Coveney jpg

Coveney in U.S. on a diversified mission

Tánaiste Simon Coveney. photo.


By Ray O’Hanlon

Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade Simon Coveney is on a mission.

In fact multiple missions.

Coveney arrives in New York Tuesday evening for a gathering at the United Nations in support of Ireland’s campaign for a non-permanent seat on the UN Security Council, the election for which will take place next year.

Mr. Coveney will be in Washington, D.C. Wednesday joining EU counterparts and representatives of over seventy countries for a meeting of the Global Coalition to Defeat ISIS, of which Ireland is a member.

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The Tánaiste will have the opportunity to meet with U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo during the ministerial meeting, said a release from his department.

Coveney will additionally be conferring with the Congressional Friends of Ireland and Democratic and Republican leaders in Congress. He is expected to meet with House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and attend a reception marking the centenary of the First Dáil co-hosted by Congressmen Richard Neal and Peter King, co-chairs of the Friends grouping.

The meetings, said the release, “will offer valuable opportunities for the Tánaiste to discuss priority issues, in particular Northern Ireland, Brexit, immigration, our economic relationship and foreign policy issues, including the Middle East.”

The Tánaiste will additionally launch the Irish government’s new strategy for the U.S. and Canada for the period to 2025, under its Global Ireland Initiative.

“I and my government colleagues are determined to protect, invest in and develop Ireland’s relationship with the U.S. and with Canada for the future. We want these relationships to thrive for the benefit of all of our citizens,” said Coveney in advance of his transatlantic trip.

“What’s envisaged in this strategy is nothing less than a step-change in our engagement; and an engagement commensurate with the importance of the relationships, taking account of new geopolitical realities and demographic change.

“An unprecedented level of investment in our presence and capacity across the U.S. and Canada will enable us to build new partnerships, at every level, and in every region.

“We will devote new energy to our thriving reciprocal economic relationships, currently responsible for the direct employment of well over a quarter of a million of our citizens.

“Moreover, we will connect with new generations, across communities of Irish heritage and none, to ensure these age-old transatlantic relationships develop and evolve for the future.”

In advance on the visit the Irish Independent reported: “A wave of diplomatic efforts is under way to get senior figures in American politics to weigh in behind Ireland's position in the Brexit negotiations.

“Having so far kept European capitals on board with the backstop, the government is now hoping the U.S. and Canada will pressure Theresa May into protecting the Good Friday Agreement.

The report noted that Taoiseach Leo Varadkar had already secured the support of Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau in his battle with the UK government. The two leaders discussed the Brexit and border situation last week.

The two leaders agreed on the fundamental importance of protecting the Good Friday Agreement and recalled Canada's role in achieving the agreement.

Meanwhile, against the backdrop of the Coveney visit, Congressman Brendan Boyle has introduced a Sense of the House Resolution that opposes any re-establishment of a hard border between Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland.

“One of the great foreign policy achievements of the 20th century was the Good Friday Agreement. Brokered by U.S. Special Envoy George Mitchell, and agreed to by the UK, Republic of Ireland, and leading parties in Northern Ireland, it eliminated the hard border that then existed between Northern Ireland the rest of Ireland,” said the Philadelphia Democrat.

“Now Brexit threatens this. A hard border would eliminate the free flow of people between Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland, which has proved fundamental to promoting peace and unity.

“Given the United States is a close ally of both the UK and Republic of Ireland, and given the United States played a leading role in helping facilitate the GFA, it is now time for the United States Congress to make clear we stand in strong opposition to a hard border. We must not go backwards.”