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Minister Sherlock addresses J1 Work and Travel Event


It is my great pleasure to participate in the opening of today’s U.S. Embassy Dublin J1 Connect event.

I extend my thanks and appreciation to Chargé d’Affaires Stuart Dwyer and his team for organising it.

I also congratulate all at the U.S. Embassy on the recent confirmation of Kevin O’Malley as the new U.S. Ambassador to Ireland.

I am sure you are all looking forward to working with Mr. O’Malley, as we are to welcoming him.

Today’s event is an excellent initiative which I warmly endorse. It underlines the enduring attraction of the J1 Summer Work and Travel Programme for young Irish people. Indeed, I understand Ireland now has the largest J1 programme in the world.

It highlights the potential benefits which stand to be gained for the young people in question and for our two countries from harnessing the undoubted energy and goodwill that develop out of the great experiences and networks of connections that a J1 summer can offer.

Unfortunately, as recent media reports have outlined, there have been some who have chosen to endanger that goodwill.

They do not represent us or the overwhelming majority who participate in the summer J1 programme from Ireland for positive reasons.

In regard to that particular case I pay tribute our Consulate in San Francisco, to the local Irish community in San Francisco, including local Irish immigration centres, and to other Irish J1 students who have sought to make amends for what has taken place.

We are engaging with student organisations to try to minimise the prospect of such occurrences in the future

The positive message which should be taken from today’s event is that the Irish students who participate in the summer J1 programme do so in good faith, hoping to learn more about America and themselves, acquiring invaluable life skills and cultural experiences along the way.

They clearly succeed in this regard, as so many are invited back year after year to U.S. towns and resorts.

Opportunities to connect and re-connect with those that we encounter throughout our years in education and/or in professional careers are too valuable to simply consign to memory.

In Ireland’s case, we have supported a framework by which professional-level connections can be cultivated and helped to flourish.

Operating at national level in the U.S. and 19 different American city locations with over 3500 members, these are the Irish Networks.

Their national umbrella organisation, Irish Network USA, recently held its highly successful 2014 National Conference in Austin, Texas.

Austin also happens to be where Ireland’s latest Consulate in the United States is opening.

Working alongside our colleagues in IDA Ireland and Enterprise Ireland, we want to highlight the opportunities for trade and economic links with the home of the famous South By Southwest Festival, to name but one of Austin’s many attractions.

Our Consulate in Austin will also operate in the context of Ireland’s existing network of other diplomatic missions located in Atlanta, Boston, Chicago, New York & San Francisco, as well as of course in Washington D.C. This a sign of Ireland’s continued and indeed growing commitment to our official relations with the US, the 90th anniversary of which will be celebrated on 7 October.

At another level again, a hugely positive outcome which has grown out of the previous Global Irish Economic Forum meetings has been our Global Irish Network, through which we maintain links with over 350 of the most influential members of Ireland’s Diaspora in some 40 countries around the globe.

Networks, connections and potential opportunities should also be on the minds of all who are either thinking about spending a summer in the J1 programme or who have recently done so.

Such networking is vitally important in the context of the robust economic relationship between Ireland and the US.

Last year the US was our single biggest export market for goods – consuming 21% of all our goods exports. The US also serves as Ireland’s largest trading partner in internationally traded services.

The US remains the single largest source of foreign direct investment in Ireland, with more than 530 US corporations employing more than 100,000 people directly.

The health and wellbeing of our economy is inextricably linked to that of the United States through these massive trade and investment flows in both directions.

In the scientific realm, frameworks such as the U.S.-Ireland R&D Partnership, meeting next week in Northern Ireland at Steering Committee level and also for a subsequent U.S.-Ireland telecoms workshop in Dublin and the Wild Geese Network of Irish Scientists are two more examples of other new and innovative ways that our two countries can engage with and learn from each other.

Our relations are also characterised by the huge cultural exchanges over many decades between the US and Ireland.

Many Irish working in the arts see America as their second country, and America has shown a great appreciation of the works they produce, while American culture has had a profound influence on Ireland. Contacts like the J1 have further reinforced these ties.

Don’t forget to have fun and enjoy yourselves – I am certain there is little danger that you would do so! – but whether you are interested in a career in business, science, the arts or all of the above, I hope you made the most of your J1 time to observe and explore ideas in the land that has contributed so much to the world across the all these areas.

Even more importantly, I hope that you try out some of these ideas in the form of business ventures or other projects when you are home.

I believe that many of the J1 students of today will be the leaders and promoters of Ireland-U.S. connections – and IN USA and Global Irish Network members – of tomorrow.

As Minister with responsibility for Development, Trade Promotion and North South Co-operation, and having previously held the Research & Innovation portfolio, I am excited at the prospect of seeing where these connections will take us.

I wish every success to those who are taking part in today’s event and particularly in the panel discussions and workshops, from which I expect that many useful ideas and suggestions will be generated.

In the best networking tradition, we want the conversations and exchanges that start here today to continue even after this event has concluded.

I have every faith that the resolve, creativity and determination of Irish summer J1 participants, past, present and future, will once again be visible for all to see.

Thank You.