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Clark: Reception for All Blacks/Ireland Teams

Embargoed until 5.40 pm
Tuesday 3 June 2008

Rt Hon Helen Clark
Prime Minister

Address at
Parliamentary Reception for
All Blacks/Ireland Rugby Teams

Banquet Hall

5.40 pm

Tuesday 3 June 2008

Welcome to you all. In particular, to our Irish visitors.

It is 16 years since Ireland and the All Blacks last met in a test match in Wellington.

In fact this Saturday’s game will be only the third time the teams have clashed in Wellington - yet matches between us stretch back for 103 years.

Over that century of ties, our two rugby playing nations have forged close ties.

We both draw our rugby teams from relatively small populations – yet we are high achievers against teams drawn from much bigger nations.

Our rugby relationship is underlined by the many other family and cultural bonds between Ireland and New Zealand. Around eighteen per cent of New Zealanders claim Irish descent, although that figure does seem to swell every St Patrick’s Day !

Like Irish squad member Isaac Boss, many New Zealanders have family links with Ireland. I am one of them.

Isaac was born in Tokoroa, but thanks to an Irish grandmother is able to represent Ireland and also plays for Ulster. My grandfather migrated to New Zealand from that province as a young man.

I also recall my very brief rugby-related visit to Ireland in late 2005 – to be part of the New Zealand presentation to the International Rugby Board in Dublin as we sought to host the 2011 Rugby World Cup. The outcome was successful and preparations for the Cup are in full swing.

Before wishing both teams well for Saturday, I want to mention one other Irish – New Zealand connection which is being advanced tonight.

From Ireland came the extraordinary Antactic adventurers – Ernest Shackleton and Tom Crean.

Ernest Shackleton was cited as a boyhood hero and inspiration for our own great Antarctic explorer, Sir Edmund Hillary – the first person to make a land crossing to the South Pole after Amundsen and Scott almost half a century before.

Our shared heritage in the Antarctic was recognised last year by the President of Ireland, Mary McAleese, with her announcement of a $100,000 grant from the Irish Government to the New Zealand Antarctic Heritage Trust.

The Trust cares for the bases left by explorers in the Ross Sea region of Antarctica, and is currently working hard to preserve Ernest Shackleton’s base at Cape Royds.

Tonight we are announcing that the Consul General of Ireland in New Zealand, Rodney Walshe, has been appointed to the board of the New Zealand Antarctic Heritage Trust.

I thank the Irish Government for the interest it is taking in our shared Antarctic heritage, and thank Rodney Walshe for his personal commitment to the Trust’s mission on the frozen continent.

Now can I wish both teams well for the test on Saturday.

May you play the fair and robust rugby both our nations are known for.


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