President Michael D Higgins yesterday urged young Irish workers in New York to come home with their new skills when the time was right.
He hit the ground running on his first full day in New York yesterday, packing in lots of engagements before lunch.
The day began with an 8am business breakfast for young Irish professionals at the iconic address of 1 Wall Street.
Mr Higgins told the assembled members of the Irish Network -- who worked for companies like Goldman Sachs, Morgan Stanley, Credit Suisse and BNY Mellon -- that it remained a very difficult time in Ireland, and that people were "carrying the consequences of mistakes that were made for a decade and a half".
But he said he had not come to New York with the message that nothing had changed. "Look, people have woken to what is real, and the assets that are real," he insisted.
"Come home to Ireland when you wish -- should you wish," he said, adding, "and do stay in touch with us."
Emily Connolly (25) from Goatstown in Dublin, who moved to New York two years ago, said she enjoyed his speech, describing it as "funny".
"I liked the way he said Irish people home and abroad should all stick together no matter what, and that Ireland's always waiting for you when you want to come home," she said.
Mr Higgins then met with Irish construction workers on the 21st floor of the World Trade Centre, which has yet to be completed.
"It was fascinating," the President said. "There was a group from Kerry, a few were from Leitrim. I spent a bit of time with them . . . they're very committed to finishing the project."
Mr Higgins then laid a wreath at the 9/11 memorial site.
From there it was on to the Irish Hunger Memorial in Battery Park City.
Next stop was City Hall where Mr Higgins met with New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg .
And from City Hall it was back to the Fitzpatrick Hotel on Lexington Avenue where the President sat down for an interview with Irish journalists.
Today, he will visit the Irish community in the Bronx, followed by a promotional event for the Irish Film Board.