20 years serving the Irish community in Spain

President of The Irish Association of Spain enjoying last year's St Patrick's Day celebrations.
President of The Irish Association of Spain enjoying last year's St Patrick's Day celebrations. / SUR
  • The Irish Association of Spain gives assistance to Irish nationals who have chosen the Costa del Sol as their adopted home

Thousands of Irish nationals, and those who assume the identity for the day, are gearing up for the biggest party of the year.

St Patrick's Day celebrations will be taking place all along the Costa del Sol today, and gallons of Guinness will be consumed by green-clad revelers whose only aim is to party.

Few of the partygoers spare much thought for the coordinators of these massive all-day events and the people behind the scenes rarely receive much recognition for their efforts.

The popular celebration held in Benalmádena every year is organised by the Irish Association of Spain. Founded by Tony Bell in 1997, the association facilitates social contact between the Irish people living in Spain, and their St Patrick's Day party is one of the most attended in the area.

However, the Irish association does much more than arrange the annual shindig in memory of the Apostle of Ireland. Terry McKinley, president of the association, explained that the objective of the platform is to assist and inform Irish nationals who have chosen Spain as their adopted home. They also offer their services to the thousands of Irish tourists who visit the Costa del Sol each year.

"We are not a club or welfare; there is no membership or fee, we simply provide an informative service to the Irish community who live or visit the Costa del Sol," the president told SUR in English.

There is an estimated 4,000 Irish nationals living in the province of Malaga and the association soon became their leading social and informative platform.

The service is not only available to the Irish community; it also offers help and information to people with a general interest in Irish history, culture and traditions.

The association has a list of teachers on their books, and so traditional Irish folk dancing lessons can be arranged for those who want to learn the Slip Jig, or other old style step dances.

Working closely with many of the town halls along the coast, the Irish Association publish details of upcoming events, clubs and classes that may be of interest to the Irish community.

Their website lists preferred service providers and their products are monitored to ensure the highest quality service. Another of their priorities is to promote and encourage the use of the many Irish-owned businesses in Spain.

The association also gives assistance to Spanish nationals wishing to travel to, or live in, Ireland. They offer help with problems tourists might encounter, like lost or stolen passports.

Their committee members can liaise with the consulate and the police, and assist with complicated paperwork like insurance claims and theft reports. They recently helped with the funeral arrangements of an Irish national who had died in Torremolinos.

"We are here for the benefit of all expatriates on the coast and even though we focus on the Irish community, our services are here for whoever may need them," Terry explained.

The Irish Association of Spain has been assisting Irish residents and tourists for twenty years. They are renowned for their ongoing service and long-standing traditional St Patrick's Day celebrations, and this year they have added another party to their agenda.

The first of this year's two celebrations begins at 12pm today. Mass will be held in the Iglesia de la Inmaculada Concepcíon in Arroyo de la Miel, followed by the traditional parade from the church to La Paloma Park.

The second party will be held on Saturday 18 March, in the Plaza La Nogalera in Torremolinos from 12pm until 6pm.