seamus dubhghaill

Promoting Irish Culture and History from Little Rock, Arkansas, USA


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Irish Government Announces New Zealand Embassy

The Irish Government confirms on October 24, 2017 that it plans to open an embassy in New Zealand. The announcement comes as President Michael D. Higgins meets GovernorGeneral Patsy Reddy on the first day of his State visit to New Zealand.

The new Embassy in New Zealand brings to six the number of new Embassies or Consulates announced by the Government in the recent weeks. The new Missions announced on Budget Day are an Embassy in Santiago, Chile; an Embassy in Bogotá, Colombia; an Embassy in Amman, Jordan; a Consulate General in Vancouver, Canada; and a Consulate General in Mumbai, India.

The President along with his wife Sabina Higgins meet with Governor-General Reddy and Sir David Gascoigne on the first day of their State visit to New Zealand.

According to a statement released by the President’s office, “the decision to establish an embassy reflects an exceptionally close partnership between Ireland and New Zealand in international affairs, including at the United Nations.” New Zealand also announces plans to open an embassy in Ireland.

Diplomatic relations between Ireland and New Zealand are established in 1965. Ireland’s Ambassador to Australia is also accredited to New Zealand. Niamh McMahon serves as Ireland’s Honorary Consul in Auckland, New Zealand.

The President visits Wellington, Christchurch, Auckland and Waitangi while in New Zealand, a country in which there are almost 14,000 Irish born people and one in six people claim Irish heritage.

President Higgins also meets with the prime minister-elect of New Zealand, Jacinda Ardern, who becomes the third woman to lead a government in her country.

(Pictured: President Michael D. Higgins and Sabina Higgins receive a traditional Maori welcome from Governor-General of New Zealand Dame Patsy Reddy and Sir David Gascoigne, Government House, Wellington)


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President Mary Robinson Meets Queen Elizabeth II

robinson-elizabeth-visit-1993Mary Robinson, the first female president of Ireland, becomes the first Irish head of state to meet with a British monarch when she visits Queen Elizabeth II on May 27, 1993.

For much of the 20th century, relations between Ireland and its nearest neighbour are cool. Temperatures drop significantly over the economic war in the 1930s and Ireland’s neutrality in World War II. The sense of unfinished business permeates diplomacy during the Troubles, but by 1990 there is significant warmth in trade, tourism, business and even politics.

The newly elected Robinson makes a big play of reaching out to Irish emigrants and sees the opportunity to help Anglo-Irish relations. And so, on her 49th birthday, she pops in for tea with the British head of state.

None of Robinson’s predecessors had set foot in Britain, other than to change planes. Even when President Patrick Hillery is invited to the wedding of Prince Charles and Lady Diana Spencer in 1981, he is advised by the Government of Ireland to decline the invitation.

But Robinson decides she will not be pushed around, and successfully insists she be allowed to join other heads of state at the opening of a European bank in London. Next she asks the government if she might be able to travel to the University of Cambridge to deliver a speech and receive an honorary degree. It is only after he reluctantly agrees that Taoiseach Charlie Haughey realises that the Chancellor of the University is the Queen’s husband, Prince Philip.

Robinson meets the royal, the world remains on its axis, and a precedent is set. “Partly because I’ve never been fazed by royalty of any kind, least of all the British royal family, I felt entirely relaxed,” she recalls in her authorised biography.

Robinson next meets the prince at a memorial service for the victims of an Irish Republican Army (IRA) bombing in Warrington, where she is applauded as she leaves the church. Soon, she is meeting royals all over the place, at rugby matches and memorial ceremonies, and in a television interview says that she would like to meet the Queen.

By February 1993, Haughey has been replaced by Albert Reynolds and he grants permission for Robinson to travel for a strictly personal visit. The visit does not happen in a vacuum – Reynolds is in secret discussions with Republicans that would end in the IRA ceasefire – and the Taoiseach is keen not to give any suggestion that this is a State visit, which would require a reciprocal visit.

