His Excellency, Ambassador Adrian O’Neill hosted Luton Irish Forum’s 20th anniversary celebrations at the Embassy of Ireland on 8th February.
Luton Irish Forum was established by a small group of community leaders and members as the government was encouraging communities to become more proactive and more involved in the general life of the community in which they lived. The first meetings were held in a small room in the Town Hall, moving on to the Drill Hall in High Town and then relocating to fully accessible community centre at Kathleen Connolly House. In 2011 the building was redeveloped with funding from Irish Government and match funding from the Boyle family of The Bushwood partnership and officially opened by the then Taoiseach Enda Kenny TD.
Whilst originally set up to safeguard the needs of the Irish residents in Luton, Luton Irish Forum is now a truly representative community organisation serving Luton’s diverse vulnerable and socially excluded people. Its activities and events which promote health and wellbeing, improve quality of life and increase social inclusion are accessed 1,000s times annually.
The Mayor of Luton Cllr Mohammad Ayub, Cllr Hazel Simmons, Cllr Aslam Khan, Lord Bill Mc Kenzie, the High Sherriff of Bedford and Robin Porter from London Luton Airport Limited were in attendance amongst a packed room of members, staff, trustees, volunteers, stakeholders and sponsors. The crowd were treated to excellent performances from Luton Irish Forum’s Choir and Emerald Pipe Band and a group of traditional musicians from Comhaltas that regularly support Luton Irish Forum activities and events. The highlight of the evening was the presentation of certificates to founder members and the families of late founder members.
A member commented ‘You should be so proud of all your achievements, building on what was started in such a small way 20 years ago. You have built up such an amazing team and there was such joy and happiness at this exciting and momentous event this evening. I have to say I was especially proud of the pipe band. They really do make it all so special. Thank you for your commitment and hard work, it is so appreciated.’ A stakeholder commented ‘Many thanks for a superb evening; a true testament to the strength and vitality of the Forum.’
Tom Scanlon, Chair of Luton Irish Forum said ‘We are indebted to our founding members, sponsors and all those who have supported the Forum during the last 20 years to become one of the most progressive and diverse organisations in Britain. I wish to place on record our gratitude to Ambassador Adrian O’ Neill and the staff at the Embassy of Ireland for providing us with long lasting memories of a very special event.’
For further information on the services of Luton Irish Forum, please visit our website at www.lutonirishforum.org of telephone 01582 720 447.
According to the 2011 Census, Luton has the highest percentage of Irish living outside of London. 6,126 [3%] of Luton residents ticked the Irish box, whilst just over 195 [0.1%] ticked the Irish Traveller box. This is not a true reflection as the majority of second and third generation did not tick the Irish box in the Census.
Luton Irish Forum centre Kathleen Connolly House was jointly funded by Connolly Foundation, Díon (now known as the Irish Government Emigrant Support Programme) and Luton Borough Council.