St Patrick’s Day: Ministers to visit over 50 countries in pre-Brexit tour

Every EU country on schedule while Taoiseach makes traditional visit to Washington

Government Ministers and representatives will visit more than 50 countries over the St Patrick’s Day festival in what will be a final pre-Brexit promotional opportunity for the country.

In total, the plan released by the Department of Foreign Affairs on Tuesday, shows 37 Ministers and other dignitaries travelling to 57 countries.

Although Brexit was not specifically mentioned in the department’s statement, it noted that this year’s programme “will serve as a platform to underline Ireland’s commitment to and membership of the European Union”.

Ministers will visit all 27 European capitals over the St Patrick's Day period, it said. Just one Cabinet member - Minister for Finance Paschal Donohoe - will travel to the UK, which is due to leave the EU 12 days after St Patrick's Day. Minister of State for Tourism Brendan Griffin will travel to Scotland.


By contrast, nine will visit the US, including the Taoiseach’s traditional call to the White House in Washington DC.

Almost every other corner of the world features on the list with appearances across South America, Asia-Pacific, Africa and the Middle East.

Minister for Transport Shane Ross, who has stayed home for the last two years, is to represent Ireland at festivities in the United Arab Emirates.


Earlier this month, the Government confirmed its intention to press ahead with the annual meet-and-greet even though there may be a need to pass emergency legislation to deal with a potential no-deal Brexit.

Former Fine Gael taoiseach John Bruton said it was the appropriate move with the national holiday "an opportunity to remind people all over the world about a modern Ireland at a time when they are willing to listen".

This year, the Government has also said it will use the world tour to advance its pursuit of a seat on the UN Security Council in 2020. Tánaiste Simon Coveney will visit France, Germany, Belgium and the Netherlands.

Minister for Business Heather Humphreys will fly to Australia, New Zealand and Singapore. Minister for Justice Charlie Flanagan will visit New York; Minister for Health Simon Harris will travel to San Francisco and Los Angeles; Minister for Communications Richard Bruton is off to Canada; and Minister for Education Joe McHugh will take in both Finland and China.

Minister for Housing Eoghan Murphy is to attend events in Argentina and Chile; Minister for Children Katherine Zappone will travel to South Africa, Namibia and Botswana; and Ceann Comhairle Seán Ó Fearghaíl will visit Brazil.

Other Ministers are bound for destinations including Russia, Vietnam, Malaysia, India, Mexico and Cuba.

List of Ministerial visits


- France, Germany, Belgium, the Netherlands Paris, Berlin, Brussels, the Hague: Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade, Simon Coveney

- United Kingdom: Minister for Finance and Public Expenditure & Reform, Paschal Donohoe

- Spain and Portugal: Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine, Michael Creed

- Italy and Malta: Minister for Employment Affairs and Social Protection, Regina Doherty

- Finland: Minister for Education and Skills, Joe McHugh

- Cyprus, Lebanon and Jordan: Minister for Defence, Paul Kehoe

- Denmark and Sweden: Minister of State for European Affairs, Helen McEntee

- Germany and the Netherlands :Minister of State for Financial Services and Insurance, Michael D’Arcy

- France and Luxembourg: Minister of State for Training, Skills, Innovation, Research and Development, John Halligan

- Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania: Minister of State for Local Government and Electoral Reform, John Paul Phelan

- Slovakia, Austria and Hungary: Minister of State for Health Promotion and the National Drugs Strategy, Catherine Byrne

- Slovenia, Croatia and Bosnia: Minister of State for Food, Forestry and Horticulture, Andrew Doyle

- Poland and Czech Republic: Minister of State for the Office of Public Works and Flood Relief, Kevin Boxer Moran

- Greece, Romania and Bulgaria: Minister of State for Natural Resources, Community Affairs and Digital Development, Sean Canney

- Scotland: Minister of State for Tourism and Sport, Brendan Griffin

- Russia: Cathaoirleach of Seanad Éireann, Senator Denis O’Donovan

United States and Canada

-USA - Washington DC: An Taoiseach, Leo Varadkar

- USA - New York: Minister for Justice and Equality, Charles Flanagan

- USA - San Francisco, Los Angeles: Minister for Health, Simon Harris

- USA - Chicago: Minister for Rural and Community Development, Michael Ring

- Canada - Toronto and Ottawa: Minister for Communications, Climate Action and Environment, Richard Bruton

- USA - Washington: Attorney General, Seamus Woulfe SC

- USA - Boston and Pennsylvania Government: Chief Whip and Minister of State for Gaeilge, Gaeltacht and the Islands, Seán Kyne

- USA - Austin, Denver, Kansas: Minister for Higher Education, Mary Mitchell O’Connor

- USA - Savannah, Atlanta: Minister of State for Equality, Immigration and Integration, David Stanton

- USA and Canada: Vancouver, Calgary and Seattle: Minister of State for the Diaspora and Development, Ciaran Cannon


- China: Minister for Education and Skills, Joe McHugh

- Japan and South Korea: Minister for Culture, Heritage and the Gaeltacht, Josepha Madigan

- Australia, New Zealand, Singapore: Minister for Business, Enterprise and Innovation, Heather Humphreys

- Vietnam, Thailand, Malaysia: Minister of State for Public Procurement, Open Government and eGovernment, Patrick O’Donovan

- India: Minister of State for Mental Health and Older People, Jim Daly

- Australia and Timor Leste: Minister of State for Housing and Urban Development, Damian English

The Americas

- Argentina and Chile: Minister for Housing, Planning and Local Government, Eoghan Murphy

- Mexico and Cuba: Minister of State for Disability Issues, Finian McGrath

- Colombia, Paraguay and Uruguay: Minister of State for Trade, Employment, Business, EU Digital Single Market and Data Protection, Pat Breen

- Brazil: Ceann Comhairle of Dáil Éireann, Seán Ó Fearghaíl

Middle East

- United Arab Emirates: Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport, Shane Ross


- South Africa, Namibia and Botswana: Minister for Children and Youth Affairs, Katherine Zappone

Mark Hilliard

Mark Hilliard

Mark Hilliard is a reporter with The Irish Times