Flying the flag for Ireland
With more than 20 Irish Ambassadors taking up new posts in the coming weeks, seven diplomats about to embark on key missions explain why their job matters and what they plan to do with it
“In the longer term, Ireland is seeking a seat on the UN Security Council for 2021, and we will need to start lobbying for that.”
Former ambassador to Germany; incoming Ambassador to the UK
“Relations between Britain and Ireland have never been better in the wake of the queen’s visit to Ireland, in 2011. It will be my job to steer the continued positive evolution of those relations.
“There are a huge number of strands to the relationship between Britain and Ireland: it is our most intensive, most varied and, I would say, our most important bilateral relationship.
“There are two things in particular I seek to focus on: economic relations and the role of the Irish community in Britain. I have always considered economic diplomacy and promotion a vital part of my past postings. It’s a priority for the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade as a whole and ranges from promoting exports to tourism. It will be a hugely important element of my work in Britain.
“I look forward to working very closely with the four Irish agencies in London. I also look forward to actively engaging with the Irish community in Britain. I see the Irish community there as an asset for Ireland: the business and other networks it includes allow us to maximise both Ireland’s engagement with Britain and the advantages we can draw from that engagement.
“My role will also include monitoring the British debate on Europe and analysing the implications of that debate from an Irish point of view, because the outcome will be of crucial importance to Ireland.”
Former permanent representative to the UN, in New York; incoming Ambassador to the US
“The relationship between the US and Ireland has always been a unique relationship, vibrant and dynamic, but it is also a relationship that must be constantly renewed and reinvigorated.
“I see two major priorities for my posting there. Both are real bread-and-butter issues affecting families all over Ireland: economic relations and immigration reform.
“At this time of economic challenge in Ireland the economic relationship with the US is more important than ever. The US is the biggest source of foreign investment in Ireland. In trade terms it is our biggest trade partner for services, second biggest for trade in goods, and the second-largest market for tourism. It is a very competitive market out there, and we have to keep upping our game.
“I will be doing everything possible to enhance the prospect of a Bill on immigration reform getting through Congress, so that undocumented Irish can step out of the shadows and we can create a pathway for legal immigration in the future.
“Northern Ireland will also be on our agenda; we want to ensure US engagement there continues.
“Overall, my challenge as Ambassador is to project a modern, 21st-century Ireland, one which is enriched by our past but resolutely faced to the future. Whether it relates to the cultural identity we are projecting or our economic realities, it is about ensuring nothing stays in a time warp.”
Former ambassador to France; incoming Ambassador to China
“I was part of the team that set up the Irish Embassy in China, in 1979. We are a long way from those days – at that time the Irish community in China consisted of two people; now it includes some 3,000.
“China is likely to become the largest economy in the world within the next 10-15 years, and a country like Ireland, with a modern, innovative, enterprising economy, should have expanding relations with it. That’s a huge priority for the Government, for Irish business and Irish academia.
“I think China finds Ireland very interesting for several reasons, including the fact that we are the only English-speaking country in the euro zone.
“We signed a strategic partnership with the Chinese last year when the Taoiseach was in Beijing, and China’s current president visited Ireland last year. Two-way trade amounts to €8 billion. There are 150 partnership agreements between our educational institutions.