Remarks by the Minister of Foreign Affairs and Trade
Mr Simon Coveney T.D.
Formal Opening of the Embassy of Ireland, Kenya
8th November 2017
Cabinet Secretary, Excellencies, Ladies and Gentlemen,
It is a great pleasure to be here with you this afternoon, together with Cabinet Secretary, Amina Mohamed, to formally open the Embassy of Ireland in Kenya.
This is a great day for Ireland, and for all of our Irish citizens resident in, or doing business with, Kenya. It is a great moment in a long history of excellent diplomatic relations with Kenya.
Ireland is connected to the global community through its history, its values and its status as a small open economy with worldwide trading links. Perhaps because our country is an island, Irish people are deeply connected with many people and events around the globe.
Our culture shapes and is shaped, by those connections. Our economy is inextricably intertwined with that of the rest of the world. Our people have migrated to far-away places, finding opportunity while supporting local development.
Earlier this month I announced that as part of my Government’s commitment to expanding Ireland’s global footprint abroad, Ireland will open new resident diplomatic missions in New Zealand, Chile, Colombia, Jordan, Vancouver and Mumbai. This is in addition to increasing staff numbers working in several of our European Embassies.
Ireland’s Embassy network is a vital asset for us as a small island nation navigating a rapidly-changing global environment. Our Embassies support Ireland’s international co-operation and trade, they raise the profile of our country, our people, and our culture. They assist us in engaging new partners and friends. They inform our foreign policy, promote our values and defend our national interests.
Ireland’s Embassies are an extremely important means of expanding and diversifying our trade portfolio as we prepare for Brexit. They are also the principal means for expanding our engagement and our interests across the globe – and importantly so, in Africa.
Ireland’s relationship with Africa has a long history. Even before the foundation of the Irish State, missionaries and aid workers from Ireland travelled throughout Africa and established schools and hospitals, working with the poorest in African society.
Ireland’s engagement with Africa is further enhanced by the reputation of Irish Peacekeepers and our political engagement with African politicians and diplomats. We are proud of our unbroken record of service over almost six decades in UN Peacekeeping Operations, including in a number of African countries.
These historical relationships are today complemented by co-operation through the Irish Government’s official aid programme, Irish Aid, which allocates a higher proportion of aid to sub-Saharan Africa than any other OECD donor.
Ireland closed its Embassy in Nairobi in 1988 for economic reasons. However up until 2014 we were very ably served by two Honorary Consuls – Mr. Joe O’Brien and Mr. Jonathan Sutton – and through the accreditation of our colleagues in our Embassy in Dar es Salaam.
The decision by my Government to re-open its Embassy in Nairobi in 2014 was made, not only in full recognition of Kenya’s importance to the prosperity and stability of the East Africa region, but also because of the progress the country has made in advancing democracy, progressing development and addressing insecurity.
The decision reflects the excellent diplomatic relations that exist between our two governments, as exemplified also by the opening of the Kenyan Embassy in Ireland in 2007. It signals a determination to explore new markets and strengthen Ireland’s presence in East Africa.
The achievement of Ireland and Kenya in brokering international consensus on the Sustainable Development Goals, is an important example of what the partnership between our countries has already achieved.
I am really pleased to learn that in addition to serving the needs of Irish citizens in the country, the Embassy is working to deepen bilateral political and economic relationships in ways that are beneficial to both of our countries.
For example, the Embassy, very much drawing from Ireland experience, supports the Kenya Investment Authority to help attract foreign direct investment to Kenya by establishing a One Stop Shop for interested international investors.
Some months back, the Young Scientist Kenya initiative was launched by the Cabinet Secretary of Education as the premier national competition for Young Scientists in Kenya. This is based on the hugely successful Young Scientists and Technology Exhibition in Ireland and its launch in Kenya has been the result of cooperation between the Embassy, the Ministry of Education and many other Kenyan partners.
Earlier to-day, together with the Cabinet Secretary for Agriculture, Livestock and Fisheries, Mr. Willy Bett, I launched the Ireland Kenya Agri Food Strategy – a plan for increasing trade, deepening institutional partnerships, and directing development cooperation for the next four years.
I announced grants to three Irish-Kenyan joint business ventures in agri-business – with the objective of supporting local business activity to the benefit of smallholder farmers in Kenya.
I witnessed the signature of cooperation agreements in fisheries – between the Irish Marine Institute and the Irish Sea Fisheries Protection Authority and the Kenyan Ministry of Agriculture, Livestock and Fisheries.
This is bilateral cooperation working to the mutual benefit of both of our countries and exemplifies the mature political and economic relationship which our Government is seeking in Africa.
Before concluding I want also to affirm my Government’s support to Kenya, after what has been a difficult few months of elections.
As a fully committed member of the European Union, in a country where there is such a strong EU presence, and at a time when we are strengthening bilateral relations, I want to stress that we are fully committed to work with the Kenyan Government and across Kenyan society to help protect the hard fought democratic credentials of the country, to support national cohesion, and the functioning of its core democratic institutions.
In conclusion, I want to thank the Kenyan Government for all of the assistance that it has afforded Ireland in re-opening our Embassy. I look forward to a strengthening of our political, economic and cultural ties in the years ahead.
I want to thank all of our invited guests today and I appreciate the support all of you in this room have given to assist Ireland’s official re-entry to Kenya.