China leader tells TDs of fondness for Ireland
Chinese President Xi Jinping has spoken about his fond memories of his chat with former President Mary McAleese about Gaelic football.
The leader of the world's second-largest economy spent 50 minutes meeting with a delegation of TDs and senators in Beijing.
He spoke fondly of his visit to Ireland last year, including the farm visit in Co Clare, the Cliffs of Moher, the 'Riverdance' show and his chat with Mrs McAleese.
Mr Xi said the visit of Ceann Comhairle Sean Barrett and the delegation of TDs and senators was an expression of friendship and a reinforcement of the relationship between China and Ireland.
Face-to-face meetings are hugely important in building up relationships with the Chinese Government, and the fact that the delegation got an extra 30 minutes is encouraging.
The delegation is visiting China at the invitation of Zhang Dejiang, chairman of China's parliament, the National People's Congress.
Ceann Comhairle Sean Barrett referred to how Ireland was so much smaller than China, which has a population of more than one billion. But Mr Xi said Ireland had far greater influence than a population of five million might suggest.
He noted that US President Barack Obama, Vice President Joe Biden and former US President Bill Clinton all have Irish ancestry, and the 80 million people of Irish origin living abroad were important. Mr Xi said he believed that trade between Ireland and China had a very bright future.