Green with energy: Irish revellers celebrate St Patrick's Day. — File Photo
|Getting down and ditty: Irish and Vietnamese traditional musicians play together in Ha Noi. — VNS Photo Tran Viet Tuan
The Irish love the fiddle and the Irish love to dance - particularly on St.Patrick's Day, as Irish Ambassador Damien Cole points out
Ireland has long been known as "the land of saints and scholars". This fame derives in particular from St Patrick, the patron saint of Ireland, who converted Ireland to Christianity many centuries ago.
Nowadays his feast day of March 17, St Patrick's Day, is a good reason for week-long celebrations of Irish culture and traditions worldwide.
In the US, millions take part in parades, music and dancing and the Chicago river turns green. March is the high watermark for Irish cultural activities worldwide.
Viet Nam, too, has seen a number of Irish cultural events recently. Last year saw the first ever performance of an Irish play in Viet Nam, Oscar Wilde's The Importance of Being Earnest (Nhat Dinh Phai La Chang Earnest) in HCM City, starring Lan Phuong.
Irish traditional musician Mick Maloney performed for the third time in Viet Nam, sharing musical styles with Vietnamese musicians at the National Academy of Music.
And, of course, Irish band Westlife performed at My Dinh Stadium in October to a capacity Vietnamese audience.
Irish sport is also popular in the region, especially in Viet Nam, which is fortunate to have Gaelic football teams in Ha Noi and HCM City, the Viet Celts and the Sai Gon Gaels. Players on the team hail from Ireland, Viet Nam and elsewhere.
Last year, HCM City hosted the South-East Asian Gaelic Games, a tournament with teams from all over the region. These sporting activities allow great cultural co-operation between Ireland and Viet Nam and indeed Vietnamese player Nguyen Ngoc Quynh was nominated to the Asian All Star Team in 2010 – the only Asian player to achieve this prestigious award.
Such is the interest in Viet Nam that VCTV10 recently broadcast a programme showing the Ha Noi team playing Gaelic football!
Ireland also has a strong literary heritage, with writers such as James Joyce and Nobel Prize for Literature winner Seamus Heaney foremost among them.
This literary excellence is linked to the world-class English-speaking education system, which teaches students to think and write creatively. Of course, Ireland also has a strong business and scientific focus, being home to nine of the top 10 global pharmaceutical corporations and over 50 per cent of the world's leading financing services firms.
The Embassy of Ireland is keen to encourage Vietnamese young people to go to Ireland, to take advantage of our excellent study and work opportunities and to fully experience the cultural diversity of music, dance and sport that Ireland offers.
I hope that the shared cultural experiences between Ireland and Viet Nam continue to increase over the coming years.
Le gach dea-ghui (with every good wish).