Laois TD and Minister for Foreign Affairs Charlie Flanagan is heading to the home of pasta and pizza and the Pope on St Patrick's Day.
The Fine Gael Minister will be in the capital Rome as well as the home of the Italian fashion and arguably soccer, Milan for the national feast day. He will also scheduled for engagements in the Holy See.
The Minister's remit will be promoting food, tourism & financial services promotional opportunities. Italy is Ireland's 9th largest export trading partner with total bilateral trade valued at €11.42 billion in 2014.
Minister Flanagan is among 27 senior and junior ministers as well as the Taoiseach and Tánaiste who will be involved in 100 business events and high-level political meetings in 27 countries on March 17.
Minister Flanagan's department is co-ordinating the trips which are sometimes challenged as a questionable use of taxpayers money. However, Minister Flanagan said the visits are valuable to Ireland.
“St. Patrick’s Day provides Ireland with both an international platform to deliver our strategic messages as well as access to key political and business contacts in leading markets around the world. This year St. Patrick’s Day falls in a month of critical importance, with the expected triggering of Article 50 by the UK and the beginning of its formal negotiations to leave the EU.
"It is essential that Irish Ministers continue to highlight Ireland’s priorities to Member State governments throughout Europe, building on the important work that has already taken place. We will also be spreading the message beyond Europe’s borders that Ireland is remaining in the EU and it remains a very attractive destination for investment and trade, for study and for tourism. We are also working hard to deepen our market penetration in European markets.
“As representatives of the Government and people of Ireland, Ministers will engage in full and focused programmes to promote our trade, tourism, and investment. Ministers will take part in business events and dozens of high-level political meetings as part of an intensive ‘Promote Ireland’ programme. We look forward in particular this year to shining a spotlight on ‘Creative Ireland’ in all its forms.
“Ministers will also carry messages about Ireland and our core values: our connectedness to the world economy, our belief in trade liberalization, our commitment to the European Union, and our profound belief in democracy, the rule of law and human rights,” he said.
The full list of engagements is: Enda Kenny will be travelling to Washington, with Tánaiste Frances Fitzgerald travels to Los Angeles, San Diego and San Francisco; Minister for Children Katherine Zappone visiting Boston and Seattle; Jobs Minister Mary Mitchell O’Connor travels to New York, St Louis and Chicago; Minister of State Joe McHugh travelling to Philadelphia, New York and the Tristate area; Minister of State Michael Ring will be visiting Fort Lauderdale, Miami, Atlanta and Savannnah; Pat Breen will be travelling to Austin in Texas; and Sean Kyne will be travelling to Cleveland and Columbus.
Finance Minister Michael Noonan is in Malaysia and Singapore; Simon Coveney will be in Toronto and Eoghan Murphy will be Montreal. Minister of State Patrick O’Donovan will be jetting to Australia and New Zealand, and Minister of State David Stanton will visit Indonesia and Western Australia.
Public Expenditure Minister Pascal Donohoe goes to Japan and Korea, and Minister of State Sean Canney will visit China. Government Chief Whip Regina Doherty will fly to the United Arab Emirates.
Minister of State John Halligan, of the Independent Alliance, will visit Brasilia, Rio and Sao Paolo in Brazil, and Minister of State Helen McEntee is in Argentina.
Education Minister Richard Bruton will travel to the UK, with Finian McGrath visiting Scotland. Social Protection Minister Leo Varadkar will visit France; Michael Creed will visit Germany.
Heather Humphreys will visit Sweden and Denmark while Minister of State Paul Kehoe will visit Lebanon.
Health Minister Simon Harris, Transport Minister Shane Ross and Communications Minister Denis Naughten will remain in the country during the St Patrick’s Day visits.