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H.E. Fionnuala Gilsenan


Welcome Message

I am delighted to welcome you to the website of the Embassy of Ireland in South Africa. The website seeks to provide you with information and regular updates, especially in relation to COVID restrictions as we navigate through this difficult period. We hope that you will find interesting news updates from the work of the Embassy, clear guidance on consular services and a better understanding of Ireland in South Africa. 

Since October 2019, I have had the pleasure to serve as Ireland’s Ambassador to the Republic of South Africa. Ireland and South Africa enjoy very warm and deep bilateral relations and our historical ties are strong. The connections between our two countries date back many centuries when Irish people, including missionaries, migrated to Southern Africa. 

During the struggle against apartheid, Ireland played an important role in building international support for sanctions against the South Africa regime. Many South Africans took refuge in Ireland during the period; the most prominent among them was Professor Kader Asmal, who played a pivotal role in building the Irish Anti-Apartheid Movement in Ireland.  

To this day, we have enormous people-to-people connections between our two countries. In normal times, more than 90,000 people move between Ireland and South Africa annually, reflecting extensive business, trade, academic, cultural and family links.  

Ireland and South Africa share a commitment to human rights, multilateralism and universal values enshrined in the UN conventions and mandates. Our values and our commitment to international norms ensure that there are many opportunities for cooperation at an international level particularly at the UN where Ireland is currently serving on the UN Security Council following South Africa’s successful term during 2019/2020.

In addition to this strong political relationship, there is a vibrant economic and trade relationship. My team and I are committed to encouraging collaborations between young Irish and South Africa technology entrepreneurs through a new Tech Challenge Fund, which will launch later this year.   The Embassy supports networking through Business Ireland Southern Africa and is available to provide advice to Irish companies interested in entering the market. Enterprise Ireland also has an office in Johannesburg and has a wealth of knowledge to support client companies.

The Embassy is working with the Government of South Africa to grow and develop the skills of its most important resource, the young women and men of South Africa. Through our Kader Asmal Fellowship Programme, we offer South Africans an opportunity to study at Masters level in Ireland. Our universities are actively engaged in research partnerships and, though the pandemic has created challenges, technology has allowed these relationships to flourish.  There are many new possibilities and connections emerging that we look forward to supporting in the years to come.

Both Ireland and South Africa boast a rich culture and heritage. I look forward to welcoming Irish artists and writers back to South Africa when restrictions are lifted. In the meantime, we are building important connections between community arts organisations in Ireland and South Africa and supporting online events to keep spirits high.

There is a large Irish diaspora living in South Africa which the Embassy serves through our consular section, cultural and business networking activities. I encourage you to register with the Embassy to keep abreast of activities and events that the Embassy sponsors.

The Embassy is accredited to the Republic of Zimbabwe, Mauritius, the Kingdom of Lesotho and the Republic of Botswana and the South Africa Development Community (SADC). I am committed to promoting cordial relations and fostering mutual understanding between Ireland and each of these countries. This aim is greatly supported by the longstanding presence of so many Irish citizens as integral members of the community in their adopted homes. Our work is assisted by the activity of Irish associations and the tremendous contribution of Irish religious organisations and NGOs in our countries of accreditation.

I look forward to meeting and working with you in the coming period. Please stay in touch via our Facebook and Twitter pages and if you have any suggestions or queries, please contact us here.