Irish sympathise with the fight for Independence

By Dean Nathan

They're a people who have fought long and hard for independence.  Today the President of Ireland visited Waitangi on the anniversary of the signing of the 1835 Declaration of Independence of New Zealand and was impressive at the welcome where he picked up the challenge and put it on his heart.

Peeni Henare told Te Kaea, "The real connection the Irish people have with Māori is that we fight for independence.  So it's pleasing that we're gathered at Waitangi on this day where his advice to Māori is to maintain our sovereignty and do not give it to anyone. We must continue to strive for our independence. 

The President addressed the gathering in Gaelic before turning to English with his speech followed by an Irish folk song from his entourage.

President Michael Higgins says, "I have to tell you that even since I've been looking again at some of my notes on the significance of Waitangi in relation to both land and not just land but in relation to sea and fisheries and foreshore and so forth and the influence that the Waitangi treaty has had indeed on the legislation at different times and the legislation that has been changed in different periods and I want to wish you every success as you go forward with all of these issues."

Ngati Hine Leader Pita Tipene says, "They can emphasise with us because the Irish has battled for generations for their independence and have their own treaties.  So for them to come here on the 28th of October its such an important day for all of the Ngāpuhi it's tremendous to host him."

Now President, Michael Higgins was responsible for the establishment of the Irish language station in 1996 and had some very good advice for the retention and development of our native tongue into the future.

Henare said, "What resounded with me was his strategy for the Māori language.  He said we must cleave to and retain our language and grow it in Aotearoa.  On his next visit he wants to hear Māori being spoken widely across the country and not only on the marae.

The President returns to Ireland this weekend.