Enda and 27 ministers to take flight in Patrick's Day exodus
TAOISEACH Enda Kenny and 27 ministers will visit two dozen countries as part of the biggest St Patrick's Day ministerial exodus in years.
Education Minister Ruairi Quinn is the only cabinet member not travelling abroad, with government members visiting such far-flung destinations as New Zealand, China and South Korea.
Mr Kenny, Attorney General Maire Whelan and eight senior and junior ministers are scheduled to visit cities in north America as part of next month's celebrations. The Government has vowed to use the St Patrick's Day trips to further boost Ireland's reputation in the eyes of investors.
Ministers are due to take part in some 180 business and political events scheduled to be held in 36 different cities.
The itinerary includes six trips to destinations in the Middle East, Far East Asia and Australasia – regions which are seen as being crucial to building new trade links.
Agriculture Minister Simon Coveney will clock up the most air miles when he visits New Zealand and Australia.
There are also long-haul trips in store for Children's Minister Frances Fitzgerald, who is visiting Japan and South Korea, and Public Expenditure Minister Brendan Howlin, who will travel to China.
Finance Minister Michael Noonan is scheduled to visit Canada, while Environment Minister Phil Hogan will spend St Patrick's Day in the United Arab Emirates.
Transport Minister Leo Varadkar, Health Minister James Reilly and Arts Minister Jimmy Deenihan will visit five US cities between them, including Cleveland, San Francisco and Atlanta.
Just two ministers are due to visit cities in Britain during the annual festivities. Housing Minister Jan O'Sullivan will spend March 17 in Edinburgh, while Communications Minister Pat Rabbitte will visit London and Birmingham.
Mr Quinn will remain in Ireland, along with junior Finance Minister Brian Hayes, who is turning his focus to his European Election campaign.
The details of the trips were revealed as Enterprise Ireland confirmed it will stage 118 trade events in 2014.
Tanaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs Eamon Gilmore, who will spend St Patrick's Day in Paris, said ministers would engage in "high-level political meetings" which would "open doors for Ireland and Irish companies".
"The Ireland that we're promoting is an Ireland which is a good place to invest, from which there is very good exports – a country that produces very high quality products, both goods and services," he said.
Ireland's largest business network, Chambers Ireland, last night called on the Government to maximise the trips, while at the same time being responsible towards costs.
"At a time when it is so important for Ireland to show its attractiveness as a place to visit and to do business, we must use every possible opportunity to highlight this across the globe. No other country in the world gets this unique promotional opportunity," according to CEO Ian Talbot.
Meanwhile, Mr Gilmore yesterday backed Social Protection Minister Joan Burton's decision to boycott the New York parade due to its ban on LGBT banners. The Taoiseach has said he will march in the Fifth Avenue Procession despite the ban.