IT was back to the good ol’ Celtic Tiger years yesterday as VIPs and trade promoters knocked back champagne and rubbed shoulders with the Taoiseach in the salubrious surroundings of the Shelbourne Hotel.
Before midday, guests were downing the bubbly surrounded by balloons, flags and a host of quaint Irish gifts being promoted at the launch of an online Irish trade shop.
As Enda Kenny answered questions from journalists about Ireland’s growing mortgage crisis, guests chatted in the upmarket Dublin hotel — the location of a fire sale auction of distressed properties weeks earlier.
Launching siopa.com, the smiling Taoiseach posed for pictures behind a selection of woollen jumpers, tweed hats, tea cups and Waterford Crystal, holding up a céad míle fáilte sign.
Ahead of the visit of Barack Obama on Monday week, Mr Kenny was presented with a pin to give to the US President, which features Irish and Kenyan designs representing the leader’s roots.
“As an island we have to export to generate value and growth for our economy. And God knows that’s needed now more than ever,” Mr Kenny said.
The new online shop is targeting an estimated 40 million strong Irish Diaspora in the US market.
Consumers can expect to receive quality goods like jewellery, clothes, homeware and other gifts within a matter of days, anywhere in the world, when ordered from the company.
Mr Kenny said that during his visit to Washington on St Patrick’s Day, he had felt there was a real sense of excitement by people wanting to be associated with Ireland.
The craft industry was worth around €500 million to the economy annually, he told guests. Referring to the specially-made pin which features a traditional Celtic image and a tribal image from the US President’s father Kenyan tribe, the Luo, Mr Kenny said there are “similarities between our peoples… the Atlantic Ocean that separates our countries is also the ocean of the same waters that carried the Africans to slavery and the Irish to freedom.”
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