My name is Robert O’Driscoll. I am Ireland’s Consul General in San Francisco.

I am delighted to be here in Arizona, in Phoenix, at the McClelland, the Irish Cultural Centre here, for the International Famine Commemoration.

I would like to welcome you to the Great Famine Voices Roadshow which is going to take place over this weekend supported by the Department of Culture, Heritage, and the Gaeltacht.

This is a really special weekend. It is the first time this International Famine Commemoration has taken place in western America.

When I think of the Famine – and why Arizona? – I think of how foundational the Famine was in Ireland’s relationship with the world.

When we think of our diaspora – the seventy million people all around the world who claim Irish descent, thirty five million here in the U.S., and almost a million here in Arizona – a lot of those people and their descendants are the ones who form part of our incredibly active, vibrant, and dedicated Irish community all across the United States, and particularly here in Phoenix.

Where I am sitting at the moment in Phoenix is in front of Famine Memorial – this is twenty years old this year. On this piece of land where they built the Irish Centre and the McClelland Library, this was the foundational piece. This was the very first structure that was built on this land.

In many ways, this is emblematic I suppose of what I was saying about how important a moment the Famine was: not only a great national tragedy, but also an opportunity, the first point really when there was a huge expansion of Irish overseas.

So there is a huge weekend of events planned. There is actually a children’s book and reading event on at the moment at the Centre. They are reading books related to the Famine. This afternoon our Minister of State Patrick O’Donovan arrives in Phoenix. He will give a talk tonight to the community.

Tomorrow we are going to have in the courtyard here about two hundred people and dignitaries reflecting on Famine, reflecting on the Irish here in Arizona, and the enormous contribution that our community has made to this great state.

I am delighted to be here representing the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade and the Consulate.

This structure and this Centre we support annually through Emigrant Support Programme funding. We are very happy to do so. They are a key partner for us in Arizona. I think they do great work here.

This weekend is a real opportunity to showcase that work, and also to celebrate the links between Ireland and Arizona.