Sunday 18 March 2018

Taoiseach plans to double Ireland's embassy presence

Brexit strategy to see new missions open and staff increased

Foreign Affairs Minister Simon Coveney
Foreign Affairs Minister Simon Coveney
Philip Ryan

Philip Ryan

Taoiseach Leo Varadkar plans to dramatically double Ireland's overseas diplomatic presence as part of his bid to limit the economic damage posed by Britain's decision to leave the EU.

Mr Varadkar's Brexit idea would see new embassies opened in countries where Ireland has never had a presence and existing missions given new resources to fight for overseas investment.

It is understood he hopes to open new embassies in New Zealand and Mumbai, India.

The current cost of running Ireland's embassies is €95m, according to the most recently released figures.

Mr Varadkar wrote to Foreign Affairs Minister Simon Coveney last week, asking him to "double our global footprint by 2025".

In the letter, which has been seen by the Sunday Independent, the Taoiseach said: "We need to ensure that we have the strongest possible presence abroad in order to maintain, grow and diversify our share of international trade, employment and investment.

"It is clear that there is a new self-confidence in Ireland, as an island at the centre of the world. That national self-confidence requires that we always be ambitious, visible and active in promoting the interests of our nation on the international stage," he added.

Mr Varadkar said Ireland was a small, open economy which put it more at risk than other countries to changes in the regional and global environment.

He asked Mr Coveney to "develop a clear" plan for doubling Ireland's diplomatic presence by 2025. This includes identifying costs and resources needed for the significant increase in the country's overseas missions.

Mr Coveney has been asked to develop a "clear timeline" from 2018 to 2025, including six monthly milestones.

The Taoiseach will also be writing to Tanaiste and Jobs Minister Frances Fitzgerald, Agriculture Minister Michael Creed and Transport Minister Shane Ross, asking them to contribute to his plan to increase Ireland's global footprint.

"This forms part of the response to Brexit but is also a key element of the Taoiseach's vision for Ireland as a country at the centre of the world and a country which maximises its impact globally," a senior government source said.

The most expensive Irish embassy is in London which costs the State more than €6m a year, according to figures for 2015. The embassy in Paris costs €3m, Washington €2.2m, and Tokyo €1.8m.

The annual cost of rent for the Brussels mission came to €1m.

Last year, it emerged the Department of Foreign Affairs was paying €46,000-a-month for a residence of the Irish Ambassador to Japan.

Sunday Independent

Today's news headlines, directly to your inbox every morning.

Also in this section