OVER 12 government minister and the Taoiseach are leaving Ireland to celebrate St Patrick’s Day in other parts of the world.
Enda Kenny will jet off to the US today on a St Patrick's mission to boost Ireland's image to the world and attract foreign investment
The Taoiseach will stop off in Chicago, Indiana, New York and Washington during his five-day trip, which will end with a bash at the White House, where he will be a special guest of President Barack Obama.
Tanaiste Eamon Gilmore and over a dozen other ministers are setting off on their own international trips to coincide with Ireland's national holiday, which will be celebrated around the world by an estimated 70 million members of the Irish diaspora.
They will travel to 15 of Ireland's key trading partner countries and take part in programmes in seven different US locations.
But all eyes will be on Mr Kenny as he once again comes face-to-face with Mr Obama, who can trace his ancestral roots back to Co Offaly.
The celebration in Washington will take place on Tuesday, which gives Mr Kenny time to squeeze in visits to the other major US cities on his agenda.
In Chicago, he will meet mayor Rahm Emmanuel and other political and business leaders. He will also take part in the city's St Patrick's Day Parade and address the Irish Fellowship Club of Chicago St Patrick's Day dinner.
Mr Kenny will then travel to Indiana for a visit to the University of Notre Dame, home of the Fighting Irish college football team.
The team is due to travel to Dublin in September for a match at the Aviva Stadium, which is expected to attract thousands of US football fans to Ireland.
The Taoiseach will make his way to New York City on Monday, which has been dubbed Ireland Day, where he will visit the New York Stock Exchange.
His trip will culminate with a visit to Washington where, on top of meeting Mr Obama, he will attend a lunch on Capitol Hill hosted by the speaker of the House of Representatives John Boehner.
Meanwhile, Mr Kenny has given his deputy and ministers strict instructions to include as many business, trade, tourism and investment promotion opportunities as possible in their programmes.
Mr Gilmore will visit Canada for trade promotion, cultural and community events there.
Social Protection Minister Joan Burton will spend time in New York, while Children Minister Frances Fitzgerald will travel to nearby Boston.
Arts Minister Jimmy Deenihan will go to Atlanta and Jobs Minister Richard Bruton to the west coast.
Public Expenditure Minister Brendan Howlin and Minister of State Ciaran Cannon will travel to Singapore and China respectively, while Justice Minister Alan Shatter will visit Australia.
Meanwhile, Transport Minister Leo Varadkar and Minister of State Michael Ring will spend the holiday in Birmingham and London, and Minister of State Danny McGinley will visit the Scottish cities of Glasgow and Edinburgh.
Minister of State John Perry will spend time in Finland and Sweden, Minister of State Paul Kehoe in Germany, Agriculture Minister Simon Coveney in Benelux, Finance Minister Michael Noonan in France and Communications Minister Pat Rabbitte in Italy.