Minister Charlie Flanagan chats to Radwan Abouhajar and Radwan's daughter, at the Irish Syrian event.
An unique cultural event honouring the inspirational Syrian families of Ireland unfolded in Portlaoise at the weekend, featuring special guests from both the Irish Syrian Community and local elected representatives.
Members of the Irish Syrian Community from around Ireland made the pilgrimage to Portlaoise Parish Centre on Saturday afternoon, for a cultural celebration of the experiences of the many Syrian families who have relocated to Ireland in the last few years.
The event coincided with the Muslim festival of Eid al-Adha, one of the holiest celebrations in the Muslim calendar.
Organised by Radwan Abouhajar and his family, who relocated to Portlaoise around three years ago, the afternoon boasted a rich array of traditional Syrian cuisine and personal recollections.
“We are grateful for all the kindness, the help and support that everybody in Ireland, especially here in Portlaoise, has shown us,” said Radwan.
The event was attended by Minister Charlie Flanagan, who offered a céad míle fáilte to those who have arrived in Ireland from such a troubled part of the globe.
“Many have suffered severe hardship and trauma and difficulty over the last number of years. Ireland and the Irish people will continue to be of assistance to you in whatever way we can,” said Minister Flanagan.
He described Ireland as a place of sanctuary and opportunity, with some 1,200 Syrians so far welcomed to Ireland.
“One assurance I am unable to give is the matter of our weather,” the Minister wryly remarked. “I very much regret our summer season did not produce the appropriate measure of sunshine. As a government minister, I am unable to do anything about it.”
Cathaoirleach of Laois County Council, Cllr Padraig Fleming also attended, saying that this was his first opportunity to welcome all the Syrian families that have moved here as part of the resettlement project.
Msgr John Byrne also said a few words, remarking that he was bowled over by what some of the young Syrian people have achieved in such a short time in Ireland.
He was speaking after three Syrian youths who garnered high marks in their leaving cert exams were honoured at the event.
Members of the Irish Syrian community also spoke to the crowd, before a beautiful musical interlude was presented by a number of young children.
The message of the song was an appeal for peace and a chance for children to have the freedom to enjoy their childhood without fear.