Ireland to double diplomat numbers in eight years, Taoiseach announces

Ireland is to double the number of diplomats and enterprise and investment agents in overseas missions by 2025.

On an official visit to Canada, Taoiseach Leo Varadkar said the aim was to attract more business from abroad, boost trade and tourism, build stronger links with the Irish diaspora and increase cultural exchange.

"This means new and augmented diplomatic missions and as well as significantly increased resources for our investment, tourism, cultural and food agencies overseas," the Taoiseach said.

The plan is called Ireland's Global Footprint 2025 and Foreign Affairs Minister Simon Coveney has been asked to examine how increasing representation overseas will affect diplomatic missions.

The specifics will be approved by the Government later this year.

Currently Ireland has 61 embassies, seven multilateral missions and 12 consulates through which the Department of Foreign Affairs maintains diplomatic relations with 178 states.

Additional staff and roles have already been assigned overseas to deal with the response to Brexit with the Department of Foreign Affairs stating that it has prioritised the issue.

In 2011 diplomatic missions to the Holy See, Iran and Timor-Leste were closed for what the Government cited was economic reasons but fallout following repeated inquiries into clerical abuse was also regarded as part of the decision to close the embassy in the Vatican.

Three years ago the mission to the Holy See was re-established along with new embassies in Indonesia, Kenya, Croatia and Thailand. Three new consulates also opened in Sao Paulo, Hong Kong and Austin.

Mr Varadkar made his announcement at an Enterprise Ireland breakfast in Toronto.

He said: "Notwithstanding our strong competitiveness and vigorous economic growth, Ireland today faces undoubtedly the greatest set of political and economic challenges in a generation, as a result of Brexit.

"Now is the time to plan ahead with ambition."

Mr Varadkar also praised the new EU-Canada Comprehensive Economic Trade Agreement, known as Ceta, which comes into effect provisional a month from now.

He said it will remove more than 98% of the tariff barriers to trade between Canada and the EU.

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