First Lady opens exhibition celebrating 100 years of Irish involvement in Kenya

100 years the Irish in Kenya
HE Margaret Kenyatta at launch of 100 Years - the Irish in Kenya. Photo: Twitter/FirstLadyKenya

An exhibition showcasing 100 years of Irish involvement in Kenya has been opened at the National Museum in Nairobi by First Lady Margaret Kenyatta as part of Ireland’s Centenary commemorations.

Mrs Kenyatta’s connection to the Emerald Isle come from her attendance at a Loreto a convent school run by Irish nuns in Msongari to which she has credited her success in life.

The opening saw museum packed with hundreds of Kenyan and Irish nationals for the event hosted by Dr Vincent O’Neill, Ireland’s Ambassador to the country.

Speaking at the event, the First Lady said the century-long relationship between Kenya and Ireland has been based on generosity, kindness, service, mutual respect and appreciation.

She went on to ssay that the enduring co-operation between the two nations is further strengthened by common experiences of triumph over adversity as former colonies and shared values and ideals of freedom, autonomy and self-determination.

“We also have in common great cultural histories, in the arts and music; an outward facing and embracing curiosity, as well as a similar commitment to sport.

“Through the course of Kenya’s history we have hosted Irish Missionaries, NGO workers, businesses, and individuals who have contributed immensely to the development of our country and the welfare of our people.” – Kenyan First Lady, Margaret Kenyatta

Irish missionaries were among the first nationals from Ireland to set foot in Kenya, leaving their footprints in educational and health institutions.

The flow of people has gone both ways, with the First Lady telling the audience,  which included Diaspora and Overseas Development Minister Joe McHugh, how many Kenyans have also worked and lived in Ireland over the years where they have contributed their cultural flair and entrepreneurial know how.

They have left their enduring mark on the social and economic fabric of Ireland.

An emotional Kenyan Environment Minister, Prof. Judi Wakhungu was emotional, also spoke about told how Irish Loreto nuns instilled self-belief in her, leading to her becoming a professor of geology.

“They also taught us how to play tennis. I went on to represent my country internationally.

“And thanks to that I was able to go to university on a tennis scholarship. My parents were very, very grateful because it didn’t cost them a penny.” – Environment Minister, Prof. Judi Wakhungu

Ireland re-opened its embassy in Nairobi in 2014 and Dr O’Neill spoke about how during the last century, Irish people had contributed immensely to Kenyan society.

“Some came as missionaries and stayed to provide healthcare and education,” said the Ambassador.

“Some came for other opportunities and stayed and helped set up medical practices, motoring businesses, legal firms, training schools and agricultural colleges.

“The Irish came and fell in love with a country and a people that in many ways mirrored their own experience of home.” – Dr Vincent O’Neill, Ireland’s Ambassador to Kenya

Minister McHugh said the centenary of the Easter Rising was an ideal opportunity “to capture and communicate the contribution of so many Irish people to the development of Kenyan society”.

“I know after just two days of my first visit to Kenya that the Irish presence and contribution here is greatly appreciated by the Kenyan people.

“Irish people the world over are famous for our desire to travel the globe, to settle in faraway places and making a lasting contribution to their newly adopted homeland.” – Diaspora and Overseas Development Minister Joe McHugh

The exhibition will be on display for a month at the National Museum before going on a year-long tour of the country.