(L-R: John Fitzpatrick: Ireland Funds Chairman, Francis Cahill: ICC, Collette Mackin: General Manager ICC, Jim O'Hara: Chairman ICC, Garrett Hayes: Chairman Ireland Fund of Great Britain, Seamus MCGarry: ICC, Kieran McLoughlin: Ireland Funds CEO)
We were absolutely honoured to receive IFGB's 2018 Award last night at the Embassy of Ireland, London. Garett Hayes, Chair of the Ireland Fund of Great Britain board paid tribute to those involved in the ICC redevelopment project and in particular to Jim O'Hara (Chairman of the Irish Cultural Centre board). Jim O'Hara accepted the award on behalf of the centre.
"I am delighted to accept this award on behalf of myself and everyone associated with the Irish Cultural Centre. The public recognition of our achievements, in promoting Irish culture and developing the new building for the Centre, by the Ireland Fund, with its worldwide reputation, is very much appreciated.
On several occasions during the last ten years the Centre was threatened with closure but on each occasion we succeeded in saving the day. Finally in 2012, we succeeded in raising the money to buy the site and the original building from Hammersmith and Fulham Council. We managed to achieve this with generous financial assistance from the Irish government and also by entering into an imaginative partnership with Shepherds Bush Housing Association which involved securing planning permission to demolish the old building and constructing a new Irish Cultural Centre with 24 apartments on top. In this way, we raised the finance to purchase the freehold of the site and develop a new modern building suitable for our cultural and educational programmes. We left our old building in March 2013 but still managed to continue our programme of activities in other nearby premises despite the loss of income and increased costs associated with our move elsewhere. We eventually moved back into our new premises in January 2017 but still needed to raise the finance to complete a full interior fit out of the new building. We have raised over £450,000 in fitting out the interior to the highest specification and are now fully operational; a further £80,000 needs to be raised to finish the job.
The charitable organisation which we set up in 2007 now owns the freehold of a modern building in a prime site in central London which will be held in trust for the Irish community in Britain for many generations to come. This is a lasting legacy of which we are proud. The building represents the importance of culture in linking the Irish in Britain together, and, indeed, in linking the Irish communities all over the world. It is our culture which provides our sense of identity and helps define us as a people. Our culture is not marginal to public policy but a key element of it. London is one of the great capital cities of the world and it is essential that in it Ireland has a Cultural Centre, as have most other European nations, to present all that is best of our culture and artistic creativity. This Centre belongs to everyone in the Irish community and it is up to you to support it by coming to events, taking part in activities, and using its facilities. We have four comfortable, well equipped, modern rooms which can accommodate from 12 to 90 people, as well as a flexible, fully equipped auditorium which can hold up to 180 people. These are available for hire for meetings and other functions.
I wish to conclude by thanking the many people who have contributed to our success. I have already mentioned the vital support of the Irish government, through the Department of Foreign Affairs, and also of the Ambassador and staff of Embassy of Ireland in London - both past and present. The collaboration with Shepherds Bush Housing Association has been essential and the generous financial assistance of Hammersmith and Fulham Council was vital in assisting with our fit out.
Many other organisations and individuals have supported us financially, especially the Ireland Fund of Great Britain, the St. Patrick's Day committee and the Lisbon Lions Charity of Glasgow Celtic Football Club. There are too many individuals to mention them all but our gratitude has been conveyed to them.
All our wonderful volunteers and tutors deserve our sincere thanks for their loyalty and commitment to us, especially in difficult times. I want to thank our Assistant Manager, Katie Walsh, for all her invaluable work during her time with us. In particular, our gratitude goes to our General Manager, Collette Mackin, for the dedication, energy and professionalism she has brought to everything she does. My thanks goes to the other Directors on our Board, namely Ros Scanlon, Seamus McGarry, Ivan Gibbons, Michael Kingston and Peter Power-Hynes, as well as former Director, Mary Walker, for all their commitment, their time and their support.
Finally, I conclude by saying how I am honoured to receive this award from the Ireland Fund of Great Britain, and wish to thank our Ambassador, Adrian O'Neill, for his warm and generous hospitality."
Jim O'Hara: Chair of Directors - Irish Cultural Centre (7 February 2018 Embassy of Ireland, London)