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Inaugural Conference of Irish Honorary Consuls

In this guest blog, Ireland's Honorary Consul in Antwerp, Yves Rombouts, reflects on the first ever Honorary Consul Conference (or #HonConCon) which took place in Dublin in September 2019.

In September, the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade (DFAT) brought together Ireland’s Honorary Consuls from around the world for the first time. Ireland has around 100 honorary consulates in 55 different countries and almost 80 consuls attended the conference. 

The conference started with a reception hosted by Minister of State for the Diaspora and International Development, Ciaran Cannon TD. The location was very fitting for the occassion: the EPIC Museum (The Irish Emigration Museum) in Dublin. Introductions were made and opportunities and experiences were shared. Ambassador Nolan and her husband were also in attendance.

Day 2 began with a trip to Farmleigh House where we were welcomed by Niall Burgess, Secretary General, DFAT and Elizabeth McCullough, Director of Consular Division. Then the real work started: briefings on Global Ireland – Ireland’s Global Footprint to 2025, A Better World: Ireland’s Policy for International Development, an address by Minister of State for Trade, Employment, Business, EU Digital Single Market and Data Protection, Pat Breen TD and a briefing about Ireland’s candidature for a seat on the United Nations Security Council. All the sessions were very interactive and the speakers were very appreciative of the feedback from the Hon Cons.

That evening we were hosted by President Michael D. Higgins and Sabina Higgins at their official residence Áras an Uachtaráin. After the formalities concluded, the part of the evening everyone was looking forward to – Bród and Síoda, who need no introduction, were allowed to join the party and stole the limelight. I had the impression they like to attend official receptions :)  

We then returned to Farmleigh House where Tánaiste and Minister of Foreign Affairs and Trade Simon Coveney TD, hosted the conference dinner. He shared with us his experiences, his vision and offered us an insight into the challenges posed by Brexit, which was of great interest to those gathered. 

On our final day in Ireland, we met at Dublin Castle where Minister of State for European Affairs Helen McEntee TD opened proceedings. Next on the agenda were briefings and updates about the work of the different agencies promoting Ireland (Tourism Ireland, Board Bia, IDA and Enterprise Ireland), Ireland’s global cultural outreach, delivering consular assistance and consular services, Ireland’s visa service, data protection and finally Ireland’s new diaspora policy. Throughout the day, the Hon Cons shared their views and offered insights on the topics for discussion. The conference closed with a reception held in The Long Room of Trinity College Dublin. I was joined there by Embassy colleagues Ambassador Nolan and Anna Osypchuk, as well as previous Deputy Head of Mission Ruth Barrett. 

Reflecting on the HonConCon, I believe it was a great initiative to bring the Honorary Consuls and DFAT together as both groups learned from each other. The Honorary Consuls now have a deeper understanding of Ireland, its policy priorities and vision for the future. The overarching message from those in attendance from the Honorary Consul network to DFAT was that we look forward to being even more involved in the work of DFAT around the world.

Given the success of the conference, it is hoped that future gatherings will be organised and I am already looking forward to the next HonConCon.

Yves Rombouts
Honorary Consul of Ireland Antwerp

Find out more about Ireland's Honorary Consul network

Honorary Consuls are an invaluable support to the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade’s Embassy network providing assistance to Irish citizens and helping the development of trade and economic relations in their country or region. Read more about the work of Ireland’s Honorary Consul’s here.

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