US-Irish relationship 'the strongest it has ever been'

 

OPINION:‘Irish generosity and warmth’ have not wavered despite global headwinds, writes DANIEL M ROONEY

It was a cool summer day in 2009 when I arrived at the Áras an Uachtaráin to present my credentials as ambassador of the United States to president Mary McAleese.

It was July 3rd and the president welcomed me warmly and spoke of the importance of the relationship between the US and Ireland and the special role the US should play in the world. Hers was the first of a hundred thousand welcomes my wife, Patricia, and I would receive here in Ireland over the following 3½ years.

I arrived in an Ireland that was starting to feel the effects of the global economic crisis. Over the following three years I would travel to every county meeting people from every part of Ireland and every walk of life and developed a deeper respect for the determination of the people to succeed in the face of hardship.

Irish generosity and warmth have not wavered and President Obama has told me many times one of his favourite overseas visits was to Moneygall and Dublin’s College Green.

New Irish

Our embassy has also reached out to the new Irish – those who have made Ireland home in the past 20 years. We held an entrepreneurship conference here in Dublin designed to advance the social and economic integration of minorities. Advancing respect for diversity and cultural differences is an American value and one I have worked to spread. Protecting the vulnerable is a shared American-Irish value and we have worked together to address the international shame of hunger and malnutrition. I have been encouraged by the partnership we have developed with social entrepreneurs and non-governmental organisations to address problems here and around the world.

Despite the global headwinds, the US-Irish economic relationship has continued to strengthen. American companies have a total investment of $190 billion (€145 billion) in Ireland and are playing a vital role in helping the Irish economy create jobs.

To underscore the importance of the economic ties that bind our countries, I have held annual conferences to advance co-operation in the renewable energy sphere, to support US foreign direct investment, and to underscore the co-operative role of Government and private enterprise in improving Ireland’s competitiveness. Ahead of Ireland’s upcoming presidency of the European Council, we look forward to supporting the Government’s plan to focus on increased US-EU trade.

True peace

The US has partnered – and will continue to partner – in the peace process. With the Irish and British governments, we are working to achieve true peace. The gains and institutional changes over the past three years have been enormous. Aware that not everyone has enjoyed the benefits peace has brought, I have worked closely with Senator Martin McAleese and the Department of Foreign Affairs to bridge some of these gaps.

The US-Irish relationship extends far beyond our own borders as we work together on global security challenges. Our partnership includes initiatives such as our co-leadership of the “1,000 Days: Change a Life, Change the Future” campaign to combat global hunger. Ireland’s chairmanship of the Organisation of Security Co-operation in Europe this past year has provided additional opportunities for us to co-operate on advancing global security.

US customs and border protection officers stationed in Ireland work with An Garda Síochána to protect our borders and international air travel. We work closely to combat modern-day slavery and trafficking in persons. And one of my fondest memories of Ireland will be greeting and thanking US military personnel for their service as they transit Shannon on their way home from the hard places in the world.

It has been an honour and privilege to represent the US as ambassador to Ireland. The president charged me to protect and build the historic and deep friendship between our two countries. I am pleased to say this relationship is the strongest it has ever been. Ours is not a foreign relationship between two countries but a shared kinship between two great peoples.

Daniel M Rooney is US ambassador to Ireland

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