Sadiq Khan praises the Irish community for their contribution to London

Hi Sadiq, how are you?

I’m having a great time! Look, I promised the biggest and best St Patrick’s Day celebrations London has ever seen… we’ve got it.

What has been your favourite part so far?

It’s this now, look at this now, they’re rappers… Irish rappers.

We’ve had Dara being funny as usual, the Grand Marshal of the parade. We’ve had three days of festivities. Music, poetry, busking, a treasure hunt. The great thing is that we’ve had three or four different generations, we’ve had Catholics and Protestants, we’ve had rich and poor, we’ve had the best of the Irish community, the best of Londoners of Irish origin.

Tell me a bit about what goes in to making this festival.

Well, it starts months ago. Lot’s of volunteers. Look, if I was to pay the minimum wage for the hours volunteers put in, I couldn’t afford it. People of all different backgrounds. They’ve got the vision, they’ve got the plan.

I wanted it to be the biggest and the best ever. We thought we’d have a three day festival. Friday, Saturday Sunday, but also we don’t want to have just stereotypes. You know, we all know about Guinness, but think about the cultural contributions. Poetry, music, busking.

Think about the pensioners who give up their time. The young people who give up their time. I think we’ve got the best of Ireland here in London over the last three days.

Now, the big question is, the Irish dancers have just come off stage, have you…

Oh my god. Have you seen them? Have you seen my feet? I can’t do it! I can’t do it! Listen, I can’t.

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This is what I was going to ask you, have you had a chance to test out your steps?

I’m in awe! I’m in awe, and the great thing is they start this young, seven, eight, nine, up to you know, we have the legends. It’s quite amazing. Forget Riverdance, this is better than Riverdance.

But Sadiq, next year you could be up there doing a jig or a reel, you never know.

I’m not sure whether I’ll be doing stand up with Dara or doing the Riverdance with these kids, but that’s the great thing about the contribution of the Irish to London. The Irish community first came to our great city in the twelfth century.

It wasn’t a great city then. It was so-and-so, but the contribution made by successive waves have made us the greatest city in the world. Literally, after the second world war, the Irish rebuilt this city, filled gaps in the NHS, gaps in teaching, gaps in construction filled by the Irish. The entrepreneurship, businessmen and women.

Londoners of Irish origin have helped make this the greatest city in the world, and it’s right and proper we celebrate the contribution, but also we’ve got to teach our kids about their roots. That’s why today’s so good.

Absolutely, now it’s coming up to almost a year since you became the Mayor of London. This has got to be one of the highlights?

Oh, listen man. You’re painting the town green. I mean I always say, we talk about the luck of the Irish. London is lucky to have the Irish. When people were talking to me about the plans they had for St Patrick’s Day, people said I was foolish to promise the biggest and best.

I’m so pleased I did because it’s been amazing. The joy around here, the smiles on people’s faces, but also think about those who aren’t Irish who’ve never had a connection with the Irish community. The good impression we’re creating on them… it’s building bridges man.

Sadiq and I are off now to go and learn some Irish dancing, we’ll see you soon.

Take care Rory!

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