After their successful exploits and winning 17 medals at the World Transplant Games last month in Perth, Australian Ambassador to Ireland Gary Gray, held a special reception to honour Transplant Team Ireland at the Australian Embassy, on St. Stephen’s Green, Dublin 2, to mark the end of Organ Donor Awareness Week which took place last week (20-27 May). The Irish team presented Ambassador Gray with a framed team jersey.
Among the members of Transplant Team Ireland attending and proudly wearing their medals from the games in Perth were Cork athletes Hugh Nolan from Doneraile, Mairead O'Mahony from Berrings, and Pat O'Sullivan from Mallow.
At the reception Ambassador Gray, whose home city is Perth, spoke about the significance of the route the team took to the stadium where much of the competition took place and where teams around the world crossed over the Matagarup Bridge and the role the Irish played in apologising to the aboriginal community.
Ambassador Gray said, “Your experience in Perth was pretty special to us. The stadium is a building that we are proud of. But more than that the route that you took to enter the games is an area of special nature to us because of our indigenous population. Over the 200 years of European settlement in Australia we have not been good to our indigenous population and so part of what you have seen as you entered that stadium is the beginning of the processes in Australia of acknowledging the traditional owners of the land which we now occupy and of acknowledging them, their ancestors, and generations to come.”
“The only head of state on the face of this earth to apologise to aboriginal people for their treatment during settlement is the Irish Head of State. Irish settlers were not kind to our indigenous population but the Irish state remains the only state on the face of the earth that has acknowledged that, and did so in our parliament. They did that in October of 2017. So the nature of that relationship to us is a very important one. As you cross over that Bridge, that bridge is a symbol of building bridges between our modern population and that population of indigenous people who owned and controlled our country before we arrived. So thanks for being there, thanks for observing part of what we now just naturally do as part of our process of a cultural shift."
He continued, “Thank you for being there to compete and to bring attention to the great importance of ensuring that donation rates are lifted right across the world for all kinds of organs that can bring new life and new energy where they are available. We like the fact that you did that. We like the fact that you competed. We really like that you went, that you enjoyed yourselves, and that you connected with the extremely important Irish community in Australia.”
“It is important to us because it brings us leadership in our own communities. Our current prime minister has a strong Irish background on his mother’s side, and our previous Prime Minister had a strong Irish connection on his wife’s side, and then since 1950 we’ve had three other prime ministers with strong Irish connections, connections into Cork, connections into Galway and connections into Tipperary. So we like our Irishness. And we like that you came to Perth, you were successful and that you enjoyed yourselves.”
Colin White, Transplant Team Ireland Manger, while thanking the Ambassador for his warm hospitality on behalf of the team said, “We had a fantastic time in Australia. The family connections that many of the team had over there was a wonderful opportunity to catch up with family members who we don’t get to see as often as we like. So we grew the Irish team’s supporters and the Australian’s made us feel very welcome. The 14 transplant recipients on the team that took part in the games in Perth were proud to be among over 1,500 competitors from 46 countries to showcase the success of organ donation made possible by their organ donors. We were delighted to be part of the wonderful experience and also to enjoy success in the competition and took home a haul of 17 medals, including 7 Gold, 6 Silver and 4 bronze. We now look forward to growing the team for the biennial European Transplant & Dialysis Sports Championships which will be held in Lisbon, Portugal next summer and then in 2025 taking part in the biennial World Games in Dresden, Germany.”
Joining the team at the reception at the Australian Embassy were family members as well as Eddie Flood, the National Honorary Chairman of the Irish Kidney Association, (a kidney transplant recipient), and Sean Hosford, the Chief Executive of Health Services Staff Credit Union (HSSCU), (a Cork native) sponsors of Transplant Team Ireland’s Team kit, and consultant nephrologist Claire Kennedy, Team doctor.
The Irish Kidney Association manages and coordinates Transplant Team Ireland’s participation at International Transplant Games events. www.transplantteamireland.com For organ donor cards visit www.ika.ie