Every spring, thousands of people travel to Washington, D.C., for the European Union Embassies’ Open House. This year’s EU Open House will be held on May 13, 2017, from 10 a.m. until 4 p.m. Ms. Siobhán Miley, Press Counsellor for the Embassy of Ireland, spoke with me about what visitors can expect at the Irish Embassy this Saturday. It was also a perfect time for me to learn more about Ambassador Anne Anderson, Ireland’s 17th (and first woman) Ambassador to the United States.
What activities do you offer at the Open House?
We are delighted to welcome between 4,000 and 6,000 people each year. We put on a display of Irish music and dance. We use all the space outside the Embassy outside for a display of sporting skills as well, like Irish Rugby. Indoors we continue that with hurling, camogie, and Gaelic football. It’s an opportunity for people to learn Irish words and taste some Kerrygold cheeses and butter with brown bread.
The Irish Embassy is a very popular embassy on the EU Open House circuit. We’re always very excited to participate!
How do local Irish and Irish-American groups participate?
We engage and welcome members of the Irish American and Irish communities based here in D.C. They are delighted as well with the opportunity to showcase either Irish culture or sporting skills. They will also inform the visitors of upcoming Irish theater and film.
What is Ambassador Anderson’s role on Open House day?
We have photos of her last year enjoying the dancing outside the Embassy. It’s a popular [open house]. Many people have either Irish heritage themselves, or they are interested in Ireland and hope to visit. They just want to talk about Ireland. It’s all quite exciting to engage in conversation and the Ambassador is always delighted to both meet our visitors and also engage with our community. It is very much a group effort.
What are two initiatives that Ambassador Anderson is proud of?
Last year, the Kennedy Center festival was the flagship event of the commemorations program, which was the 100th anniversary of the 1916 Easter Rising. That was a huge project, a culmination of more than two years of planning and collaboration between the Embassy and the Kennedy Center as led by the Ambassador. It was a three-week Irish festival with over 50 performances involving over 500 artists. It was a spectacular success and an initiative that I know she is very proud of.
A second – it only happened this past Tuesday – we are always looking to promote Ireland in terms of culture and sport. We had the first ever Irish Heritage Day at the Washington Nationals stadium and the Ambassador threw the ceremonial first pitch. She did very well! There was a festival tent where contacts and the Northern Ireland Bureau participated to showcase Irish food, produce, and beverages. There was a display again of Irish dancing and music prior to the game itself. It was another great success. I know the Ambassador really enjoyed the occasion.
What events do you have coming up?
In June is Bloomsday: the celebration of the life of James Joyce across the globe every year on the 16th of June. It’s based on the events of Joyce’s novel, Ulysses. We will be doing something to mark that. In July, every year is the music, arts, and dance week, “MAD Week.” We host an event here for that with a particular focus on Irish traditional music. Later in the fall, we work again with the EU Delegation for the Kids Euro Festival in October. Last year, the success of the 2016 program certainly demonstrated to us the positive impact of engagement and showcasing of Irish culture.