Doubling of Ministers in St Patrick's Day exodus


THE GOVERNMENT has almost doubled the number of Ministers and Ministers of State being sent overseas for St Patrick’s Day this year. Twelve Ministers and five Ministers of State will attend events in 13 countries later this month, compared to the nine who travelled last year.

Taoiseach Enda Kenny, who will visit Chicago, South Bend, New York and Washington DC, justified the exodus yesterday by saying now was the time to invest in Ireland’s recovery.

“The Government will use the unique global opportunity of St Patrick’s Day to bring that message to all our key global markets and to Ireland’s many friends around the world,” he said.

Mr Kenny said travel and other costs would be kept to a minimum and Ministers had been told to include as many business, trade, tourism and investment opportunities as possible in their trips.

The contingent is smaller than in 2010, when then taoiseach Brian Cowen, 10 ministers, 11 junior ministers and the attorney general travelled to 24 countries.

Because St Patrick’s Day falls on a Saturday this year, the traditional presentation of shamrock to the US president and a meeting in the Oval Office will not take place until March 20th.

The event will hold additional significance for Mr Obama this year because of the presidential election in November and the need to garner support from Irish-Americans. The president reminded his Twitter followers yesterday that it was their last chance to get an “O’Bama shirt” in time for St Patrick’s Day.

Mr Kenny leaves on March 16th for Chicago, where he will meet mayor Rahm Emanuel, participate in the local parade and address the Irish Fellowship Club of Chicago dinner.

Later on St Patrick’s Day, he flies to South Bend, home of the University of Notre Dame, whose American football team, the “Fighting Irish”, is playing the Navy in Dublin next September.

After a private day in New York, Mr Kenny will visit the stock exchange on Monday, March 19th, and will later attend the American Ireland Fund gala dinner.

In addition to meeting Mr Obama in Washington, he will go to a lunch hosted by the speaker of the House of Representatives, John Boehner, and meet US vice-president Joe Biden.

Tánaiste Eamon Gilmore, who travels to Canada, said Ireland needed to maximise the value it gets from its national holiday.

Minister for Tourism Leo Varadkar, accompanied by Minister of State Michael Ring, will visit England, while Minister of State Dinny McGinley travels to Scotland.

Ministers flying to Europe include Minister for Finance Michael Noonan (France) and Minister for Communications Pat Rabbitte (Italy). Minister for Justice Alan Shatter is heading to Australia and New Zealand.

On the road: Where ministers are going

Taoiseach Enda Kenny Chicago, South Bend in Indiana, New York and Washington DC

Eamon Gilmore Canada

Joan Burton New York

Richard Bruton US west coast

Jimmy Deenihan Atlanta

Frances Fitzgerald Boston

Leo Varadkar and Michael Ring (Minister of State)

London and Birmingham

Dinny McGinley (Minister of State) Glasgow and Edinburgh

Michael Noonan France

Pat Rabbitte Italy

Simon Coveney Benelux countries

Paul Kehoe (Minister of State) Germany

John Perry (Minister of State ) Finland and Sweden

Ciaran Cannon (Minister of State) China

Brendan Howlin Singapore

Alan Shatter Australia and New Zealand