Gilmore defends trade missions
Tanaiste Eamon Gilmore has defended costly Government plans to send 19 ministers on St Patrick's Day trade missions to 21 different countries.
The trade and foreign affairs minister insisted costs would be kept to a minimum as senior TDs jetted off to far-flung countries such as Singapore and New Zealand.
He said the alternative of launching an advertising campaign to promote Ireland worldwide to attract foreign direct investment and tourism would be more expensive.
"This is about promoting the country," Mr Gilmore said. "It's about opening opportunity for trade and exports."
Meanwhile, jobs minister Richard Bruton insisted the Government would "sweat" its existing assets to keep costs down.
"We're keeping the size of delegations down to a minimum, we're not flying first class, we're using embassy facilities, we're maximising assets we already have," he said.
Neither of the men would reveal exactly how much the missions would cost the hard-pressed state, but said expenses would be the responsibility of individual Government departments.
"If we were to start from scratch to devise an advertising strategy or a promotional strategy for Ireland, I think we'd have it more expensive than the approach we are taking," Mr Gilmore added.
The Tanaiste will be among the 19 ministers to travel around the world attending business and trade events, and political meetings in a bid to secure foreign investment opportunities. Taoiseach Enda Kenny is also due to fly to the United States on Friday to mark St Patrick's Day in New York.
Mr Gilmore said it was important for the Government to take advantage of Ireland's national holiday and the worldwide attention it attracts. "So many people have their eye on Ireland during St Patrick's Day," he said. "There is no other country of our size that gets the same attention internationally as Ireland on St Patrick's Day."