Monday 11 December 2017

Argentines celebrate their Irish ancestry during Michael D's visit

Majella O'Sullivan

Majella O'Sullivan

THE head coach of the Argentine rugby team has spoken of his "pride" in getting a gift of an Irish jersey from his father when he was about five.

Santiago Phelan -- who trains the Pumas -- said being part of an Argentine-Irish family, their heritage was always celebrated.

He said it wasn't until he visited Co Waterford with his father, Rudolfo, as a teenager in 1989 that he first got a sense of where their family came from.

His great-great grandfather emigrated to Argentina in April 1889.

President Michael D Higgins presented Mr Phelan with a Certificate of Irish Heritage in Buenos Aires yesterday.

The former rugby player said it was a huge honour.

"In Argentina our name is not usually pronounced properly but my father told me to be proud to say 'Phelan' because I was a son of Ireland," he said.

And although their clashes on the rugby field are often fierce, Mr Phelan said there is a great friendship with the Irish rugby team. The Phelans are among 500,000 Argentines who claim Irish heritage -- the largest Irish community in a non-English speaking country.

President Higgins and his wife Sabina met hundreds of them at a reception at the National Academy of Medicine for OSDE where he spoke of the strong bond between the two countries.

Between 1830 and 1930 more than 50,000 emigrants left Ireland for the South American country, mainly from Westmeath, Longford and Wexford.

Irish Independent

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