IRISH PHOTO ARCHIVE

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Monday, 20 October 2014

Nigeria. St Patrick and the good stuff

Nigeria has officially been declared Ebola-free by the World Health Organisation today. The country has not had a case test positive for Ebola for 42 days – twice the incubation period.

Most of the coverage of Ebola in the Western media has been concentrating on the Spanish nurse and the Texan case, as well as the scaremongering about tests at airports. But there are many reasons why the Irish should be more interested in developments in Nigeria, considering how many links we have with the country:

Nigeria Airways Group visit Dublin
11 September 1961
1. St Patrick
St Patrick is also a patron saint of Nigeria, and 17 March is an important feast day there as much as it is here. Though St Patrick seems to have saved all his snake-banishing efforts for Ireland.

2. Guinness
The highest consumption of Guinness per capita in the world is in Nigeria. A Guinness factory was opened there in 1960, and it has been one the nation’s favourite tipples since.

3. The British Empire
Both countries experienced British colonial rule, and have similar difficulties in our quests for independence. English is an official language of both Ireland and Nigeria, though Nigeria is part of the Commonwealth.

4. Irish builders
The Irish building company, Sisk, were part of numerous building projects in Nigeria in the 1980s, including working on the creation of a new capital in Abuja. Though Lagos remains the most populous city, Abuja is the official capital of the county.

5. Priests and nuns
Irish priests and nuns have worked in Nigeria for perhaps up to 150 – maybe influencing the St. Patrick connection. The Society of African Missions have published a book, We Will Remember Them, which covers all the priests, nuns and monks involved in their missions from 1884 to 2011. But it seems the missionaries are travelling the other way these days, as Ireland is starting to rely on importing priests to replace our own ageing tribe.


It is an unlikely connection between a small island nation on the west coast of Europe and one of the biggest countries on the African continent, but it is these ties built by the Irish abroad that has helped our country punch above its weight so often. And it is these connections that have us delighted that our friends in Nigeria are free from the threat of Ebola again. Long may they remain so.