Quinn takes charge as ministers jet overseas

Ruairi Quinn will be left in charge of Ireland while Enda Kenny and 16 ministers travel abroad to celebrate St Patrick’s Day.

Mr Quinn will oversee any emergency situations while his cabinet colleagues travel overseas to promote Ireland’s interests globally.

The education minister is the most senior qualified minister remaining in the State, having served the most time at a government level. He retains the right to sign any executive orders while the heads of the country are away. He has more ministerial experience than Environment Minister Phil Hogan and Health Minister James Reilly who will also both remain at home over the weekend.

The Department of Taoiseach stressed yesterday the situation did not confer any special powers on Mr Quinn and any government decision, if one was needed, in the coming days would still be overseen by Enda Kenny, even though he is abroad.

The Taoiseach jetted off to the US yesterday on a mission to boost Ireland’s image to the world and attract foreign investment.

He will stop off in Chicago, Indiana, New York and Washington during his five-day trip, which will end with a bash at the White House, where he will be a special guest of US President Barack Obama.

Tánaiste Eamon Gilmore and over a dozen other ministers are also setting off on international trips to coincide with St Patrick’s Day which will be celebrated around the world by an estimated 70m members of the Irish diaspora.

They will travel to 15 of Ireland’s key trading partner countries and take part in programmes in seven different US locations.

But all eyes will be on Mr Kenny as he once again comes face-to-face with Mr Obama.

The celebration in Washington will take place on Tuesday, which gives Mr Kenny time to squeeze in visits to the other major US cities on his agenda.

In Chicago, he will meet mayor Rahm Emmanuel and other political and business leaders. He will also take part in the city’s St Patrick’s Day parade and address the Irish Fellowship Club of Chicago’s St Patrick’s Day dinner. He will then travel to Indiana for a visit to the University of Notre Dame, home of the Fighting Irish college football team. The team is due to travel to Dublin in September for a match at the Aviva Stadium, which is expected to attract thousands of US football fans to Ireland.

The Taoiseach will make his way to New York City on Monday — which has been dubbed Ireland Day — where he will visit the New York Stock Exchange.

His trip will culminate with a visit to Washington where, on top of meeting Mr Obama, he will attend a lunch on Capitol Hill hosted by the speaker of the House of Representatives, John Boehner.

Meanwhile, Mr Kenny has told his deputy ministers to include as many business, trade, tourism and investment promotion opportunities as possible in their programmes.

Mr Gilmore will visit Canada for trade promotion, community and cultural events there. Social Protection Minister Joan Burton will spend time in New York, while Children Minister Frances Fitzgerald will visit Boston.

Arts Minister Jimmy Deenihan will go to Atlanta and Jobs Minister Richard Bruton to the west coast.

Public Expenditure Minister Brendan Howlin and Minister of State Ciaran Cannon will travel to Singapore and China respectively, while Justice Minister Alan Shatter will visit Australia.

Meanwhile, Transport Minister Leo Varadkar and Minister of State Michael Ring will visit Birmingham and London, and Minister of State Danny McGinley will visit the Scottish cities of Glasgow and Edinburgh.

Agriculture Minister Simon Coveney will visit Benelux, Finance Minister Michael Noonan will visit France and Communications Minister Pat Rabbitte will spend time in Italy.

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