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Minister Harris Celebrates Ireland’s Strong Ties With California for St. Patrick's Day 2019

Minister Harris Celebrates Ireland’s Strong Ties With California for St. Patrick's Day 2019

Minister Simon Harris addressing the inaugural “Team Ireland” Business Breakfast at the Fairmont Hotel, San Francisco. (Photo credit jGuerzon Pictorials)

This St. Patrick’s Day, Ireland’s Minister for Health, Simon Harris T.D. represented the Government of Ireland visiting California to meet with Irish community and business leaders in celebration of the enormous links between the Emerald Isle and the Golden State and the huge opportunities to expand these yet further with the opening of a new Irish Consulate in Los Angeles later this year and the recently opened Science Foundation Ireland office in the Bay Area.

The Minister’s visit, which took place over five days, saw him travel to four cities in California - San Francisco, Silicon Valley, Los Angeles and San Diego – undertaking a range of meetings and speaking events organized by the Irish community, the Consulate General of Ireland in San Francisco, Enterprise Ireland, IDA Ireland and Science Foundation Ireland and important local partners for Ireland in California such as Cal Chamber.

Minister Simon Harris addressing the inaugural “Team Ireland” Business Breakfast at the Fairmont Hotel, San Francisco. (Photo credit jGuerzon Pictorials)

Minister Simon Harris addressing the inaugural “Team Ireland” Business Breakfast at the Fairmont Hotel, San Francisco. (Photo credit jGuerzon Pictorials)

A highlight of the visit was the inaugural “Team Ireland” Business Breakfast in San Francisco, organized by the Consulate General of Ireland, Enterprise Ireland, IDA Ireland and Science Foundation Ireland, where the Minister hosted the West Coast launch for American Chamber of Commerce (AMCHAM) in Ireland’s annual report on the trade and investment relationship between Ireland and the United States. The report recognized California as Ireland’s largest trade and investment partner in the US with Irish companies employing some 10,000 people across 203 locations in the State and California companies employing some 36,000 people in Ireland. The report was supported by Cal Chamber who contributed to a dedicated chapter on Ireland – California. The full AMCHAM report is available here.

The evening previous, the Minister kicked off Enterprise Ireland’s Fintech trade mission to the Bay Area at an event with Fintech business leaders hosted at J.P. Morgan San Francisco. Seven indigenous Irish Fintech companies were in the Bay Area for the week meeting with, and looking to do business with companies here. Ireland, as a center for both financial services and technology in Europe, has a vibrant Fintech eco-system which is producing Irish Fintech companies with real global ambition.

Minister Harris paid a visit to the Global Brain Health Initiative, a transatlantic research collaboration between UC San Francisco and Trinity College Dublin, which is focused on reducing the scale and impact of dementia worldwide. The collaboration is funded by Atlantic Philanthropies and in recognition of this, renowned philanthropist, Chuck Feeney, accompanied by his wife Helga, were in attendance and had an opportunity to meet with the Atlantic Fellows who are carrying out much of the ground-breaking research in this area.

Consul General O'Driscoll and Minister Harris visiting UCSF Mission Bay Campus with Trinity College Dublin @tcddublin and the Atlantic Fellows @AtlanticFellows on the Global Brain Health Institute @GBHI_Fellows program (Photo credit J Rumans Photography)

Consul General Robert O’Driscoll and Minister Simon Harris visiting UCSF Mission Bay Campus to meet with Trinity College Dublin @tcddublin and the Atlantic Fellows @AtlanticFellows on the Global Brain Health Institute @GBHI_Fellows program, dedicated to reducing the scale and impact of dementia worldwide. (Photo credit J Rumans Photography)

A huge focus of the Minister’s visit was engaging with and celebrating the Irish diaspora in California – the U.S. State with the largest single number of people of Irish descent: 2.5 million according to the last U.S. census. The Minister’s first event was a reception co-hosted by the Consulate and Irish Network Bay Area with Irish community leaders from the Bay Area. Minister Harris spoke about the enormous gratitude that the Government has for the work of the organisations, and Government support through the Emigrant Support Programme. The Minister also met with the Irish community in Los Angeles and San Diego at events organized by the Ireland Funds and Irish Outreach Southern California respectively.

Stephen Ahern @IrishOutreachSD and team doing great work with the Irish community in San Diego

Stephen Ahern @IrishOutreachSD and team doing great work with the Irish community in San Diego.

There are few places in the world where Irish people and those of Irish descent have had such a formative impact as California. The first State chartered bank in California was the Hibernia Savings and Loan in San Francisco set up in 1859 by Limerick-native John Sullivan. That first Irish born Mayor in any major US city was Longford-native Frank McCoppin in San Francisco in 1867. Irish born engineers Michael O Shaughnessy and William Mulholland played leading roles in bringing water to both San Francisco and Los Angeles respectively. The woman who won equal pay for equal work for women in California was Meath-native, Kate Kennedy, in the late nineteenth century. Irish people continue to play a leading role in California today and the Minister was the guest of honor at this year’s ITLG (Irish Technology Leadership Group) awards celebrating the most entrepreneurial Irish minds in Silicon Valley and further afield, at which fifty executives were honored.

The Minister’s visit to California concluded with him participating in the St. Patrick’s Day Parade in San Diego where more than 30,000 people were in attendance to celebrate Irish heritage in Southern California.

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