Dignitaries will visit ministers' constituencies


Bertie Ahern will welcome world leaders to Dublin Castle, Brian Cowen will host foreign ministers in Tullamore and Charlie McCreevy will bring finance ministers to Punchestown. Tim O'Brien reports on showcase Ireland.

Ever since the Taoiseach, Mr Ahern, brought a serving President of the United States back to Drumcondra for a pint, Government ministers have been keen to be seen bringing visiting dignitaries to their constituencies.

During the Irish presidency, EU ministers will visit the constituencies or county seats of our ministers for Finance, Foreign Affairs, Health, Environment, Agriculture, Communications, Justice, and Marine and Natural Resources. Junior ministers whose counties are visited include those at the departments of Justice, Education, Finance, and Enterprise Trade and Employment.

The main location for the meetings and seminars of the Irish presidency is, of course, the magnificent Dublin Castle with its cobbled courtyards and medieval towers. The gardens and Coach House of the castle stand on the site of the original black pool - or in Irish, Dubh Linn - from which the city gets its name.

Through the years it has been the main military base for the Vikings and the British colonial forces. The rebel military commander, Michael Collins, arrived in the Upper Yard - the Great Courtyard - of Dublin Castle on 16th January, 1922, to receive it from the British Lord Lieutenant FitzAlan on behalf of the new Irish Government.

Today all the historic buildings have been restored and the conference centres and major tourist attractions such as the Medieval Tower, the Chester Beatty Library, the Viking Defence Bank and the splendid State Apartments attract almost 200,000 visitors each year from all over the world.

The Tánaiste, Ms Harney, being Dublin-based will find the facilities of Dublin Castle useful, but she is also to press Dromoland Castle in Co Clare into service for a Competitiveness and Innovation Ministerial Conference from April 25th to 26th.

The Co Clare TD and Minister of State, Ms De Valera, will also be at Dromoland Castle for a Ministerial Conference on Youth which takes place from March 4th to 6th.

Dromoland is one of Ireland's finest castle hotels, and boasts that it "offers guests the experience of living like landed gentry, surrounded by luxury, beauty and service".

It is, according to its website: "A magnificent Renaissance structure built in the 16th century, once the royal seat of the O'Brien clan. Refurbished and transformed into a luxury hotel in 1962, it retains priceless reminders of the castle's historic past."

On April 2nd and 3rd, the Council of Economics and finance ministers will be hosted by the Minister for Finance, Mr McCreevy, at Punchestown, Co Kildare.

Punchestown, where Mr Creevy controversially supplied €14 million in State funding for a new arena, boasts "lavish hospitality".

The Minister for Foreign Affairs, Mr Cowen, has invited EU foreign ministers to the Tullamore Court Hotel in his Co Offaly constituency for an "informal" meeting from April 16th to 17th.

The hotel describes itself as a "contemporary four-star standard hotel and leisure centre" adding that it has an ideal "central location" in Tullamore.

This meeting is in advance of the Asia Europe foreign ministers meeting to be held in the tranquil, gated enclosure that is the K Club at Straffan in Co Kildare from April 18th to 19th. The venue for the Ryder Cup in 2006, this golf course was also home to the European Open from 1995 to 2001.

President Clinton is rumoured to be among those who have bought homes in the Ryder Village.

The elegant hotel boasts an impressive art collection, with the Yeats Room housing a private collection of Jack B Yeats paintings.

The Minister for Communications Marine and Natural Resources, Mr Ahern, will host a "Broadband Ministerial Conference" in the Dundalk Institute of Technology (DKIT) in his Co Louth constituency from April 21st to 23rd.

The meeting follows a Broadcasting Ministerial Seminar to be held at two locations, Dublin Castle and the Boyne Valley Hotel in Drogheda, in March. The Boyne Valley Hotel is described as a "gracious country house set in Louth's historic Boyne Valley on 16 acres of beautiful gardens and woodlands".

Also utilising the services of the institutes of technology is Waterford TD and Minister for the Environment, Mr Cullen, who will host an informal EU environment ministers meeting at the Waterford Institute from May 14th to 16th.

The Minister for Health, Mr Martin, will be in his home constituency of Cork from May 11th to 12th for the EU health ministers consultative meeting at the Rochestown Park Hotel. A luxurious manor-style hotel with mature gardens, it boasts an award-winning health and leisure centre and Ireland's first thalasso therapy clinic.

Fellow Cork TD, the Minister for Agriculture, Mr Walsh, will depart from the norm and bring EU agriculture ministers to Kerry, county home of his cabinet colleague, the Minister for Justice, Mr O'Donoghue.

The agriculture ministers will meet in the internationally renowned five-star Hotel Europe overlooking the lakes of Killarney.

Limerick-based Minister for State, Mr Willie O'Dea, is scheduled to be in the Radisson Hotel, Limerick, for the EU conference on "Gender Mainstreaming EU and the International Experience" from May 6th to 7th. The Radisson boasts deluxe rooms and suites, porters restaurant and a leisure centre.

A conference on Employment and Social Policy will be held in the Corrib Great Southern in Galway, home city of the Minister of State for Labour Affairs, Mr Frank Fahy.