Only nine Cabinet envoys to travel for big day
David Mac Phib and Ailbhe Ni Fhearáin from Gaelscoil Na Lochanna, Blessington, Co Wicklow, taking part in a Gaelscoileanna Teo campaign called 'Protect the PTR (pupil teacher ratio)' outside Leinster House yesterday. Tom Burke
TAOISEACH Enda Kenny will arrive in the US today for his St Patrick's Day visit with the aim of "restoring confidence" in the country.
He will be leading a much reduced team of government representatives -- and just eight ministers will be travelling abroad compared to 22 last year.
And in another change, Education Minister Ruairi Quinn decided to go on his St Patrick's Day visit to Rome and Milan without any civil servant from his department.
Mr Kenny, who will be meeting US President Barack Obama in the White House tomorrow, told the Dail that the Government's aim was to rebuild Ireland's international reputation.
"Starting with the St Patrick's Day visits this week, the Government will lead a sustained campaign to restore confidence in the country -- as a place to invest, locate a business or visit as a tourist," he said.
Mr Kenny will today meet members of the Global Irish Network, which was set up last year to tap into the skills of Irish emigrants who have succeeded in business.
He will also meet Irish- American governors such as Martin O'Malley (Maryland) and Bob McDonnell (Virginia), as well as Northern Ireland First Minister Peter Robinson and Deputy First Minister Martin McGuinness, who are also in the US for St Patrick's Day.
The St Patrick's Day visits have been much criticised in the past for their cost but they are seen as a valuable opportunity to boost the country's profile.
According to a retail survey, an estimated 122 million Americans are planning to celebrate St Patrick's Day this year -- more than a third of the 307 million population.
Arts Minister Jimmy Deenihan said yesterday it was very important to travel abroad to give the Irish communities living there recognition for their efforts.
"Many of these people have been preparing for the parade for months beforehand, and they expect that somebody from the country in a position of authority would visit," he said.
Mr Deenihan spent €2,000 of his own funds to go to St Patrick's Day events in New York and Chicago last year. But he made his first official St Patrick's Day visit last Sunday, when he led the parade in London.
The other ministers travelling abroad for the national feast day are Tanaiste Eamon Gilmore (New York), Transport Minister Leo Varadkar (India), Agriculture Minister Simon Coveney (Paris), Children's Minister Frances Fitzgerald (Australia and New Zealand), Social Protection Minister Joan Burton (London) and Enterprise Minister Richard Bruton (Germany).