Details of ministerial St Patrick’s Day ’trade missions’ revealed

Taoiseach Enda Kenny’s controversial St Patrick’s Day meeting with US president Donald Trump will take place during an expanded trade mission, writes political correspondent Fiachra Ó Cionnaith.

The trip will also include visits to New York and at least one other US city

The Department of Foreign Affairs confirmed the expected eight to 10 day trip, which is likely to be one of his final official duties as Taoiseach, alongside a series of other St Patrick’s Day journeys for senior Government ministers.

As part of a long-standing tradition which is regularly criticised as the endorsement of costly and unnecessary junkets, Ireland’s cabinet members will travel around the globe on a series of trade missions to promote this country.

In all, 27 countries will be visited with a particular focus on the need to shore up trade from North America and Europe in light of the dual US presidential election and Brexit fallout, and separate plans to promote tourism, the agri-sector and Ireland’s bid to host the 2020 rugby world cup.

The visits will notably see specific trips by eight separate ministers to the US, individual journeys to Britain, Scotland, France, Germany and Italy, and far-flung visits to Brazil, Indonesia, South Korea, Argentina, Australia and New Zealand.

However, Mr Kenny’s meeting with US president Donald Trump as part of an extended trade mission to the US has gained most attention, due to the fact it is likely to be one of his final formal acts as Taoiseach.

As part of the St Patrick’s Day events, Mr Kenny will travel to the US early next month to hold a series of meetings in as yet unspecified cities.

He will then meet with Mr Trump in the White House in Washington DC on March 16, before travelling to New York on March 17-18, meaning he is likely to attend the St Patrick’s Day parade in the city.

Other ministerial trips will include:

  • Justice Minister and Tánaiste Frances Fitzgerald (San Francisco, San Diego and LA in the US)
  • Children’s Minister Katherine Zappone (Boston in the US)
  • Jobs Minister Mary Mitchell O Connor (Chicago and New York in the US)
  • Education Minister Richard Bruton (Britain)
  • Agriculture Minister Michael Creed (Munich, Stuttgart, Cologne and Berlin in Germany)
  • Social Protection Minister Leo Varadkar (France)
  • Housing Minister Simon Coveney (Toronto in Canada)
  • Public Expenditure Minister Paschal Donohoe (Japan and South Korea)
  • Foreign Affairs Minister Charlie Flanagan (Milan and Rome in Italy)
  • Arts Minister Heather Humphreys (Stockholm and Copenhagen in Sweden and Denmark)
  • Finance Minister Michael Noonan (Malaysia and Singapore)
  • Disabilities Minister Finian McGrath (Edinburgh in Scotland)
  • Sports Minister Patrick O Donovan (east coast Australia and New Zealand)
  • European Affairs Minister Dara Murphy (Spain)
  • chief whip Regina Doherty (UAE)
  • minister of state Paul Kehoe (Lebanon)
  • minister of state David Stanton (Perth and Jakarta in Australia and Indonesia)
  • minister of state Marcella Corcoran Kennedy (Budapest and Prague in Hungary and the Czech Republic)
  • minister of state Damien English (Poland)
  • minister of state Andrew Doyle (Belgium and the Netherlands)
  • minister of state Joe McHugh (New York, Philadelphia and the Tri-state area in the US)
  • minister of state Sean Canney (Beijing and Shanghai in China, and Hong Kong)
  • minister of state Michael Ring (Fort Lauderdale, Miami, Atlanta and Savannah in the US)
  • minister of state Helen McEntee (Argentina)
  • minister of state Pat Breen (Austin in the US)
  • minister of state Sean Kyne (Cleveland, Dublin and Columbus in the US)
  • minister of state John Halligan (Brasilia, Rio de Janeiro and Sao Paulo in Brazil)

Despite Government repeatedly emphasising the value of the St Patrick’s Day events, the ministerial trips have repeatedly been the subject of criticism in recent years amid concern over the travel costs and claims they are junkets.

However, while Government has spent close to €1m on the journeys since 2011, they have directly and indirectly led to millions of euro worth of investment into Ireland.


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