Gilmore defends St Patrick’s Day trade missions abroad

Tánaiste Eamon Gilmore has defended costly Government plans to send 19 ministers on St Patrick’s Day trade missions to 21 different countries.

The trade and foreign affairs minister insisted costs would be kept to a minimum as senior TDs jetted off to far-flung countries such as Singapore and New Zealand.

He said the alternative of launching an advertising campaign to promote Ireland worldwide to attract foreign direct investment and tourism would be more expensive.

“This is about promoting the country,” Mr Gilmore said.

“It’s about opening opportunity for trade and exports.”

Meanwhile, Richard Bruton, jobs minister, insisted the Government would “sweat” its existing assets to keep costs down.

“We’re keeping the size of delegations down to a minimum, we’re not flying first class, we’re using embassy facilities, we’re maximising assets we already have,” he said.

Neither of the men would reveal how much the missions would cost, but said expenses would be the responsibility of Government departments.

The Tánaiste will be among the 19 ministers to travel around the world attending business and trade events, and political meetings in a bid to secure foreign investment opportunities.

It is a number that has more than doubled since 2011.

Taoiseach Enda Kenny is also to fly to the US on Friday to mark St Patrick’s Day in New York.

He will then travel to Washington to meet President Barack Obama before heading to the west coast.

The politicians will take part in more than 150 business events and 30 political meetings over the St Patrick’s period.

These include a meeting between Mr Gilmore and US Secretary of State John Kerry.

Mr Gilmore said: “There is no other country of our size that gets the same attention internationally as Ireland on St Patrick’s Day.”

Indonesia and the Philippines have been added to the list of countries targeted in the trade missions.

Mr Gilmore said this was due to their combined populations of 350m and the fact they were two of the fastest growing economies in the world.


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