Robinson’s party arrives at Buckingham Palace at 4:55 PM on May 27 where they are greeted by the Queen’s private secretary, Sir Robert Fellowes. Robinson’s staff pushes the Palace to allow press photographers, reckoning that a historic moment should be captured.

Robinson, in an Ib Jorgensen fuchsia suit, later donated to Madame Tussauds waxworks, and her husband Nick are brought up to the first floor to meet the Queen for a friendly and informal tea party that lasts 30 minutes. They sip a blend of Chinese and India tea in Minton cups, exchange signed photographs of themselves, and discuss the prospects for peace. The President also hands over an extra present of a hand-turned wooden cup from Spiddal.

Afterwards, the ground-breaking photographs are taken and published all over the world, including the front page of the Irish Independent. “Palace Talks Prepare Way for State Visit” runs the lead headline over a piece by Bernard Purcell and Gene McKenna. They go on, reporting the President as saying the visit is “symbolic of the maturing relationship between Ireland and Britain.”

In 1996 President Robinson’s 15th visit to Britain is upgraded to an Official Visit, and she leaves office the following year.

Robinson’s successor, Mary McAleese, takes things further, and meets Queen Elizabeth II several times in London and at World War I commemorations on the continent. In May 2011 McAleese welcomes Queen Elizabeth II on her four-day State Visit to Ireland and in April 2014 President Michael D. Higgins makes the first State Visit to the UK.

(Pictured: President Mary Robinson with the Queen outside Buckingham Palace in 1993. Photo: Eamonn Farrell/Photocall Ireland | “Flashback 1993: The first Irish head of state meeting with a British monarch” by Ger Siggins, Independent.ie, May 22, 2016)


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State Visit of U.S. President John F. Kennedy

jfk-state-visitJohn F. Kennedy, an Irish American and the first Catholic to become president of the United States, arrives in Ireland on a state visit on June 26, 1963. After Air Force One touches down at Dublin airport, Kennedy’s motorcade weaves through the streets of Dublin city, the thrilled crowd, lacking ticker tape, improvises by throwing rolls of bus tickets.

Kennedy is proud of his Irish roots and makes a special visit to his ancestral home in Dunganstown, County Wexford, while in the country. There, he is greeted by a crowd waving both American and Irish flags and is serenaded by a boys choir that sings The Boys of Wexford. Kennedy breaks away from his bodyguards and joins the choir for the second chorus, prompting misty-eyed reactions from both observers and the press.

Kennedy meets with 15 members of his extended Irish family at the Kennedy homestead in Dunganstown. There he enjoys a cup of tea and some cake and makes a toast to “all those Kennedys who went and all those Kennedys who stayed.” His great-grandfather, Thomas Fitzgerald, had left Ireland for the United States in the middle of the Great Famine of 1848 and settled in Boston, becoming a cooper. Generations of his descendants go on to make their mark on American politics.

At the time of JFK’s visit to Ireland, the predominantly Catholic Irish Republic has been an independent nation for 41 years. The northern counties of the island, however, remain part of the largely Protestant British Empire and still suffer from long-standing sectarian violence. On the day after his arrival in Dublin, Kennedy speaks before the Irish parliament, where he openly condemns Britain’s history of persecuting Irish Catholics. Two days later, he travels to England, America’s oldest ally, to meet with British Prime Minister Harold MacMillan and his cabinet to discuss setting up a pro-democratic regime in British Guiana.

Kennedy later tells his aides that his favourite part of the trip was the wreath laying and silent funeral drill done by the Irish Army cadets at Arbour Hill military cemetery in Dublin.

Five months later, his widow, Jacqueline Kennedy, makes a special request to the Irish government. She asks that those same Irish army cadets, who so impressed the President on his visit, perform the drill again at his state funeral. Within days, those awe-stuck, trembling young men stand just inches away from foreign dignitaries from over 90 countries and perform their silent funeral drill in memory of a president that had inspired their country just a few short months earlier.