FREDERICTON (GNB) – The following statement regarding St. Patrick’s Day was issued today by Seniors and Long-Term Care Minister Lisa Harris, who is minister responsible for Celtic Affairs:

As we celebrate St. Patrick’s Day, I want to take a moment to reflect on the enormous contributions the Irish community has made to this province.

As minister responsible for Celtic Affairs, I feel it is important to recognize those who landed on our shores with next to nothing but, through hard work and determination, made new lives here.

The period from 1845 to 1851 saw a huge influx of Irish immigrants after the devastating potato famine killed more than one million people in their home country. But New Brunswick had been settled by the Irish long before the potato famine.

It is believed the first immigrants from Ireland came here about 100 years before we actually became a province. By 1871, there were more than 100,000 people here who were Irish. The population at the time was 285,000 so that is about one-third of the entire province who came from Ireland or were descended from Irish immigrants.

As many of you know, I am a proud Miramichier and there is an annual festival that maybe you have heard about. Canada’s Irish Festival on the Miramichi draws thousands of people to the community for music, dance, stories and friendship each year.

But it is not only the Miramichi that celebrates its Irish heritage. Whether you are in Saint John or Irishtown or in Dalhousie, the roots of Irish culture run deep.

So whether you are truly Irish, or just Irish for a day, Happy St. Patrick’s Day.