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Dignitary Praises The Irish of Emmetsburg

By Staff | Mar 13, 2008

WELCOME TO EMMETSBURG – One of the first places that David and Mary Stanton visited on Wednesday morning was Emmetsburg Catholic School. Stanton, a Fine Gael member of the Irish Parliament, and his wife, Mary, will represent the Republic of Ireland during Emmetsburg’s week-long St. Patrick’s Day Celebration. More photos of the Stanton’s visit to the Catholic School can be found on Page 8 of today’s “Democrat.” – Lori Martinez photo

“It’s like being in Ireland–it’s so Irish here. It’s like we never left home,” commented David Stanton, T.D., the Republic of Ireland’s representative to Emmetsburg for the 2008 St. Patrick’s Day Celebration.

Stanton is a Fine Gael member of the Irish Parliament representing County Cork East. He and his wife, Mary, will spend the next few days touring various Emmetsburg schools, businesses, and other institutions. The couple will return to Ireland on Monday, Mar. 17–St. Patrick’s Day.

Stanton remarked on the friendliness of Emmetsburg, and how similar the town is to those of Ireland.

“Everywhere we go, people come up to us and tell us ‘My granny was from Ireland’ or ‘My ancestors are Irish’,” noted Stanton. “It’s great to see the connection between Ireland and Emmetsburg. I suppose it’s a microcosm of the special relationship between Ireland and the United States. That has come to me more and more as we’ve traveled around.”

Stanton first noticed that Irish-American connection when addressing the Iowa State Legislature on Tuesday.

“So many of the representatives and legislators came up to us afterwards and shared their Irish heritage and background with us. It was really gratifying to see,” Stanton added.

Mary Stanton echoed her husband’s thoughts.

“I’m thrilled to be here,” said Mary. “It’s wonderful to see the devotion to Ireland and the love of Ireland, especially amongst the schoolchildren. We sometimes forget the impact that Ireland has had on the U.S.”

This isn’t the Stanton’s first visit to the U.S. After studying to become a nurse, Mary traveled throughout Canada and the U.S. David has visited Washington, D.C., New York City, and San Francisco on parliamentary business. Most recently, the dignitary and his son visited Boston, spending their holiday there. In September, the couple’s son will return to Boston to attend college. The family boasts four sons, ranging in age from 13 to college-age.

“Emmetsburg is special. It’s like a piece of Ireland that has been transplanted over here,” said Stanton. “Even Irish television came here during the primaries and Emmetsburg was featured as an Irish-American community, and that was fantastic to see. It’s important to build on the relationship between Ireland and the U.S. It’s important to maintain and continue this strong relationship.”

Honoring St. Patrick

And Robert Emmet

The Irish celebrate St. Patrick’s Day much as those in Emmetsburg do. Stanton shared that they attend Mass in the morning, followed by a parade. Most towns have a parade of some kind, and in Dublin, there is a week-long festival which attracts tour groups from the U.S. Horse racing is also popular, and during St. Patrick’s Week, many Irish will attend a racing festival in England. Of course, the Irish also enjoy music, dancing, and a few drinks in honor of St. Patrick.

“People wear the shamrock on their lapels when they go out,” said Stanton.

“We wear the actual plant,” added Mary. “I have a patch of it in our yard. A lot of the old men will wear big clumps of it on their hats.”

Patriot Robert Emmet, the namesake of Emmetsburg, is also a revered figure in Irish history.

“Emmet’s speech from the dock–before his execution by the English–ends with Emmet asking that his epitaph not be written until Ireland is free and at peace,” noted Stanton. “We recently observed the 200th anniversary of Emmet’s death, and, ironically, it was around that time that Ireland actually achieved peace.”

The Stanton’s will have much to share with their countrymen when they return home next week.

“What’s impressed me is the way that the people here honor Ireland and remember so much about Ireland,” said Mary. “It’s so alive here.”

“That special relationship has been reinforced for me,” David added. “Everyone here is so friendly and so interested. On the other side, the U.S. is at the forefront technologically with ethanol production. We’re very interested in that, too. We have a lot in common in the past and the present, and hopefully, in the future.”