Your Majesty, Your Excellency Madame President, Your Royal Highness, Dr. Martin McAleese, Secretary of State, My Lords, Ladies and Gentlemen.

It was nearly five years ago when Co-operation Ireland last had the privilege of hosting an event in London attended by our joint patrons The Queen and The President of Ireland. As patrons of Co-operation Ireland, your support has been vital and symbolic of the wish of both countries to have a settled, socially integrated, prosperous and peaceful island of Ireland.

As was said at that event nearly 5 years ago, the bombs and bullets have stopped but prejudice and mistrust remain. Unfortunately, the events of the last couple of months; the sad loss of the two British soldiers and a serving officer of the PSNI are a tragic reminder that there are those in our society that wish to drag us back to dark but not forgotten days. Integration must be our watch word, for so long as mono-cultured societies live behind closed walls, the ability to reach a true and lasting peace is made almost impossible to achieve. Separate but equal societies are not viable and Co-operation Ireland’s endeavours will be relentless to achieve integration by many different approaches and methods.

In 1979, at the height of the troubles an influential business man Dr. Brendan O’Regan founded Co-operation Ireland. He and a number of like-minded people realised that for Ireland to succeed economically and socially, there needed to be better relations between Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland; that is as true today as it was thirty years ago. Co-operation Ireland’s work being the only jointly established body is focused to these ends. Co-operation Ireland seeks to promote the economic viability of this island by encouraging greater linkages between both parts of the island so people can work together for mutual benefit and for the benefit of the island as a whole.

Co-operation Ireland being the leading NGO delivering this agenda can only work with sufficient funding and I would ask our four supporting Governments; Great Britain, The Republic of Ireland, the EU and America as well as the private sector to step up to the mark in these difficult economic times to make sure that Co-operation Ireland has the resources to continue its work in order not to lose the hard fought gains already made. We now have a democratic devolved administration in Northern Ireland, but politicians can only deliver so much; it’s the people themselves that need to underwrite the return to civilised, integrated normality. Much work needs to be done to bring communities together to facilitate this seminal change of attitude in the hearts and minds of those that carry a legacy of prejudice and mistrust.

On this special occasion I would like to record my thanks to the Board and staff of Co-operation Ireland, led by Peter Sheridan for their hard work and vocational commitment. I would like to record a special thanks to Bertie Ahern who has been of so much help to our mission since joining the Board of Co-operation Ireland.

This is the official celebration of 30 years of Co-operation Ireland’s endeavours and is another landmark in Anglo-Irish relations. In so celebrating, we must recognise the hard work that is in front of us.

I thank wholeheartedly your Majesty and you Madam President for attending this evening’s event and for your continued support. Whilst celebrating in your presence here tonight, Co-operation Ireland is hopeful that when the time is right we will have the occasion to celebrate again in your presence in Dublin.

We are very fortunate tonight to have The Priests to come to sing for us. The Priests; Fathers Eugene and Martin O Hagan, and Father David Delargy have returned early from commitments in Australia especially to be with us tonight. They are of course a performing and recording wonder and their commitment for a settled peace in Ireland is evident by their appearance here this evening and their commitment to perform two concerts for Co-operation Ireland both here and in America in the future. Thank you. Ladies and Gentlemen, The Priests.


It now gives me great pleasure to introduce the Grosvenor Grammar School’s Chamber Choir from Belfast. The choir is composed of year 13 and year 14 students and was chosed from a sixty strong full school choir to attend this event. The choir have consistently achieved first place in many music festivals. Ladies and Gentlemen, The Grosvenor Grammar School’s Chamber Choir.