HELENA – The sounds of drums, bagpipes and dancing thundered through the halls of the Capitol Friday morning to celebrate Irish heritage.
By proclamation, Governor Steve Bullock declared March 17, 2019, as Irish Heritage Day in the state of Montana.
Bullock helped raise the Irish Tricolour to honor the contributions to Montana from the ancestors of the Emerald Isle.
People then packed the Capitol Rotunda for the festivities that included Celtic music and dancing.
Speakers at the event said, in Montana, Irish settlers found a home free from the persecution that they had been facing in other parts of the country at the time.
“Today is a reminder and reflection that the birth of Montana, and our growth and maturity is inexorably intertwined with Ireland and her people,” said Bullock. “Here was a place where the Irish could start a new life without ever being looked on as a second-class people.”
Lewis and Clark County Commission Chair, and local Ancient Order of Hibernians vice president, Jim McCormick also read a proclamation declaring March 17, 2019, as Irish Heritage Day in the county.
“The Irish are ingrained and intertwined with Montana history beginning with the very early settlers and with Thomas Francis Meagher,” said McCormick. “It was [Meagher’s] desire and his dream that Montana be a territory of unity and brotherhood.”
Thomas Francis Meagher’s statue in front of the Capitol was dressed for the occasion as a way to honor his contributions to the state.
Meagher served as a brigadier general in the Union Army during the Civil War before being appointed secretary of the new Territory of Montana and then designated as acting governor.
The Helena Ancient Order of Hibernians will also be hosting their annual St. Patrick’s Day Parade on Saturday, March 16, at 12:00 p.m.
The parade route will be down Lawrence Street to Last Chance Gulch and 6th, wrapping back around Fuller to Last Chance Gulch and Lawrence Street.
-Reported by John Riley/MTN News