Select Committee on Finance, Public Expenditure and Reform, and An Taoiseach
Deputy John Deasy: In his opening statement, the Taoiseach mentioned strong relationships in Europe and the world. When he took office, the Taoiseach made an announcement about increasing our footprint or presence globally.
Many people agreed that we had and had a significant and widespread presence throughout the globe and that tapping into that and utilising it for even clear economic purposes made a great deal of sense.
From what I do, my experience is that we have never been as active in the United States of America and Washington, in particular. I base that on some knowledge of what previous Administrations did when it came to the USA. It is fair to say we have had a stronger presence in Washington over the last eight months.
When I look at the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade, I see a Department which, through no one's fault, is somewhat consumed by Brexit and Northern Ireland. Considering that people agreed about the intention to increase that presence globally for very good reasons, what practical steps are being undertaken within the Taoiseach's own Department to make sure it happens outside the obvious constraints of Brexit and Northern Ireland and the internal pressures that leads to?
The Taoiseach, Leo Varadkar: Brexit creates, in some ways, an impetus for us to increase our presence around the world to become less reliant on UK markets. Even if there were no Brexit, we should be doing it anyway as there is a big world out there, which is much larger than Britain and Europe.
We are working across Departments on joined-up policy-making to develop what we are calling "Global Ireland 2025"... In essence, our plan over the next seven years to 2025 is to increase very substantially our presence around the world by beefing up existing diplomatic missions, opening new ones and expanding the roles of the IDA, Enterprise Ireland and Bord Bia.
It also means doing things in the arts and culture space. For so many people around the world, their first glimpse of Ireland is through the arts, our literature and language. One of the things I got to do in New York which I was delighted to do was increase our funding for the Irish Arts Centre.
I would love to see a number of Irish arts centres around the world. Deputy Deasy will know from working with Mercyhurst University and others the value of education exchanges, of which I would like to see more.
It is part of the philosophy I am trying to bring to government, of taking the objective first - to increase our footprint around the world - and then building our policy behind it, not with just one Department but with several Departments and agencies implementing it, and communicating it in a singular way.