Tuesday 17 September 2019

Ireland and America can build on shared strengths to ensure a new era of success

President Obama and the new US ambassador share an interest in Ireland
President Obama and the new US ambassador share an interest in Ireland

Kevin F O'Malley

Ninety years ago this week, the United States became the very first country to open diplomatic relations with Ireland when Timothy Smiddy presented his credentials in Washington and ushered in a new era in US-Irish relations.

How fortunate I feel to take up my new role as US Ambassador to Ireland at this auspicious moment - and at a time when the relationship between our peoples and our governments holds such great promise. I am greatly honoured President Barack Obama asked me to represent the United States to a country I hold so dear.

This week reinforced for me the extraordinary nature of the US-Irish connection. I was sworn in by vice-president Joe Biden, whose mother Kitty Finnegan instilled in him a great sense of Irish heritage, as my parents and grandparents did for me. Our Irish-American inheritance was a keen sense of belonging to a people who came out of struggle, but kept their integrity, values, and the joy, decency and humour the Irish are famous for - no matter the circumstances.

Irish-Americans can pride themselves on the success of so many, in so many areas of American life. But it is this enduring connection, or desire for connection, that is so powerful. And it shows in the incredible access at the highest levels that Ireland has in Washington, New York, Chicago, San Francisco, or in my hometown of St Louis.

When President Obama asked me to take the role for him, he knew I shared his deep interest in Ireland as a land of our common ancestry. But my assignment here, while rooted in the relationship we have built over time, is to continue to build our ties toward the future. In that sense, I believe I am arriving at an opportune moment as the engines of both the US and Irish economies are revving up again.

Ireland has faced economic challenges over the last five years and, after confronting adversity, prevailed. US investors believed in Ireland's long-term prospects even at the darkest moments of the economic collapse, and that was clear in the marked increase in US investment here throughout the last five years.

I am determined to do what I can to strengthen the trade and investment ties between our two countries to help ensure our shared prosperity. That means harnessing our common enthusiasm in support of an ambitious Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership agreement. It means building on our shared strengths in innovation and entrepreneurship. And it means working together with our international partners to find opportunity in common challenges - from data flows to tax policy, from climate change to protecting our marine environment.

Demographically, Ireland is one of the youngest countries in Europe, and that is a tremendous source of dynamic potential. I look forward to finding new ways of bringing the next generation of Irish and American youth together, including building on networks created through US-Irish youth exchange programmes to harness the remarkable energy of shared transatlantic experience. Young people are the key to keeping our institutions and economies innovative and forward-looking. Ireland has created a new generation of companies, start-ups, and small and medium-sized entities that are innovative, globally competitive, and well-connected in the US market. That is a very healthy sign for the future of our relationship, and one that we must nurture.

Young people will also play an essential role in consolidating the progress made on peace and reconciliation over the last 20 years in the North . Together, I believe we can help the North build strong institutions, a vibrant economy, and an enduring peace. The United States supports the steps being taken by the Irish and UK governments to launch new talks in the North and will continue to urge the parties to find a way forward on the issues that divide them.

Whether addressing challenges close to home inthe North, or farther afield from Eastern Europe to the Middle East, and beyond, I take up my post with the knowledge that our shared bonds of ancestry, culture, and history give us a unique foundation for partnership.

My grandparents left Co Mayo to find a new life in the United States, but they never forgot where they came from.

The Ireland of today is poised to unlock the potential of human science, technology, arts and culture. Ireland has established a reputation for excellence in pharmaceuticals, information technology, medical devices, and sustainable agriculture - just as Irish arts and culture continue to fascinate and attract visitors. Cultural exchange between Irish and American musicians, writers and artists is stronger than ever, and I'm eager to encourage many of the creative collaborations taking place between our artistic communities.

I am honoured to take up this new role and I look forward to travelling and revisiting every part of this remarkable island. If any of you have suggestions on where you think I should visit to find your special section of Ireland, let me know through the US Embassy Twitter account @USAmbIreland.

Kevin F O'Malley is the US Ambassador to Ireland.

Irish Independent

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