Page last updated at 08:57 GMT, Wednesday, 4 March 2009

Obama proclaims 'March is Irish'

Barack Obama (Photo by: EMMANUEL DUNAND/AFP/Getty Images)
President Obama said the US is grateful for Irish-Americans

US President Barack Obama has proclaimed March as Irish-American heritage month.

"I encourage all Americans to observe this month with appropriate ceremonies, programmes, and activities," said President Obama.

"Irish-Americans are integral to the rich fabric of the US, and we are grateful for their service."

He said he wanted to honour "their journey and their lasting contributions to the history and culture of the US".

"Following the colonial migrations, the United States enjoyed the greatest influx of Irish during the 1840s as Ireland suffered the Great Famine," he said.

"Hungry but hopeful, poor but perseverant, Irish-Americans seized the opportunity to work hard, enjoy success, and pursue the American Dream.

'Leaders'

"Many took on the difficult work of constructing America's infrastructure. Others assumed positions of leadership.

"Among those leaders were signers of the Declaration of Independence and Presidents of the United States. Still others enjoyed great success and influence in the arts and literature.

Chicago river dye
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"From social activists to business leaders, athletes to clergy, and first responders to soldiers, distinguished Irish-Americans have made indelible contributions to our national identity.

"Today, tens of millions of Irish-Americans can look back with pride on the legacy of their forebears."

Stella O'Leary, of the Irish-American Democrats, said: "We're getting a great reaction to it."

"People are saying it's wonderful, they're delighted we're being acknowledged.

"The White House issues these proclamations to honour various ethnic groups.

"We're not the only ones, there's an African-American heritage month, and an Indian one."

Ms O'Leary said she believed the idea for the proclamation for Irish-Americans came from the president himself.

"In my brief conversations that I've had with him, he tells me that he's very proud of his own Irish ancestry in County Offaly.

"I think he's very conscious of his Irish associations."

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