ADDRESS BY HIS EXCELLENCY VIDMANTAS PURLYS AT THE COMMEMORATION OF THE 20TH ANNIVERSARY OF THE ESTABLISHMENT OF THE DIPLOMATIC RELATIONS BETWEEN IRELAND AND LITHUANIA, 15 September, Griffith College Dublin
Chairman of the Joint European Affairs Committee of the Dail, deputy Joe Costello,
President of the Griffith College Diarmuid Hegarty,
Ladies and Gentlemen,
On behalf of Lithuanian government, I would like to welcome you to the celebration that marks 20 years since the establishment of the diplomatic relations between Lithuania and Ireland.
Ireland was in the first group of countries which recognised the restored sovereignty of Lithuania on 27 August 1991. The diplomatic relations between the two countries were established on 2 September 1991. The support extended by Ireland to our freedom and independence is always remembered.
Of course, the relations between Ireland and Lithuania go back beyond the last twenty years.
Lithuania and Ireland started to build human and commercial links since both countries regained their freedom in the second decade of the XXth century.
There are remarkable examples of Irish hospitality and compassion towards Lithuanians.
In 1935, Lithuanian pilot Feliksas Vaitkus flew form the US to Lithuania, and landed in Ballinrobe, Co. Mayo due to the stormy weather conditions. He received a helping hand in Ballinrobe and was transferred safely to Lithuania. Vaitkus was entered in aviation’s history books for being the sixth pilot to fly solo across the Atlantic. People in Ballinrobe celebrate the Lithuanian hero up to this date. Vaitkus and his family were moved by the hospitality of the Irish people. For the last number of years Ballinrobe is a proud host of annual congresses of Lithuanians in Ireland.
The occupation of Lithuania by the Soviet Union in 1939 did not allow to expand bilateral ties between the countries. However, Lithuania is grateful to Ireland, which never recognised the forceful annexation and incorporation of Lithuania and other Baltic States by the Soviet Union.
Lithuanians also felt the helping hand of the Irish during this tragic period of our history when independence was lost. The last Prime Minister of independent Lithuania Kazys Škirpa was cordially received in Ireland, and Dublin was home to the famous Lithuanian statesman from 1946 to 1949.
Since 1991, Lithuania and Ireland have developed friendly relations and co-operate in a variety of fields.
Political co-operation between our two countries is set to increase. We work closely in international fora, notably the OSCE and EU. Ireland and Lithuania will hold the consecutive Presidencies of the EU in 2013.
I would also like to acknowledge the contribution of the Lithuanian community to the development of our bilateral ties. The Lithuanian community in Ireland is a strong bond that connects our two states and nations. I would like to convey special regards to the members of the Lithuanian community who are present here today.
I am confident that relations between our countries will get even closer, based on our similar historical experiences, and shared values, as well as human and cultural exchanges.
I would like to extend the appreciation to Griffith College and it’s President Diarmuid Hegarty for hosting this event, and also other sponsors who contributed to its organisation.
I would like to convey my particular thanks to Lithuanian folklore group “Lietuviškas Dobilas” (“Lithuanian shamrock”) for organising this event. I would also like to congratulate them on their 5th anniversary.