Address of Fr Alan Hilliard, Director of the Irish Bishops’ Commission for Emigrants at the Association of Irish Celtic Supporters Club Annual Dinner “thank you for not forgetting and thank you for keeping the faith”

09 Jul 2004


9 JULY 2004



“thank you for not forgetting and thank you for keeping the faith” – Fr Hilliard

Embargoed until 8.00pm on Friday 9th July 2004


It is a great honour to be here this evening to accept this presentation on
behalf of the SIA (Supporting Irish Abroad) Campaign. It is a two fold honour:
firstly; to be in the presence of such wonderful players and leaders and
secondly; to be in the presence of a group of people who haven’t forgotten
those who have fallen on hard times.

So many times today we have evidence of people and Governments forgetting
their social obligations and most sadly their roots. One politician said
recently that we no longer have the left-wing right-wing politics of the
past – it’s now about inside and outside. There are people who today who
always have a ticket for the game and those who haven’t a hope of ever
getting one.

Someone said to me once that ‘Leaders are dealers in hope’. Your founder
Brother Walfrid Kerins was such a leader. He was an Irishman, born in
Ballymote, County Sligo. As a Marist Brother ministering in Scotland he
saw the destitution of the Irish immigrants in Glasgow and he set up a
football club to raise money to alleviate the suffering of these people.
He called the fund ‘the Poor Children’s Dinner Table’. He also wanted to
give people the great satisfaction of enjoying themselves on the field
of play.

The SIA (Supporting Irish Abroad) campaign was set up this year by the
Irish Bishops’ Commission for Emigrants to bring attention to the plight
of Irish people abroad. The SIA campaign has already raised close to €300,000,
mostly through indoor church collections. The Commission is presently
planning how best to distribute these funds. The focus is on the support
and care of our most marginalised Irish emigrants.

In making this presentation today you are encapsulating the Spirit of
your founder and I thank you. I wish you luck with next season, I know
that in having leaders like your manager Martin O’Neill and your Chairman
Brian Quinn you are filled with great hope. I also wish you well with
your fund-raising for the statue of Brother Walfrid.

One of our greatest crimes is that we so easily forget; we forget the
hard work of past generations that gave us the foundations for great
football clubs and great societies. We have been appealing to Government
to recognise the fact that 1.2 million of our Irish-born live abroad
and have little recognition in the policies of our nation. We have
forgotten them; we took their money when it was sent home, now we
have forgotten them.

May I take this opportunity to thank your sponsors The Irish Sun for
their support for the SIA campaign and particularly for Paddy Clancy’s
article entitled ‘You’re gone but not forgotten my friends’ on the 9th
of April.

Thank you; Association of Irish Celtic Supporters Clubs; thank you for
not forgetting and thank you for “Keeping the Faith.”

Further information:
Martin Long Director of Communications (086 172 7678)
Brenda Drumm Communications Officer (087 233 7797)
Fr Alan Hilliard Director IBC’s Commission for Emigrants (087 747 7110)


* Fr Alan Hilliard is the Director of the Irish Bishops’ Commission for
Emigrants which is chaired by Most Rev Seamus Hegarty, Bishop of Derry.
* Fr Hilliard was speaking at Annual Dinner of the Association of Irish
Celtic Supporters Club in the City West Hotel, Dublin.
* The Supporters Club select a charity each year and this year they
presented a cheque to Fr Hilliard for the SIA (Supporting Irish Abroad)
* The SIA campaign was launched in London on 22 February 2004 by Bishop
Seamus Hegarty, to raise awareness of the plight of our Irish abroad
and to raise money via diocesan appeals.
* Further information on the SIA Campaign is available at