Opening of New Zealand Embassy in Dublin, Ireland

Speech  at the opening of the New Zealand Embassy in Dublin

Dublin, Ireland
12 November 2018

Thank you all for joining us here tonight.

As you all know, this week is a momentous one for New Zealand-Irish relations. Because at the end of this week, we will finally determine who has the best rugby team in world.

And of course we have tonight’s opening of the first resident New Zealand Embassy in Ireland.

If you were to ask most New Zealanders what they think about the idea of opening an Embassy in Ireland, I suspect the most common response would be: ‘you mean we don’t have one already?’

And that is because the relationship between New Zealand and Ireland is already closer than that of friends, or of partners: it is one of family: ‘Kin Together’.

One in six Kiwis can claim some Irish heritage. Of course many of the rest wish they could !

This includes many of our most famous and influential Prime Ministers, as well as countless politicians, jurists, business people, social reformers, unionists, clergy, and public servants.

Our Prime Minister, Jacinda Ardern, is of Irish descent. So too is our current Head of State, Governor-General Dame Patsy Reddy.

Irish visitors and settlers have made an enormous contribution to the emergence of New Zealand identity.

Lieutenant Colonel William Hobson, who co-authored the Treaty of Waitangi and signed it for the British government, was from Waterford.

Thomas Bracken, who composed the words of our National Anthem, was from Clones County Monaghan.

Much as it pains me to acknowledge the fact, many of our most illustrious All Blacks have been of Irish descent, from Dave Gallaher, captain of the “Originals” All Black team that toured Ireland, Britain and France in 1905-06, through to more contemporary figures such as Sean Fitzpatrick, John Kirwan, Christian Cullen, and the extraordinary Barrett brothers.

The same is true in the arts. Many of you will have heard of New Zealand’s latest pop sensation, a young lady known as ‘Lorde’? Her surname is O’Connor. Enough said.

Now you might say that this is all very well, but what does it have to do with opening an Embassy?

The decision to make this investment in our future relationship is not based on any sentimental attachment to our historical and cultural links, however substantial and important they may be.

Rather it is based on a firm conviction that we are not making the most of the many links and interests that we share.

It is no coincidence that your Government has also made the decision to lift its investment in the relationship, through the opening of your first resident Embassy in Wellington, New Zealand.

In what we sincerely hope is not an omen for Saturday’s game, Ireland actually beat us to the punch. Ambassador Peter Ryan presented his credentials in August, and is already doing a fantastic job for his country.

What do we both hope to gain from this increased investment?

First, there is much more we can do together internationally, as small, principled, independently-minded (some would say stubborn) countries that have never seen our size as an impediment to making our voices heard on the great issues of the day, or used our size as an excuse not to play our part in resolving them.

We want to deepen our close cooperation with you on issues such as climate change and disarmament.

There is more we can do to support each other in deepening our engagement with our respective regions.

We are enormously grateful for the strong support we have already received from Ireland for our efforts to deepen our ties with the European Union, including through the conclusion of a Free Trade Agreement.

In turn, Ireland has in New Zealand a committed partner in helping you deepen your ties with East Asia and the Pacific.

And there is much, much more we can do together bilaterally.

The agricultural sector is an obvious focus for attention. We are both proud farming nations with vibrant rural communities. Our close ties and the counter-seasonality of our production cycles make us natural partners.

We already have a long history of collaboration. We expect these ties to grow as New Zealand reaches the natural limits of its domestic production, and as we seek out partners to help us to meet demand in fast-growing global markets, particularly in the meat and dairy sectors.

We both have much to gain from joining forces to pool our knowledge, expertise and global connections.

Another focus for enhanced cooperation that is very dear to my heart as Minister of Racing is that of horse racing.

The success of New Zealand’s world class horse racing industry owes a great deal to Irish bloodstock and to the contribution of Irish New Zealanders as breeders and administrators. In turn, New Zealand’s racing industry has much to offer its Irish counterparts.

In particular, there is considerable untapped potential in our trade and economic relations.

Our current links are currently fairly modest, with little more than $400 million in two way goods and services trade annually.

We can do better. And we will in the years ahead, as New Zealand companies give Ireland a closer look when considering how to manage their European operations in a post-Brexit environment.

In turn, New Zealand provides untapped opportunities for Irish businesses seeking a foothold in the fast-growing economies of Australasia and the Asia Pacific. 

As one of New Zealand’s leading trade negotiators, our new Ambassador Brad Burgess is well suited to the task of capturing this potential. 

Brad, we wish you well in these important endeavours. And we ask you to extend your full cooperation and support to Ambassador Burgess and his team in efforts.

Finally, let us extend our heartfelt thanks to our Honorary Consul, Alan McCarthy, for the extraordinary job he has done over the past 19 years on behalf of New Zealand and New Zealand-Irish relations.

Alan, we deeply appreciate all that you’ve done for us. We hope we can retain you as a close friend and partner as we seek to take the relationship forward in the years ahead.

So as we open this Embassy tonight, we look forward to the new possibilities that it will open up for our already close relationship.

A relationship that will draw on our historic and cultural ties and shared values to forge new and deeper partnerships, and that will deliver value for Irish and New Zealand citizens alike. 

It is a very great pleasure to declare the New Zealand Embassy in Dublin open.