Saturday 1 October 2016

Kenny will travel to US for St Patrick's Day even if no government formed by then

Published 02/03/2016 | 02:30

Taoiseach Enda Kenny presents a bowl of shamrocks to US President Barack Obama on St Patrick’s Day last year. Photo: Reuters
Taoiseach Enda Kenny presents a bowl of shamrocks to US President Barack Obama on St Patrick’s Day last year. Photo: Reuters

Taoiseach Enda Kenny will travel to Washington DC for St Patrick's Day, even if a new government isn't formed by then, it has been confirmed.

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However, a government spokesman said that while Mr Kenny would travel to the US capital, the number of ministers going abroad as part of the annual promotion of Irish business and culture would be "curtailed".

He said ministers who lost their seats would not travel but could not say how many other Cabinet members would go abroad.

The spokesman confirmed that Mr Kenny's visit would include the customary meeting with US President Barack Obama at the White House, despite the uncertainty over the formation of a government

Tánaiste Joan Burton is expected to travel, but the destination has yet to be confirmed.

Questions have been raised in previous years about the costs of the trips to such far-flung destinations as Australia and China, but ministers argue that the benefits of promoting Ireland abroad means the expenditure is justified.

Sinn Féin leader Gerry Adams said he believed Mr Kenny should still travel but that there was a "question mark" over whether other ministers should go abroad.

Mr Adams said there was "an option for them not to go around the world".

"In the past we've been represented very well by ambassadors and consulates... Yes certainly the Taoiseach [should go] but a question mark over the rest of them," he said.

Diaspora

Mr Adams is travelling to the United States himself. "We always do that and the diaspora expects that," he said, but added that it would not be at the taxpayer's expense.

Fianna Fáil's Eamon Ó Cuív said he did not have a problem with ministers travelling.

"The Irish Constitution provides that there's always a government and all governments have to act to the benefit of the country," he said.

"Personally I have no difficulty with people going and representing our country and if we fail to elect a government, they are the government."

He said that despite "popular myths" about the trips, they were a "unique opportunity - that no other country of our size gets - to present Ireland on the world stage".

Mr Ó Cuív added that it was important to for the country to be represented abroad in the year of the 1916 centenary and that sending ministers "opens doors".

Irish Independent

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