visite à cette belle cité!

J’ai étudié le français à Trinity Collège, Dublin quand j’étais une jeune étudiante et j’ai adoré la culture française, en particulier les écrivains comme Baudelaire, Rimbaud, Flaubert et Camus. L’Irlande et la France partagent une forte tradition de la littérature.

Ensuite, J’ai étudié la loi et je suis devenue une notaire. Mais j’ai la politique dans le sang et je suis maintenant une fière femme politique.

Je suis rempli de fierté ce soir parce que c’est la première fois que je parle en Français depuis ma nomination au Ministre des arts et de la culture en Irlande.
A mon avis, la longue francaise est une des plus belles langues du monde.

Since we joined UNESCO in 1961 we have eagerly embraced UNESCO’s core values and priorities and applied practices to safeguard our built heritage. Since our ratification in 2015 of the 2003 Convention to safeguard our Intangible Cultural Heritage we have worked on developing our National Inventory of Intangible Cultural Heritage. This engagement is embedded in our national cultural policy and helps shape our international priorities.

Today, resulting from our UNESCO membership, we hold two posts of Chair.

One in respect of transforming the lives of people with disabilities, through physical education, sport, recreation and fitness at the Institute of Technology Tralee, and secondly, Chair for the promotion of an integrated system of research, training, information and documentation in the field of children, youth and civic engagement at the National University of Ireland in Galway.

This Chair acts as a ‘bridge-builder’ by bringing together centres of excellence, NGOs and practitioners from around the world to work as partners in setting future education, research and policy agendas. We have also, in the past year, applied for a third Chair in bullying prevention to be housed at Dublin City University.

Ireland can boast participation by eighteen schools in the associated schools network; three global geopark networks; World Heritage Status for two built heritage sites; two UNESCO Creative Cities – one in Literature, and the other in Film; two UNESCO Biosphere Reserves: two lifelong learning cities; and two inscriptions on the Memory of the World Register.

This evening, however, we are gathered to celebrate the ancient tradition and culture of hurling in Ireland. Hurling means a great deal to us as a nation, and plays a significant role in our history. It is part of our story legends and plays a role in one of our oldest stories, CúChulainn, which one of our speakers will tell you more of later.

But hurling is in no way an artefact of our past. I am here today as Ireland’s Minister for Culture, Heritage and the Gaeltacht because, more than anything, hurling is part of our living cultural heritage as a nation. We often find –when we seek to share our culture and traditions with others – that their key place as part of our heritage is truly revealed and celebrated. The importance of hurling to cultural life in Ireland is like that: it is easier to demonstrate than to explain.

Every time I travel to or from my home, I pass my local hurling club – Kilmacud Crokes – whose members of all ages practice and play as they have done for generations. Such hurling clubs exist all over the country and are at the heart of their local communities, with boys and girls, and adults learning this ancient game as their parents did before them. My nephew Ronan Hayes is on the Crokes senior panel which is itself a great achievement.

These children and adults represent their club in games with other clubs, and some even aspire to represent their county one day: it is a great honour. Even those who don’t reach such a peak of skill and accomplishment will turn out in great numbers to support their local clubs and county teams year on year – the county colours proliferate all around the country.

Hurling is part of our social lives and is embedded in our communities through the players of the game, who are all amateurs, and the work of volunteers who coach, maintain hurling grounds and even wash the hurling kit for the players after training and games. That, then, is the core of hurling in Ireland: it is not just something we participate in; it is part of who we are.

In this, as in all cultural traditions, it is the voices of those who practice them that are most powerful. With that in mind, allow me to share with you the words of Dónal Óg Cusack, one of Ireland’s most accomplished hurlers of recent times. He said:

‘I believe hurling is the best of us, one of the greatest and most beautiful expressions of what we can be. If you could live again you would hurl more, because that is living. Hurling is our song and our verse’.

Our cultural heritage is nothing without those who practice it and live it and I wish to take this opportunity to pay tribute to the Gaelic Athletic Association and the Camogie Association, who have ensured that the tradition of hurling has passed from generation to generation for over one hundred years.

As Minister, I provide support and encouragement to this tradition but ultimately we must recognise it is these organisations who have worked tirelessly to build and grow the community spirit and engagement that makes hurling such an intrinsic part of Irish cultural heritage.

Je voudrais vous remercier pour vôtre hospitalité et l’accueil chaleureux que j’ai reçu aujourd hui en France. C’est un grand honneur pour moi d’être ici et je suis toujours une vraiment Francophile!

Passez une bonne soirée et je vous fais une promesse à revenir bientôt !

I would now like to hand you over to Pat Daly of the Gaelic Athletic Association, who will introduce this evening’s speakers on hurling.

Go raibh míle maith agaibh go léir.

Department of Culture, Heritage and the Gaeltacht, 23 Kildare Street, Dublin , D02 TD30. Tel: 01 631 3800 / LoCall: 1890 383 000

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