TAOISEACH ENDA KENNY has faced down criticism over his decision to keep up with tradition and travel to the White House this St Patrick’s Day.
In the wake of speculation about the leadership of Fine Gael, there had been some doubt as to whether he’d be able to make the trip as Taoiseach at all.
The issue of Kenny’s leadership of his party is up for discussion a meeting tomorrow night – but in the meantime the official itinerary for the annual St Patrick’s Day ministerial trips has been announced.
Here’s where Cabinet members are heading:
- Washington and New York: Taoiseach Enda Kenny
- San Francisco, LA and San Diego: Tánaiste Frances Fitzgerald
- St Louis; Chicago; NYC: Jobs Minister Mary Mitchell O’Connor
- NYC, Philadelphia/Tri-state area: Minister of State Joe McHugh
- Fort Lauderdale, Miami, Atlanta, Savannah: Minister of State Michael Ring
- Austin: Minister of State Pat Breen
- Cleveland; Dublin; Columbus: Minister of State Sean Kyne
- United Kingdom: Education Minister Richard Bruton
- Munich; Stuttgart; Cologne; Berlin: Agriculture Minister Michael Creed
- France: Social Protection Minister Leo Varadkar
- Sweden; Denmark: Arts Minister Heather Humphreys
- Malaysia/Singapore: Finance Minister Michael Noonan
- Toronto: Housing Minister Simon Coveney
- Boston, Seattle: Children’s Minister Katherine Zappone
- Japan, Korea: Public Expenditure Minister Paschal Donohoe
- United Arab Emirates: Chief Whip Regina Doherty
- Scotland: Minister of State Finian McGrath
- Brazil: Minister of State John Halligan
- Lebanon (UNIFIL mission): Minister of State Paul Kehoe
- Indonesia, Western Australia: Minister of State David Stanton
- Spain: Minister of State Dara Murphy
- Hungary; Czech Republic: Minister of State Marcella Corcoran Kennedy
- Poland: Minister of State Damien English
- The Netherlands; Belgium: Minister of State Andrew Doyle
- Beijing, Shanghai & Hong Kong: Minister of State Sean Canney
- Argentina: Minister of State Helen McEntee
- Toronto; Montreal: Minister of State Eoghan Murphy
- East Coast Australia; New Zealand: Minister of State Patrick O’Donovan
In recent weeks, the Taoiseach has defended his decision to visit US President Donald Trump this March. He said while he disagrees with what Trump has been saying and doing, he maintains it is “more important than ever” that Ireland’s voice be heard in Washington DC.
Leo Varadkar, who’s being touted as Kenny’s possible successor as Fine Gael leader, has spoken out against the US President and warned that this St Patrick’s Day cannot be all about just “smiles and shamrocks”.
Questions also hang over the visit due to the Taoiseach stating that he will decide if he will extend an invitation to Trump to visit Ireland when he meets the President.
Varadkar has said he “wouldn’t be keen” on inviting Donald Trump to visit Ireland.
The annual trade and publicity missions have come in for criticism in recent years, in wake of the downturn, and successive ministers have been keen to talk up the real-world benefits.
“St Patrick’s Day provides Ireland with both an international platform to deliver our strategic messages as well as access to key political and business contacts in leading markets around the world,” Minister for Foreign Affairs Charlie Flanagan said tonight.
“This year St Patrick’s Day falls in a month of critical importance, with the expected triggering of Article 50 by the UK and the beginning of its formal negotiations to leave the EU.
“It is essential that Irish Ministers continue to highlight Ireland’s priorities to Member State governments throughout Europe, building on the important work that has already taken place.
We will also be spreading the message beyond Europe’s borders that Ireland is remaining in the EU and it remains a very attractive destination for investment and trade, for study and for tourism. We are also working hard to deepen our market penetration in European markets.
The Taoiseach is due to meet businesses, political leaders and community groups in New York and Washington. Other locations may be added to Kenny’s itinerary at a later date.
- With reporting from Daragh Brophy