Housing Minister Simon Coveney has this week returned from St Patrick's Day festivities in Canada, where he was busy promoting Cork, and Ireland, and supporting the Irish diaspora there.
Braving the -27 degree weather, the Carrigaline man took part in a number of parades and events across Toronto and Ottawa, and also took the opportunity to visit Niagara Falls, turning the world-famous landmark green ahead of March 17 celebrations.
“I was in Canada for four days and really it was about meeting Irish communities there. Last Friday I attended a breakfast meeting basically talking about investment opportunities in Ireland. There was quite a lot of interest in Cork at that as well actually, which was great,” he said.
“There was a very large The Ireland Funds lunch then with over 1,000 people so I was speaking at that, and again that's really a celebration of Irish-Canadian relationships.”
The Minister also had dinner with Enterprise Ireland and IDA clients, trying to get more investment in Ireland, met with his Canadian counterpart Catherine McKenna, Minister of the Environment and Climate Change, and visited Ireland Park in Toronto – a space which commemorates victims of the famine.
“Canadian ports were the only ports that were willing to take in Irish famine victims that had disease on board ships. They were turned away from a lot of US ports. Toronto, at the time, took in more Irish people than their population,” said Minister Coveney.
“Don't forget that Canada has more of its population of Irish descent than any other country in the world outside of Ireland. It's about 15% of the Canadian population, about 4.5m people of Irish descent. In the States it's less than that. Some of them very recent, as well, so maybe 100,000 people over the last decade would have gone to Canada. That's like the population of Limerick going to Canada. It's very significant.”
The trip also had a personal connection for the Minister – seven of his wife's siblings currently live in Canada.
“A lot of people, they talk about Irish America because of the relationship that's there that's very strong, but a lot of people don't really know about the strength of the relationship with Canada which is very, very strong as well. And given the fact that both Canada and Ireland have big neighbours that are doing strange things at the moment, I think we have quite a lot in common.”
A number of Cork politicians have travelled abroad to represent Ireland this week, including Agriculture Minister Michael Creed who travelled to Germany, European Affairs Minister Dara Murphy who travelled to Spain, and Minister of State David Stanton who travelled to Indonesia and Australia.
Lord Mayor of Cork Councillor Des Cahill is currently in the US and is set to meet President Donald Trump in Washington later tonight.