Friday, 1 October 2010

Visit to America

Last week I visited North Carolina, Washington and New York.  It was an extremely busy schedule with almost fifty meetings and events and the focus was on the creative industries, culture and art.

We started in Raleigh, which is the capital of North Carolina, and I was interested to see outside the old Capitol building a magnificent bronze statue depicting the three American presidents associated with the state - Andrew Jackson, James Knox Polk and Andrew Johnson.  All three had links to Ulster and this illustrates the strong Scotch-Irish influence in the state.

In fact Andrew Jackson's name cropped up several times during the visit.  He was of course the founder of the Democratic Party and he is remembered with affection by many Americans.  One prominent politician in Washington said to me that they have presidents on their banknotes but they have Jackson in their hearts. 

Later a political commentator in Washington but one who was born in Belfast, said, 'Andrew Jackson is the key figure in the emergence of the Scotch-Irish people in America on to the world stage.  I have studied the waxing and waning of his reputation over the past 180 years and believe he is emerging as a potent symbolic figure again for a reviving American nationalism.'

Jackson's family emigrated from Boneybefore, near Carrickfergus; Polk's family came from Tyrone and Donegal; and Johnson's ancestors are thought to have come from Mounthill, near Larne.


  1. Yes, Minister, I see that you were here for the opening of the “Experience Northern Ireland – Titanic and More” exhibit at Grand Central Station.

    It was a well-done and worthy exhibit.

    However, it was most disappointing that no mention was made of Irish-language organizations, events, activities and attractions,

    The staff were friendly and helpful, but seemed to know nothing of Belfast’s Gaeltacht Quarter.

    Yes, there is more to Northern Ireland, included Belfast’s other Quarters.

    It seemed to me An Ceathrú Gaeltachta was indeed marginalized in the endeavor.

  2. The exhibition highlighted the NITB Signature Projects. I did not see anything about the Gaeltacht Quarter but then neither did I see anything about the Shankill Quarter or any other quarter.

  3. There was a nice amount of Ulster-Scots-related material and representation.

    I picked up a handsome Scots in Ulster Surname Map & Pocket History. Quite impressive as were some of the other items.

    Also, Blue Eagle Productions’ “Fair Faa Ye, USA” beckoned New Yorkers to visit the North.

    While the emphasis was on NITB Signature Projects, the show didn’t seem limited to it or exclusive toward any other of Northern Ireland’s appealing features, except of course, with regard to cúrsaí na Gaeilge.

    The staff whom I met, as pleasant and eager to assist as they were, knew nothing of the Gaeltacht Quarter.

    If there is a Shankill Quarter, as you imply, and I agree that there ought to be, your office would do well to inform the Belfast Vistor and Convention Bureau.

  4. Andrew Jackson hated English royalty. He is loved because he was a heroic champion of republican values--great man, in line with the McCracken tradition of Scotch Irishness.