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Conference of Honorary Consuls of Ireland - Speech by MoS Ciarán Cannon T.D.

A cháirde, Friends,

I would like to take this opportunity to extend a most special welcome, or ‘céad míle fáilte’ to you all.

I am delighted to be with you here this evening, and to welcome you all to Dublin for the inaugural conference of the Honorary Consul network. The programme for the next two days is one we hope you will find interesting, engaging and useful. We look forward to hearing your ideas and suggestions on the conference and more generally, on how we can further improve our work together. As Minister with responsibility for the Diaspora and International Development, I recognise the value of supporting and engaging our citizens abroad, and I have personally seen the difference this support can make.

As Honorary Consuls, you play a critical role in our global support and engagement, and I want to thank you for the invaluable contribution you make to the work of the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade and, more broadly, to Ireland. Your work in representing Ireland, not only in the delivery of consular services to Irish citizens, but also in promoting Irish economic and cultural interests abroad, is greatly appreciated. Ireland’s Honorary Consul Network includes 88 Honorary Consuls in 55 countries, and I am delighted that so many of you made the journey to Dublin to be with us here today. I can think of no better place to open the conference than the EPIC museum, which shows so wonderfully how “every person is connected” and “where the story of Ireland abroad is so strikingly told.”

The conference takes place during the centenary of our diplomatic service and our landmark initiative - ‘Global Ireland 2025’ - Ireland’s ambitious programme for strengthening our global presence. As part of this initiative, we will implement a range of measures to strengthen and expand Ireland’s influence in the world, through strengthened diplomacy; promoting Irish culture and heritage; and upholding Ireland’s values of peace, equality and Justice. The support you all, as Honorary Consuls, lend to this initiate is one we value deeply.

Ireland faces many challenges, not least that of Brexit. Investing in our global presence will help to ensure that we can meet these challenges, and to protect our stability, our prosperity and our broader interests into the future. There are of course also opportunities – to enhance our relationships with longstanding partners, and to forge new relationships and engage with emerging markets. The Global Ireland initiative is designed to support a renewing of our international presence, ensuring that we are properly equipped for the new challenges we will face.

The Irish diaspora - estimated to be 70 million strong - is one of Ireland’s greatest assets. Generations of men and women who left this country - over many years and for many different reasons - have retained their links to Ireland from far-flung parts of the world. This has created a vibrant and diverse diaspora connecting communities throughout the world with Ireland. Your engagement with this community helps to foster and retain those links, whether it is through consular support, Irish community events, chambers of commerce, or the annual St. Patrick’s Day celebrations and the global greening. The Honorary Consul network is at the heart of this global Irish community.

The government has committed to launching a new diaspora policy in 2020 and we are particularly interested in hearing your views on how we can better support and work with Irish communities abroad. The aim of this new policy will be to renew our relationship with the Irish diaspora, further strengthening the links between Ireland and Irish communities worldwide. Diaspora engagement is a strategic priority of the Government, and we are committed to strengthening our engagement, through even greater collaboration with Irish community groups worldwide, with the aim of building long-term, sustainable relationships connecting them with Ireland, and also, of course, with each other.

Through providing consular assistance and services, the Honorary Consul network gives invaluable support to Irish citizens around the globe. Many of our citizens who find themselves in distress have been assisted and supported by you, our Honorary Consuls, in what are often extremely stressful and complicated circumstances. In 2018, this Department, through our network of Embassies and Honorary Consuls, provided assistance in over 2,300 cases which includes many arrests, hospitalisations, and unfortunately deaths. This service would not exist without your input. You are a credit to the Department and to Ireland, in the way that you continue to provide Irish citizens with the necessary supports, and the empathy and compassion with which you do so.

We are grateful too, for the work you undertake in promoting Irish interests. Be it through trade, culture, education, investment, and tourism. The work you carry out in these areas, and the support you offer to our embassies and state agencies, is a key component in Ireland’s success in attracting investment and supporting the Irish economy. This economic promotion has increased the awareness and understanding of Ireland’s economic recovery, and the restoration of confidence in our economy. Maintaining economic resilience is the Government’s central priority.

I would like to take this opportunity to thank colleagues in the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade for organising this conference, and to express our appreciation to Patrick and the team at EPIC for this wonderful reception. Most importantly, I would like to thank you all, for the work you undertake on behalf of the Irish state, for the assistance you provide to Irish citizens, and for your continued support for all things Irish.

I hope you enjoy the conference, and that together, we can continue to meet the consular needs of Ireland’s citizens, and to expand Ireland’s global influence.

Go raibh maith agaibh.

Thank you.

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