Belfast Telegraph

St Patrick's Day itinerary revealed

The Taoiseach and a slimmed-down number of ministers will jet off to eight countries for St Patrick's Day celebrations compared with 24 by the Fianna Fail-led government last year.

France, Italy, the UK, US, India, New Zealand and Australia are among the international destinations, with Taoiseach Enda Kenny visiting Washington DC to meet President Barack Obama as expected.

Mr Kenny will also hold meetings with senior figures from both the administration and Congress, including US Vice-President Joe Biden and House speaker John Boehner.

The Taoiseach said building Ireland's reputation abroad was one of the key objectives of the coalition's first 100 days in office, with the visits being used to promote Ireland as a trading and business hub.

He added: "We will use the unique global platform that is St Patrick's Day to give a clear message to the world that Ireland is open for business, that we have a bright future and that a historic process of political and economic renewal has begun. We will do this effectively, but in a way that ensures value for money.

"Travel will be restricted to a smaller number of destinations that are top priorities for Irish trade, business and jobs. Programmes will be shorter and more focused than previous years."

The slimmed-down itinerary was revealed just hours after the coalition's 15 new junior ministers were unveiled, despite previous claims by Fine Gael the number should be limited to 12.

The Cabinet also signed-off on the new junior ministers with extra positions created in the health, economic and transport portfolios. Fine Gael received nine and Labour six, with a number of heavy-hitters originally tipped for a Cabinet office among the line-up.

However, lobby group Older & Bolder hit out at the new Government for scrapping the junior minister's office responsible for older people despite welcoming a number of pledges made to elderly people.

Patricia Conboy, director, said: "What's missing is a minister to take responsibility for the delivery of these commitments and this is very disappointing given that recent Governments have appointed ministers with an explicit brief for older people."

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