Today, like millions across America, I will celebrate Thanksgiving with family and friends, with generous helpings of food and football. However, this year comes with a pleasant twist as I’ll be celebrating in Ireland.
The United States may have just emerged from a noisy campaign season, but Thanksgiving reminds us that no matter our differences, we are part of something bigger than ourselves. The story of Thanksgiving offers an opportunity to express our gratitude for the gifts we have and our appreciation for all we hold dear.
This Thanksgiving, I’m grateful to serve my country as ambassador to Ireland. On my arrival, I vowed I wouldn’t be a Dublin-based ambassador and would get around as much as possible. I’ve visited all 26 counties, and am grateful for the warm welcome I’ve received.
I’m optimistic about the year ahead. President Biden has repeatedly stressed his commitment to protecting the gains of peace in Northern Ireland. We were disappointed in the failure to form an Executive in Northern Ireland in October, and I urge all sides to return to the table.
There have been challenges over the implementation of the protocol, but we’re pleased the UK and EU have returned to negotiations and urge both sides to work constructively towards a solution. The US is ready to work with all the communities of Northern Ireland to ensure its economic potential is realised. As we approach the 25th anniversary of the Good Friday Agreement, I’m thankful for the years of peace and prosperity.
As children, we learned the first Thanksgiving was in 1621, when Mayflower pilgrims in Massachusetts shared a meal with the Wampanoag Native Americans. We now know this story to be apocryphal – the history of American colonies is more complex, and the relationship between the Pilgrims and the Wampanoags was fraught. Stories of established tribes sharing their food with new arrivals before a long New England winter might have been too good to be true. However, I’m reminded of the spirit of that story when I think of the generosity of the Irish Government and the Irish people for your support for displaced Ukrainians.
When I was appointed to my position in Ireland, I did not imagine I would serve in Europe at a time of war. What is happening in Ukraine is a tragedy. President Biden’s support for Ukraine will remain rock solid.
The US-EU partnership has never been closer – as demonstrated by our rapid response to Russia’s aggression – and it’s more important than ever that it remains strong. Ireland has been a stalwart ally of Ukraine on the UN security council. As two nations that have fought for our freedom, we recognise the courage and determination of the Ukrainian people. Today, I will be thinking of and praying for the people of Ukraine.
The relationship that exists between the US and Ireland is extraordinary. It is further strengthened by vast trade and investment flows across the Atlantic. More than 900 US-owned firms operate in Ireland, with an investment value of nearly $557bn (€538bn). The US is Ireland’s top export destination – more than 30pc of all Irish goods exports goes to the US, including pharmaceutical products, organic chemicals, optical and medical instruments, food and beverages.
This investment goes both ways – Ireland is the ninth-largest investor in the US, with foreign direct investment valued at over $269bn. President Biden and I are committed to ensuring this prosperity provides jobs and opportunity for all and further growing our economic partnership. In June, I led a delegation of 40 companies to the annual SelectUSA Summit in Washington DC, a one-stop shop for international investors who want to invest across all 50 states and territories. Next year, I hope to see even more Irish companies attending the summit.
Recent weeks have seen announcements of job cuts in Ireland. Those who have lost their jobs are in my thoughts. At the same time, I understand a number of tech companies are growing their footprint in Ireland. While any loss of jobs is a concern, Ireland remains a top-choice for US investment, with its English-speaking, well-educated and talented workforce.
Since arriving in Ireland, I have been thankful for the opportunity to meet young Irish people and ensure the bond between our nations remains strong as we grow.
President Biden has made advancing diversity, equity, inclusion and accessibility central to his administration, and we have made it a priority to open our doors to every part of Irish society. I enjoy the visits of secondary school students. Our discussions allow me to find out what they are thinking – their curiosity about the US used to surprise me, but now I expect to hear bold questions.
I encourage each group to follow in the footsteps of generations of Irish people and take advantage of the BridgeUSA programmes, known as J-1. I plan to visit every university in Ireland to encourage students to consider visiting the US on an exchange. Programmes like J-1 are about making lasting connections and building bridges of friendship. Participants immerse themselves in American culture and society and share their values and views. These programmes serve as a launch pad for career advancement and connect the next generation of Irish and American leaders.
I’m thankful for the wonderful bilateral relationship the US shares with Ireland. We are friends and partners who look out for one another. As President Biden said last March: “We share a common goal – a future of a greater peace, greater hope, greater security and a greater sense of who we are as countries.”
Fewer and fewer Americans have Irish family heritage, but Americans’ affinity for Ireland and the Irish people has not wavered one bit. I will continue my work in building on this relationship towards a future in which generations to come will know the promise of a prosperous Irish-American relationship.
Claire D Cronin is the United States ambassador to Ireland