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Wednesday 20 June 2018

St Patrick's Day visits raise €2.7m in investment but cost taxpayer €140,000

Philip Ryan and Wayne O'Connor

St Patrick's Day state visits by the Taoiseach and his globe-trotting ministers have led to at least €2.7m in foreign direct investment so far this year, according to the Government's own estimates.

However, it can also be revealed that the Government's worldwide trade mission to promote Ireland cost the taxpayer more than €140,000.

Foreign Affairs Minister Charlie Flanagan will today publish a review of the Government's 29 state visits to 70 countries during this year's St Patrick's Day celebrations.

Ireland's Economic Diplomacy in Action report, which has been seen by the Irish Independent, found that a total of 398 events were organised by Irish embassies around the world this year.

The report also found that Irish trade and tourism were promoted at 148 business events attended by 18,000 people, while the Taoiseach, Tánaiste and ministers attended 149 high-level political meetings.

Some seven million people attended the St Patrick's Day parades worldwide and 180 iconic landmarks were 'greened', which was estimated to be worth around €10m in international advertising.

Commenting on the report, Mr Flanagan said: "The value of the St Patrick's Day period to create new business links, open up export opportunities and create jobs in Ireland cannot be overstated.

"While valuable contracts were signed during the period, perhaps even more important are the relationships formed, which result in significant contracts and investment over the coming years." A Foreign Affairs spokesperson said the investment generated was at least €2.7m but it was not possible to quantify the exact amount due to commercial sensitivity. But she said it was "incontrovertible" that a minister's presence at a networking event helped to secure the attendance of senior executives and key decision makers.

The total cost of the St Patrick's Day visits was €142,841. However, this figure is likely to rise as the Department of Health and the Department of Children have yet to disclose how much they spent on travel for St Patrick's Day.

Taoiseach Enda Kenny's trip to the US was the most expensive at €26,112.

The second-highest spend was by the Department of Agriculture, which spent €22,435 sending staff abroad.

More than €19,000 of this was accounted for by Minister of State Tom Hayes and his private secretary, who flew to Australia for 12 days, where they stayed in Perth, Melbourne, Canberra, Sydney and Brisbane.

Tánaiste Joan Burton's department spent in excess of €17,000 for her and Minister of State Kevin Humphreys to visit the US and Croatia respectively.

More than €7,700 was spent on car hire for the Tánaiste's eight-day visit to Washington, Boston, Pittsburgh and Philadelphia.

Communications Minister Alex White travelled to New Zealand with his private secretary and an adviser at a total cost of €20,934.

A spokesperson for the Taoiseach said St Patrick's Day trade missions offered a unique opportunity to promote Ireland's economic and political interests overseas.

Irish Independent

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