Patrick’s Day, Ireland’s National Day, becomes more and more popular in Bulgaria. It turns out that, although the two countries are a continent apart, there are interlacements and interactions in the history of both nations. In his speech at the reception on the occasion of the National Day, H. E. Patrick Coleman, Charge d’Affaires of the Embassy of Ireland in Bulgaria, reminded of the contribution of some Irish people to Bulgarian history. Most Bulgarians are aware of the work of James Bourchier, who was The Times Balkan correspondent and provided support to the struggles of the Bulgarian people in the first decades after the liberation of Bulgaria from Ottoman rule.
“Less well known is Pierce O’Mahony who in 1904 opened an orphanage here in Sofia to provide opportunities for young boys who had lost their parents in the Ilinden uprising”, added Mr. Coleman. “In all he took in over 30 orphans and paid for the education of these children to University level. One of these young boys he later took back to Ireland to manage his estates and today the descendants of this young man the Ivanovs of Rathdrum in West Wicklow are no doubt celebrating St. Patrick’s day with the inhabitants of that town”.
“We have a small Irish community here in Bulgaria who individually and as a unit are making their own contribution to Bulgarian society”: said the Charge d’Affaires of the Embassy of Ireland. “Last Friday evening I attended a very successful St. Patrick’s Day Ball organised by members of this group. The proceeds of the ball are being donated to the Bulgarian charity organization Cedar Foundation which in turn was established by an Irishman”.
A group of Irish people has settled in the mountain resort of Chepelare, in South Bulgaria. As a recognition of the contribution they made to the local community, last year the town council of Chepelare took the decision to light the town hall every year on March 17 in green, the colour of Ireland.
This year for the first time the National Palace of Culture in Sofia was greened, too.
It turned out that in recent years a small but growing number of Irish students have come to Bulgaria to study. They, too, attended the National Day reception in Sofia. At the same time, Mr. Coleman acknowledged the contribution made by Bulgarian people to Irish society. “The latest estimates I have seen as to the size of the community is of approximately 4,000 people”, he said.
H. E. Patrick Coleman pointed out the joyous fact that last year has been particularly successful in a number of Irish business sectors including food & drink and the tourism sector. “I was pleasantly surprised to discover in recent days that there are Bulgarians who have travelled from Sofia to Dublin to enjoy the St Patrick’s Day parade”, said he and announced that from the end of October this year Ryan Air plans to establish a route between Sofia and Dublin. This will add to the existing summer route between Dublin and Burgas and might encourage more Bulgarians to visit Ireland.
The authentic Irish atmosphere of the reception was brightened by the performance of Bulgarian Country music singer Lilly Drumeva and her band „Lilly of the West“.