24 June 2011

An evening to be proud of Wexford

Presidential candidate Michael D Higgins and Minister Brendan Howlin at the launch of the Wexford Ambassadors programme in Iveagh House last night

Patrick Comerford

The new Wexford Ambassador programme was launched last night in Iveagh House by the Minister for Public Expenditure and Wexford Labour TD Brendan Howlin and the chair of Wexford County Council, Councillor Michael Kavangh.

Four well-known Wexford personalities have been appointed as Wexford Ambassadors – the authors Colm Tóibín and Eoin Colfer, the Irish rugby international star Gordon D’Arcy and the Irish soccer international Kevin Doyle.

The ambassadors’ programme honours the achievements of Co Wexford’s iconic ambassadors, supports young and emerging Wexford talent and promotes the culture and heritage of the county.

The events programme is ongoing and is to have a different theme each year. This year’s theme looks at how identity and a sense of place can be created through literature.

Wexford playwright and author and his wife Patti at the launch of the Wexford Ambassadors programme in Iveagh House last night

The ballroom was full of a variety of Wexford people. The playwright and author Billy Roche and his wife Patti recalled poetry readings in the 1970s in Wexford YMCA, that Colm Tóibín hitched to from Enniscorthy as a schoolboy and that paved the way for the foundation of the Wexford Arts Centre. And we recalled the fire that destroyed the ‘Shamrock Bar’ and the people, places and events scattered through Tumbling Down and his Wexford Trilogy

His cousin Pierce Turner waxed lyrical about the intimate connection between song-writing and writing poetry.

Former Wexford Mayor George Lawlor, with a Purple-and-Gold tie, at the launch of the Wexford Ambassadors programme in Iveagh House last night

Brendan’s brother, Ted Howlin, and another former Mayor of Wexford, George Lawlor, sporting a tie in the Purple-and-Gold of Wexford, recalled John Howlin, Brendan Corish and some other politicians we knew and worked with, including Des Corish, who died earlier this month.

There was Michael Freeman, who could remember late night theological debates in School Street and High Street about John Robinson’s Honest to God, Pierre Tielhard de Chardin and Dietrich Bonhoeffer. Pat Semple recalled former clerical colleagues in Wexford Town and in the Diocese of Ferns. And Deaglan de Breadún represented that move from Wexford to The Irish Times.

We are all proud of our Wexford roots. Even Presidential hopeful Michael D Higgins was an honorary Wexford man for this evening of pride in the purple-and-gold. It was an evening of Wexford strawberries, Wexford folksongs, and even a hint or more of Wexford opera.

Councillor John Hegarty, who chairs the Economic and Cultural Development, said Co Wexford has many assets, none more so than the quality of its people. “Across the world, in sport, literature and business, Wexford men and women have achieved significant success, disproportionately it has to be agreed, to the size of the county. These Wexford natives professional, hugely successful, globally respected and yet very much associated with their home county are the ideal representatives for the county and what it has to offer.”

Last night’s launch in the Ballroom of the Department of Foreign Affairs also highlighted the newly designated “Wexford Day,” which falls tomorrow [25 June]. To mark Wexford Day, the author and historian, Patricia O’Reilly will discuss the designer Eileen Gray in Enniscorthy Library, in Wexford Town Library Niall Griffiths will read from his recent publication, Ten Pound Pom, and discuss travel writing as a genre, and in Gorey Civic Square Pierce Turner leads a song-writing workshop.

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