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Minister Cannon T.D. address for 60th anniversary of diplomatic relations between Ireland and Japan

Minister Nakane, Minister Murphy, Ambassadors Miyoshi and Barrington, former Ambassadors Neary, Murphy and Neligan, esteemed guests.

I am delighted to welcome you all here to Iveagh House for the Closing Ceremony marking the conclusion of the 60th anniversary of diplomatic relations between Ireland and Japan, and the launch of a very fine study on the subject.

It is a great honour to welcome State Minister for Foreign Affairs Nakane to our shores for this special occasion.

Minister Nakane’s visit today caps an important and very welcome series of visits from a number of senior Japanese officials and dignitaries to Ireland over the past year. Some of you may have been present in this room last January when Foreign Minister Kishida launched the anniversary celebrations. And in July we were honoured to receive a visit from Her Imperial Highness Princess Takamado. In the other direction, four Irish Cabinet Ministers travelled to Japan in 2017.

I would also like to extend a welcome to Mr. Eoghan Murphy, T.D. Minister for Housing, Planning and Local Government. Minister Murphy will be visiting Japan during this year’s St Patrick’s Day celebrations which will no doubt be a wonderful experience.

At this point I would like to remember the young Japanese man, Yo-su-keh Sasaki, who so tragically lost his life in Dundalk earlier this month. I offer my heartfelt sympathy to Yo-su-ke’s family and to the people of Japan for this loss. This was a true tragedy and shocked the local community and, indeed, the whole of Ireland greatly. I would like to pay tribute to the work of Irish and Japanese authorities and the Japanese Embassy for their efforts in assisting Mr Sasaki’s family.

I am pleased to be able to launch the publication today of “Ireland and Japan, 1957-2017: Diplomatic, Economic and Cultural Relations.” Co-authors Dr Michael Kennedy and Dr Eoin Kinsella of the Royal Irish Academy have eloquently captured the breadth of engagement between our two countries over that period. Dr Kennedy is going to address us on this history, so I won’t dwell further on the topic. Only to say that I am told that 60 years is a very significant landmark in the Japanese calendar, denoting the completion of one cycle of life and the commencement of another. As an elected member of parliament, my political life tends to operates on a somewhat shorter cycle of 5 years or less.

There are three important areas where Japan and Ireland have much to celebrate – culture, trade and sport.

It is fair to say that Ireland and Japan boast two of the most unique, rich cultural heritages in the world. Music, dance, literature and art play crucial roles in our national identity and are huge sources of pride.

In this vein there has been a number of high profile events showcasing Irish culture in Japan in the past year, from performances of Beckett’s Waiting for Godot to packed houses in Tokyo and Kyoto to an 11th tour of Japan by The Chieftains, true musical masters, whose own career is approaching 60 years. Her Imperial Highness the Empress attended one of their performances in Tokyo.

In Ireland we have similarly enjoyed numerous wonderful displays of Japanese culture over the past year, from sak-e events to the Japanese Film Festival and the wonderful Experience Japan event in Farmleigh, which thousands of people have enjoyed.

There is also much to celebrate in the arena of trade with good progress made in 2017. Japan remains a crucial partner for Ireland as both our largest source of investment from Asia and the largest export market in Asia for Irish goods. The development of a new Ireland House in Tokyo, a major capital investment project for this Department, is further evidence of Ireland’s commitment to this important market.

Finally, turning to sport, it would be remiss of me not to mention both countries’ successes on the rugby pitch. We are looking forward to the Rugby World Cup in Japan next, year, particularly the Ireland versus Japan match in September. And of course we wish Japan well in preparations for the Tokyo Olympics in 2020.

To conclude, I’d like to acknowledge that a great many of you, perhaps all of you here today, have contributed personally to the relationship between Ireland and Japan that we are celebrating this afternoon. And I’d like to thank you for that.

I would also like to pay tribute to the afternoon’s performers. The Taiko drummers gave us a fantastic performance and I look forward to listening later on to a duet of Japanese harp and Irish tin whistle and accordion.

And finally, I would like to again thank Minister Na-ka-neh and his officials for joining us here in Ireland on this special occasion.

Céad mile fáilte róibh go léir – a hundred thousand welcomes.

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