POLITICS

Irish Embassy opens in time for St Patrick’s Day celebrations

SANTIAGO – Just in time for the infamous St. Patricks’s Day, the embassy of Ireland in Santiago opened its doors. The opening of the embassy marks another step in increasingly strong relations between Ireland and Chile, two ostensibly disparate, but ever more similar, nations.

If it weren’t for the short-sleeved summer shirts and the pisco sour stand at the corner of the reception room, one could have been forgiven for thinking that this was just a normal hotel in Killarney or Galway or West Cork. A céilí band churned out jig standards, dancers clicked and stomped on the floor with the requisite stock-still torsos, and the faces were unanimously either pasty or sun-smacked. Even the pisco sours had been dyed a somewhat prophetic bile-green. But here, in the heart of Las Condes, was the first ever St Patrick’s Day reception to be held by the newly opened Irish Embassy of Chile.

In attendance were probably about half of Chile’s Irish population, which is not as impressive as it may seem, given that recent statistics put the total number at somewhere around the 200 mark. This, however, may be about to change. Eoghan Murphy, Irish minister for Housing, Planning, and Local Government, widely considered to be the number 3 in the current government’s power rankings, was here to promote trade and cultural links between the two countries.

Ireland means business

St Patrick’s Day is a uniquely useful brand for a country as small as Ireland, with only 4 million people and a GDP roughly the same as Chile’s, but with a global recognition that far exceeds these parameters. How much this recognition extends, in Chile, beyond duendes and Flannery’s Irish Pub is up for debate, but the visit of a relatively prominent member of Irish parliament on his country’s national holiday, and the opening of a standalone consulate in Santiago, is a clear indication that Ireland, more than ever before, and more in Chile than in most Latin American countries, means business.

Cursory observations about historical links between Ireland and Chile are, of course, valid: Chile’s famous son, Bernardo O’Higgins, namesake of Ireland’s current president, was born of a man from Sligo, a small town in the north of Ireland, and appears to have taken some pride in the fact. Other pop-out Irish surnames are hard to miss on the street signs of Chile – Mackenna, O’Brien, Lynch to name only a few.

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Chile and the Fight for Independence

However, in the 200-odd years since the time of these military men, little else has been seen to bind the two countries together. They developed in wildly different ways, had different priorities, different friends, different enemies, and betrayed their 11,000 km distance in just about every way imaginable. No longer, it seems.

Undeniable parallels have emerged in the last 20 years, and it appears that the powers that be, have finally taken note of it. These are both cultural and economic, the latter of course being more concrete: the economies of Ireland and Chile continue to include strong traditional sectors in farming and food production, but both countries have recently seen the development of robust knowledge-based industries.

Pharmaceuticals, information technology, food science, and industrial engineering are now hallmarks of these countries’ well-developed, and still developing, economies. Young, well-educated populations are driving this modernization, and providing a model for regional counterparts of similar size and potential.

A similar emergence

Less tangibly, but no less notably, both Ireland and Chile have emerged from darker, poorer pasts with remarkable speed. There is now in Chile an entire generation that has grown up and was born completely outside dictatorship. The vigor with which it struggles to create a society that is not defined by Pinochet is visible: it might have already lived two centuries, but this is not a country that feels old.

Ireland’s emergence from poverty and emigration, and from under the thumb of the Catholic church, is less neat as a parallel, but it has similarly given rise to a youthful, exuberant, progressive population. This, remember, is a country that only voted to legalize divorce in 1995 by about half a percent, and then voted to legalize gay marriage by a landslide only 20 years later. Not a change to be sneezed at.

It makes sense, then, that such concrete efforts are being made to shorten the distance between the two. In his speech yesterday, delivered in pretty handy Spanish, Minister Murphy noted that recent developments in Europe had opened up new parts of the world to Irish interests, and that Chile had come into view as the clearest and most obvious choice for a foothold in South America. He was equally keen to point out that this exchange would very much be a two-way street, mutually beneficial, lucrative, and binding. Crowd-pleasing, yes, but it is difficult to see where he could be wrong.

