The Irish of Butte remain loyal to their ancestral homeland – its history, its people. Daniel Mulhall, the Irish Ambassador to the United States knows the sentiment – he shares that same fierce loyalty. Butte and Mulhall – you could say it’s a perfect marriage.
The Ambassador visited Butte on Wednesday and gave a talk at the Butte-Silver Bow Public Archives. He felt at home and called Butte a “wonderful corner of Ireland”.
Mulhall has a wealth of diplomatic experience. He was Irish Ambassador to Malaysia from 2001 to 2005. In 2009, he was his country’s Ambassador to Germany for four years, then Ambassador to the United Kingdom for four years.
Four years ago, his diplomatic career continued as he crossed the Atlantic after being appointed Irish Ambassador to the United States, a post he still holds today.
The 66-year-old Irishman from Waterford has wanted to come to Butte since President Mary McAleese visited on May 17, 2006.
He read with interest his trip to the mining town and wondered if he could ever visit it.
Fifteen years later, his wish has come true.
“I am following in the footsteps of so many Irish who have come here,” he said.
The man has three degrees in Irish history and is also familiar with Irish history from Butte. He spoke so early 20e Irish dignitaries of the century like Douglas Hyde and Eamon de Valera, both of whom were visitors to Mining City and would each later carry the title of President of Ireland.
“Butte was a major milestone for Irish politicians,” he explained. “It was the place to be.”
Mulhall takes his ambassadorial post very seriously and believes that one of his main tasks is to connect with Irish America. He explained that many of these long-term immigrants arrived under stress but were able, over time, to create opportunities across the United States.
“The Irish dug canals, built railways and operated mines,” he explained, “and changed the fabric of America.”
While researching Butte, he learned how the town’s Irish immigrant population has contributed to its growth.
“A great chapter of Irish America happened in Butte,” he said.
Mulhall humbly told his audience that Ireland owes its freedom, in part, to immigrants who never forgot their homeland, including those who settled in Butte.
“We would never have obtained the freedom of the Irish without the Irish in America,” he explained. “They played a big role.
The Irish government is committed to continuing Irish studies in Montana. So much so that Mulhall announced that the Friends of Irish Studies, based in Missoula, will soon be the recipients of a grant of $ 24,000.
Working closely with the Butte Archives and the Old Order of Hibernians of Butte, the Friends of Irish Studies will continue to promote Irish cultural and educational events throughout Montana.
After a reception at the Archives, Mulhall, his wife Greta and Irish Consul General Robert O’Driscoll traveled to Butte.
“Butte is part of our Irish history,” he said.