A Celebration of Ireland’s Celtic Influence in Europe By Mary Gregoriy: The most powerful and instantly recognisable influence brought by the Celts to the European tradition has to be the finely wrought interlace designs found on jewellery and in manuscripts such as ‘The Book of Kells’. These immediately conjure up a magical world of Celtic myths and legend as well as the particular brand of spiritualism that existed and I believe still pervades in Ireland today, this is a lively mix of Christianity and Paganism. The point where these two ideologies meet has inspired and informed all that is interesting and infuriating about the Irish today. A belief in an afterlife is still very strong and yet there is a very strong sense of the individual’s right to live and enjoy this life also. In short I believe that the strongest part of the Celtic tradition is its humanity with all its strengths and weaknesses. In a roundabout way I am trying here to explain the ideas that have inspired this coin and that I hope emerge: Obviously the interlace patterns are the first thing that you notice and, like the earlier patterns, they weave in and out, sometimes becoming solid shapes and at other times elusively intangible as they turn once more into a pattern – much like the shape shifters in ancient legends. In my own style I have kept the pattern quite freeform and not as formal as the more traditional interlace. I have created a strong cruciform arrangement in the design to highlight the strong Christian tradition of this country and have then tempered it by the rather pagan imagery of the metamorphic figures. The interlace patterning softens and breaks up the strength of the cross. The four figures are meeting in the centre of the coin where they reach out to one another and are obviously having a very animated conversation and this for me is the most important aspect of our heritage. For I believe that the most enduring legacy of the Celtic/Irish is our ability to communicate. This manifests itself in a variety of ways some of which I have tried to show by the use of the smaller symbols held by the figures as they ‘dance’ around the coin. One holds a book – this naturally points toward the very strong literary tradition of Ireland whose influence is very strongly felt at home and abroad. A second holds a fiddle – traditional music is such an integral feature of our culture and also a great inspiration to other European nations. A third holds a shovel – a symbol for all the labour shipped abroad over the centuries (human cargo) which helped build other countries and spread our culture in many new places. The last figure holds a laptop computer – a symbol of modern technology – this symbol is intended to bring the influence right up to date and to show the importance of Ireland’s buoyant economy in Europe and the world which now attracts investors and migrant workers to Ireland. In their own way all these symbols are tied up with communication and also very strongly with humanity for that is the way in which the Irish/Celts excel. No one digs deeper into their pockets when there is a world famine or other cataclysmic disaster. The Irish always seem to be among the first people to get out to foreign countries to give their time and effort to help put things back together. The Irish are also the first to be up for having a good time while they are at it, dancing, playing music, talking, laughing, and telling stories. Within this peculiar mix of Christianity with a great lust for life the Celtic Irish show their humanity in a strong social conscience and an overwhelming desire to communicate with others in a myriad different ways. And this is what I have tried to project with my design – I hope you enjoy it. The collector €10 Proof Coin is part of the 2007 Europa Coin Programme, celebrating European Achievements. This coin bears the Europa symbol.