Government names seven new diplomatic missions

Ukraine, Morocco among new embassies and consulate for LA under global expansion

Taoiseach Leo Varadkar with Tánaiste Simon Coveney at the launch of the Global Ireland 2025 plan in Dublin. Photograph: Cyril Byrne

Taoiseach Leo Varadkar with Tánaiste Simon Coveney at the launch of the Global Ireland 2025 plan in Dublin. Photograph: Cyril Byrne

 

The Government will open embassies in Ukraine, Morocco, the Philippines and Liberia in the coming years and consulates in Cardiff, Frankfurt and Los Angeles from next year, Tánaiste Simon Coveney said.

Speaking at the launch of Global Ireland 2025 plan to double the Government’s representative presence overseas in seven years, Mr Coveney said the new embassies were “high potential location for increased trade for Irish companies but also key parts of the world where Ireland’s voice is not as strong as it needs be”.

The Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade said the new consulates were in “strategic places” ensuring Ireland stays “close to Britain,” has “deeper connectivity with Germany and the German economy,” and reinforces “the hugely important connections that we maintain with the United States”.

The plan was unveiled by Taoiseach Leo Varadkar and Mr Coveney with Cabinet colleagues Minister for Business Heather Humphreys and Minister for Culture Josepha Madigan along with Minister of State for European Affairs Helen McEntee at a launch at the Irish Aviation Authority in Dublin city centre.

The overseas expansion fulfils a proposal made by Mr Varadkar made during last year’s Fine Gael leadership election and follows last October’s announcement of new embassies in New Zealand, Colombia, Chile and Jordan and new consulates in Vancouver and Mumbai.

Protectionism

The move comes against the shift to protectionism and unilateralism by the US under President Donald Trump and rise of economic nationalism that led to Mr Trump’s election and the UK’s vote for Brexit.

“We are at a moment in world history where we can turn inwards and become irrelevant or we open ourselves to opportunities and possibilities on a global scale that we never had before,” said Mr Varadkar.

Referring to the recent shifts in global politics, Mr Coveney remarked: “This is a critical juncture for Ireland. We are seeing close to home the profound impacts of a neighbour choosing a more isolated and isolating path and we are seeing larger allies further afield retreat into protectionism.”

The Tánaiste, in response to a question from the media, said the dispute between Mr Trump and other G7 leaders in the aftermath of the weekend summit in Quebec was “very concerning for a lot of people”.

“The very public display of disagreement, I think, sends a very unfortunate signal to many parts of the world that desperately need stability from those countries and unity of purpose,” he said.

The US president tweeted a string of angry statements criticising the country’s closest allies after other G7 countries criticised his decision to reject a joint communique from the leaders.

Mr Varadkar said Ireland opposed the imposition of tariffs on imported steel and aluminium by the US standing in solidarity with France, Germany, Canada and Japan in opposition against them.

“Ireland is always on the side of free trade and free enterprise,” he said.

The Taoiseach wished Mr Trump “the best” at his meeting with North Korean leader Kim Jong-un in Singapore, the first meeting between the two.

“Everyone is on the side of denuclearisation and peace and normalisation on the Korean peninsula,” he said.

Mr Coveney described the summit as “deadly serious” and an opportunity to “make a big step forward” towards denuclearisation on the Korean peninsula.

North Korean embassy

The Tánaiste joked that a North Korean embassy was “not on the agenda at the moment but who knows what is going to happen in terms of local politics”.

Mr Varadkar playfully asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs if he had any candidates in mind for a potential Irish ambassador in Pyongyang.

“No is the answer to that,” he replied. “Not at the moment.”

Under the 2025 plan, the Government intends to open 26 new embassies and consulates, adding to the existing network of 80 diplomatic missions staffed by 678 diplomats across the globe.

Mr Coveney noted that this was “modest” by international standards.

According to the 73-page Global Ireland 2025, Ireland ranked 29th out of 35th for developed countries under the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development for diplomatic representations.

Ireland’s 8.4 staff per mission in diplomatic outposts was lower than those of Sweden, Finland and Denmark, each of which had average staff levels of 17 per mission, and compared with 13 for New Zealand.

“We have some road to travel to be on a par if not to overtake some of those countries in terms of presence and influence abroad,” said the Tánaiste.

The Government has pledged to meet the long-promised UN target of allocating 0.7 per cent of the gross national income to overseas development aid by 2030, which would amount to an increase from €707 million a year to €2.5 billion a year in 12 years’ time.

“This is a big commitment. You can’t do it overnight,” said Mr Coveney.

On the Government’s bid to secure one of the rotating seats on the UN Security Council for 2021-22, Mr Coveney said, at that point, post-Brexit, there was the prospect of the EU having France as the only member state on the security, “which will be extraordinary given the role Europe wants to play”.

A new Ireland House in Japan, accommodating State diplomatic, promotional and commercial under one roof, would be the most significant investment ever made by the Government in an overseas mission, he said.