Xi Jinping's Irish visit to take in castles and calves
China's 150-strong delegation arrive for crucial economic visit
WHILE discussing human rights may prove to be a sensitive subject with Vice President Xi Jinping of the People's Republic of China, it is the sight of new born calves and modern milking parlours which could dominate affairs on his official visit to Ireland.
Mr Xi, who is expected to become the next Chinese leader, will discuss trade and investment opportunities with the Taoiseach during his stay -- but he'll need a strong pair of wellies and a warm coat for today's schedule.
Having to rise early this morning, he will have to leave his luxurious accommodation at Dromoland Castle, as he is expected at James Lynch's farm at Cappa, Sixmilebridge, Co Clare at 8.20am.
Mr Lynch -- whose dairy farm is 87 hectares in size with 120 Friesian cattle and 40 beef cattle -- said Mr Xi could yet be needed for work today.
The dairy farmer is married to Maura and has three children; James, five, Olive, three, and Ronan, eight months. His mother, Nan, also lives with them and he said it is all systems go on the farm despite the visit.
"Hopefully, we will have a fresh-born calf overnight which we should have to show him. It is our busy time of year -- a lot of cows are calving. We hope to get a few photos with Mr Xi with the calf. Sure, you'd never know, maybe she might be calving when he's here -- he might have to help us to bring that baby calf into the world," he said.
Ireland is the largest exporter of infant formula in the world, producing over 15 per cent of the total global supply annually. The total value of infant formula exported to China in 2010 was €85m.
"We will show him the winter housing facility for the cows and then on to the milking parlour.
"I had a new Dairymaster milking machine put in here in the last few years. The Chinese are very much into technology and they want to have a background into the dairy industry and how it is done here in Ireland. We will also be looking at the milk cooling systems," Mr Lynch said.
After the farm, it is straight on to the Cliffs of Moher for the Chinese delegation, where all will need to hold on to their hats from the strong winds.
Mr Xi will view the cliffs from the main viewing area and will be presented with a Robert F Bergmann print of the cliffs, framed in Liscannor slate. The 150-strong Chinese delegation will then depart for Dublin.
After welcoming Mr Xi at Shannon Airport yesterday, Tanaiste Eamon Gilmore hosted a dinner for the delegation at Bunratty Castle's banquet hall last night. The historic castle is famous for its banquets, set in the great hall, with bench seating, candle-light and the long oak tables of the medieval era.
A four-course meal, including a range of Irish meats along with a selection of red and white wines, accompanied by singing from the Bunratty Castle entertainers, has left all previous guests more than grateful to their hosts. Due to the large visiting delegation, an adapted programme was also expected to be on offer last night.
The Chinese business leaders and government officials arrived into Shannon Airport amid tight security yesterday.
The airport's sister company, Aer Rianta International, last year signed a deal with Yunnan Airport Group in China to operate 11 retail units at the new Kumning Airport, which is expected to be China's fourth-largest airport when fully operational.
After arriving at Shannon Airport, Mr Xi said he was delighted to accept the invitation of the Taoiseach.
"The main purpose of my visit is to deepen the traditional friendship between our two peoples and take our bilateral relations and practical co-operation forward," he said.
Before greeting the PRC's Vice President, Mr Gilmore said human rights issues would form part of their discussions.
"Particularly this year, as Ireland is seeking membership of the United Nations Human Rights Council so human rights will form part of the discussion that we will have this evening and tomorrow with the Vice President," Mr Gilmore said.
"The fact that this is the only European Union state that the Vice President is visiting on this trip is hugely significant. There is potential for this country to be a bridge for joint venture investment activity by Chinese and American companies," he added.