Each and every year on St Patrick’s Day we celebrate the links between Britain and Ireland and the enormous contribution the Irish have made to the world.
But of course this St Patrick’s Day is particularly notable for us, because this year we are able to look forward to the completion of the final stage of devolution in Northern Ireland – and with it the dawn of a lasting peace.
It took hard work. It took many hours of detailed negotiation. But most of all it took men and women of courage prepared to forgive the past in the service of the future.
This settlement would simply never have happened without the intense levels of cooperation between UK and Ireland – and in partnership we have achieved a dream many said could never come to pass.
And this year, with the upcoming Papal visit in September, many people in our Irish community have another reason to celebrate the links between Britain and the wider world and to reflect upon the values which unite us across boundaries of religion and geography and nation.
This year we stand stronger together than we could ever be apart.
Please pass my warm best wishes for St Patrick’s Day to your family and friends.