Also read:

SANTIAGO – Just in time for the infamous St. Patricks’s Day, the embassy of Ireland in Santiago opened its doors. The opening of the embassy marks another step in increasingly strong relations between Ireland and Chile, two ostensibly disparate, but ever more similar, nations.

If it weren’t for the short-sleeved summer shirts and the pisco sour stand at the corner of the reception room, one could have been forgiven for thinking that this was just a normal hotel in Killarney or Galway or West Cork. A céilí band churned out jig standards, dancers clicked and stomped on the floor with the requisite stock-still torsos, and the faces were unanimously either pasty or sun-smacked. Even the pisco sours had been dyed a somewhat prophetic bile-green. But here, in the heart of Las Condes, was the first ever St Patrick’s Day reception to be held by the newly opened Irish Embassy of Chile.

In attendance were probably about half of Chile’s Irish population, which is not as impressive as it may seem, given that recent statistics put the total number at somewhere around the 200 mark. This, however, may be about to change. Eoghan Murphy, Irish minister for Housing, Planning, and Local Government, widely considered to be the number 3 in the current government’s power rankings, was here to promote trade and cultural links between the two countries.

Ireland means business

St Patrick’s Day is a uniquely useful brand for a country as small as Ireland, with only 4 million people and a GDP roughly the same as Chile’s, but with a global recognition that far exceeds these parameters. How much this recognition extends, in Chile, beyond duendes and Flannery’s Irish Pub is up for debate, but the visit of a relatively prominent member of Irish parliament on his country’s national holiday, and the opening of a standalone consulate in Santiago, is a clear indication that Ireland, more than ever before, and more in Chile than in most Latin American countries, means business.

Cursory observations about historical links between Ireland and Chile are, of course, valid: Chile’s famous son, Bernardo O’Higgins, namesake of Ireland’s current president, was born of a man from Sligo, a small town in the north of Ireland, and appears to have taken some pride in the fact. Other pop-out Irish surnames are hard to miss on the street signs of Chile – Mackenna, O’Brien, Lynch to name only a few.

You might be interested in:

Chile and the Fight for Independence

However, in the 200-odd years since the time of these military men, little else has been seen to bind the two countries together. They developed in wildly different ways, had different priorities, different friends, different enemies, and betrayed their 11,000 km distance in just about every way imaginable. No longer, it seems.

Undeniable parallels have emerged in the last 20 years, and it appears that the powers that be, have finally taken note of it. These are both cultural and economic, the latter of course being more concrete: the economies of Ireland and Chile continue to include strong traditional sectors in farming and food production, but both countries have recently seen the development of robust knowledge-based industries.

Pharmaceuticals, information technology, food science, and industrial engineering are now hallmarks of these countries’ well-developed, and still developing, economies. Young, well-educated populations are driving this modernization, and providing a model for regional counterparts of similar size and potential.

A similar emergence

Less tangibly, but no less notably, both Ireland and Chile have emerged from darker, poorer pasts with remarkable speed. There is now in Chile an entire generation that has grown up and was born completely outside dictatorship. The vigor with which it struggles to create a society that is not defined by Pinochet is visible: it might have already lived two centuries, but this is not a country that feels old.

Ireland’s emergence from poverty and emigration, and from under the thumb of the Catholic church, is less neat as a parallel, but it has similarly given rise to a youthful, exuberant, progressive population. This, remember, is a country that only voted to legalize divorce in 1995 by about half a percent, and then voted to legalize gay marriage by a landslide only 20 years later. Not a change to be sneezed at.

It makes sense, then, that such concrete efforts are being made to shorten the distance between the two. In his speech yesterday, delivered in pretty handy Spanish, Minister Murphy noted that recent developments in Europe had opened up new parts of the world to Irish interests, and that Chile had come into view as the clearest and most obvious choice for a foothold in South America. He was equally keen to point out that this exchange would very much be a two-way street, mutually beneficial, lucrative, and binding. Crowd-pleasing, yes, but it is difficult to see where he could be wrong.

Also read:

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