During a distinguished diplomatic career spanning more than two decades Therese Healy has held prestigious positions in Japan, Moscow and Shanghai. She will bring all that experience to her new role as she works to enhance Ireland’s relationship with Ukraine
IT’S a long way from rural North Cork to the Ukrainian capital Kyiv (Kiev) – particularly you go via Tokyo, Moscow and Shanghai.
That’s the journey that Bweeng native Therese Healy, Ireland’s first resident Irish ambassador to Ukraine, has taken during what has been a distinguished career spanning more than 20-years with the Irish diplomatic service.
Educated at Bweeng NS and St Mary’s in Mallow, Ms Healy graduated from UCC with a First-Class BA and a master’s in philosophy before joining the Department of Foreign Affairs in 1999.
Posted to Tokyo in 2002, Ms Healy went on to serve as Press, Cultural and Information Officer at the Irish embassy in Beijing, China from 2006 -2010 and Deputy Head of Mission at the Irish embassy in Moscow from 2010 – 2014.
In 2015 she returned to Beijing as Ireland’s first female Consulate General to China, spending the latter period of her time there as Charge affairs prior to taking up her new post in the Ukraine in August.
Speaking to Patricia Messinger on her C103 Cork Today show from Kyiv, Ms Healy said the opening of the embassy in Ukraine was part of the Irish Government’s strategy to double the country’s footprint on the world stage.
“Being appointed ambassador is a great honour and privilege for me. It is very rare to be able to open a new embassy, put together a new team from the ground up and build new networks. There is a huge task ahead of us to identify areas where we can best add value to our relationship with Ukraine and build up networks with Government ministries said the Being native.
Ms Healy said one of her key roles will also be to support the interest of the 200-300 Irish citizens living and working in the Ukraine, Irish people travelling to the country and the Irish companies seeking to do business there.
“We also have a role in clearly outlining Irish objectives, including relating to the UN security council, which Ireland will be sitting on for the next two years. Issues such as the situations in the Crimea and Eastern Ukraine may arise within this context, particularly as there are Irish citizens working in challenging environments with organisations such as the UN and the OSCE in these locations,” she said.
“We have not really been in a position to do many of these things before as we did not have a resident embassy here,” she added.
While Ms Healy said there were some obvious cultural differences between Ireland and the Ukraine, there were also many similarities such as the way the Ukrainian people value issues such as family and education.
“There is also the fact that we both have ancient cultures but at the same time like to modernise and enjoy the experience of travelling and enjoying other cultures,” she said.
“But there are differences, so it is important that we come with an open and fresh perspective and learn about these differences so we can work together as nations.”
Reflecting on her diplomatic career to date, Ms Healy said that one of the highlights was her time in Tokyo during the 2022 World Cup, when thousands of Irish soccer fans flocked to the country to support the soccer team.
“Japan was wonderful posting. The people are so honourable and engaging. At the time Japan did not see many Irish tourists, so as someone who had lived there for a couple of years it was wonderful to see the sea of green in the streets and on the subway. The Japanese were initially startled by this but quickly grew to love the Irish fans,” she said.
Ambassador Healy said another significant period during her career was the time she spent in Shanghai as the first female Irish Consulate General to China.
“China was the first country to know that Coved was a reality. Fortunately we had already set up an outreach programme to help stay in touch with Irish people in the country, which was really helpful in connecting with them and them with us because for a lot of that time information on the virus and how people could protect themselves from it,” she said.
“I also think about the trade Irish and Cork companies were doing with Shanghai. Having a consulate there on the ground helped people understand cultural differences and have a real connection with the Chinese interlocutors.”
For now, Ambassador Healy is looking forward to her four-year term as in Ukraine.
“The first year or two will be taken up setting up the embassy, building networks, assessing the environment and seeing where we need to go as a department in terms of engaging different organisations,” Ambassador Healy.
She said he hopes to get home to her family in Bweeng on a more regular basis now that she is posted closer to Ireland.
“When I was in Asia, I managed to get hone about twice a year. Once things settle down here, I would expect to get back a little more frequently,” said Ambassador Healy.
“I always try to spend as much time as I can in Bweeng. I love that reconnection It is such a beautiful place and the community there is fantastic,” she added.