Varadkar to unveil plans to double Ireland’s ‘global footprint’

Increased promotion of Irish arts and culture abroad will form a key part of the plan

 Leo Varadkar is expected to frame the plan as part of Ireland’s response to Brexit. Photograph: EPA/Paul McErlane

Leo Varadkar is expected to frame the plan as part of Ireland’s response to Brexit. Photograph: EPA/Paul McErlane

 

A major expansion of Ireland’s embassy and consulate network and a pledge to achieve the UN target of donating 0.7 per cent of gross national income to development projects within 12 years will form part of plans announced on Monday.

Taoiseach Leo Varadkar, Minister for Foreign Affairs Simon Coveney and other Ministers will launch Global Ireland 2025 in Dublin on Monday morning, which Government Buildings describes as “the most ambitious renewal and expansion of Ireland’s international presence ever undertaken in terms of diplomacy, culture, business, overseas aid, tourism and trade”.

Mr Varadkar first made the proposal to double the scope and impact of Ireland’s global footprint during last year’s Fine Gael leadership election, and both he and Mr Coveney have repeatedly referenced the plan since.

Monday’s announcements will stress that the increased promotion of Irish arts and culture abroad will form a key part of the plan to enhance Ireland’s voice and presence in the world. Cultural attaches are to be appointed from within the diplomatic corps in the larger embassies abroad.

Commercial Government agencies – including the IDA and Enterprise Ireland – are also likely to be given extra resources for staff in key locations.

The Government is thought to favour the “Ireland House” model, where diplomatic, promotional and commercial agencies are brought together under one roof.

Brexit response

Mr Varadkar is expected to frame the plan as part of Ireland’s response to Brexit, ensuring that “Ireland is better positioned to build the alliances necessary to advance its interests and defend its positions in a post-Brexit EU, while also helping to secure our deep and positive relationship with the UK and its constituent parts into the future.”

Ireland’s embassy in London is likely to be given extra resources and manpower while agencies in London, Manchester and Glasgow will also be strengthened.

A new consulate is due to open in Cardiff next year, while a further consulate, probably in the north of England, is also planned.

Monday’s announcements will recommit Ireland to achieving the UN goal of donating 0.7 per cent of gross national income to development assistance by 2030. This has previously been promised by several governments, and would require several hundreds of millions of extra euros every year for the aid budget.

The Taoiseach will tell the launch event: “I wanted to double our impact by doing things differently, doing more, and doing it better.

“Technological change is transforming lives and driving change in every corner of the world. Geopolitical and economic power is shifting south and east. The global trading environment is experiencing a period of turbulence and volatility. And, closer to home, our nearest neighbour and largest trading partner is preparing to leave the European Union.

“The challenges we face demand comprehensive multilateral responses. It is the only way to make a significant difference on issues such as climate change, security, taxation in the new digital world and migration.”