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St Patrick's Day jet-setting by Ministers massively scaled back

Minister cancels trip to Canada to deal with coronavirus

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Leo Varadkar and partner Matt Barrett. Photo: PA

Leo Varadkar and partner Matt Barrett. Photo: PA

Leo Varadkar and partner Matt Barrett. Photo: PA

THE annual St Patrick's Day jet-setting by ministers has been massively scaled back due to the care-taker nature of the government.

Just ten government figures including Taoiseach Leo Varadkar will travel to the United States and other locations, down from 38 trips last year.

And Education Minister Joe McHugh has cancelled a planned trip to Canada to deal with coronavirus which has seen a secondary school closed for two weeks due to a confirmed case.

Health Minister Simon Harris will also stay in Ireland.

The Cabinet today approved the list of "limited" St Patrick’s Day visits for ministers "to key European and North American cities".

Coronavirus-hit countries China and Italy - both destinations last year - are not on the list.

The numbers travelling are the same as in 2016 when then-Taoiseach Enda Kenny was acting in a care-taker capacity during government formation talks.

A spokesperson for Tánaiste Simon Coveney said this year's reduced programme is "balancing the domestic situation with the unique opportunity of St Patrick's Day".

Asked if the coronavirus issue played a role in decisions on the programme he said the "main consideration is the domestic situation as was the case in 2016."

Mr Varadkar will travel to Washington TD for the annual meeting with US President Donald Trump in the White House.

Mr Coveney is going to New York while others heading Stateside include Business Minister Heather Humphreys (Sacramento and the West Coast); Agriculture Minister Michael Creed (Chicago and the Mid-West); Rural Development Minister Michael Ring (Boston); Junior Defence Minister Paul Kehoe (Savannah and the Southern States); and Attorney General Seamus Wolfe (New York and the Tri-State area).

Finance Minister Paschal Donohoe will go to Paris and Brussels, Justice Minister Charlie Flanagan is Berlin-bound and Culture Minister Josepha Madigan is going to London.

Mr Coveney told the Cabinet that the programme is modest and balanced and should proceed given the unique opportunity to promote Ireland to political, business and cultural audiences.

The destinations were chosen under two criteria - those "of indisputable and immediate value to our interests" and places with a significant diaspora community.

Mr Coveney said delegations should be kept to a minimum and first-class flights should not be used.

Hotel suites and hired limousines are also not to be used.

The key messages to be spread by ministers are that Ireland remains a dedicated member of the EU and is working towards a close trading relationship with the UK post-Brexit.

The breakthrough in Northern Ireland with the re-establishment of the power-sharing institutions is also to be highlighted.

Ministers are to promote Ireland’s economy and global visibility.

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