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Anne Anderson with President and Mrs. Obama during a reception at the Metropolitan Museum in New York in 2009. Photo by: The White House

Ireland’s first female ambassador to the US Anne Anderson

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Anne Anderson with President and Mrs. Obama during a reception at the Metropolitan Museum in New York in 2009. Photo by: The White House

The lifestyle of a diplomat expected to travel the world can pose personal issues, Anderson acknowledges, but she adds that they can be equally harsh on men.

“The reality is – and I’m not just being politically correct in saying this – that the diplomatic career is challenging for any two-career couple,” says Anderson.

“If you have a male diplomat the problems are the same for his spouse – disrupting a career and moving around.  This is an immensely rewarding career, there’s no question about that.  But in terms of disruption to your personal life, there can be a cost.”

Anderson has a grown daughter who was born during her first posting in Washington, D.C., and is fluent in French as a result of her mother’s travels.

“For children, if they are adaptable and don’t have particular challenges, it’s a wonderful opportunity,” she says.

“My daughter has lived among many different cultures and races, and she’s a citizen of the world really. And that is a huge benefit.”

The prospect of representing Ireland in Washington, D.C. and indeed all the 50 states is one that Anderson relishes.  After a return home for some vacation time – a highlight of which will be seeing Bruce Springsteen in Kilkenny this weekend – she will be on the job at the end of August.

Top of her to-do list?  Doing whatever she and the Irish government can to move the comprehensive immigration debate here to a successful conclusion.

“Without a doubt that is the priority,” she says, noting that she’s been keeping a close eye on the debate that holds the promise of legalizing tens of thousands undocumented Irish here, and also ensuring a future legal flow of Irish via the proposed annual E-3 Schumer visa program.

“We are totally aware of how important this issue is both for those here and their families at home.  Everybody in Ireland has either been directly affected by the plight of the undocumented here, or knows someone who has.”

Anderson plans on reaching out to legislators on Capitol Hill who are supportive of immigration reform, and more importantly, she says, “those who aren’t.  

“I’d very much like to meet with Republicans in the House who are not in favor and talk to them about the issue and where we are coming from.  We will do as much as we can, as much as a government can do, but of course the decision rests with Congress.  But the government is totally supportive of the effort.”

Stimulating U.S. investment in Ireland in coordination with the Irish consulates across the country is a project Anderson says she will undertake, and she’s also keen to immerse herself in cultural matters which will again peak in 2016 with the celebration of the 100th anniversary of the Easter Rising.

Building on the Irish Proclamation of 1916, Anderson is hopeful that 2016 can be a year of “proclaiming Ireland” in the U.S.

“I think the anniversary will be an important catalyst,” she says.  “If we are going to mark it in an appropriate way we are going to need good lead-in time, so I’m obviously going to see what’s already in place and pick up on that.  I hope we can weave in our culture and theater and literature, and see what other strands we can weave in as well. I’m hoping to be able to continue the thinking that is already beginning, and build on that in a way that is high impact.”

Anderson thought about a teaching career after she finished college, and sharing knowledge is something she’s still passionate about.  She occasionally served as a visiting lecturer at Fordham University while in New York, and building relationships with think tanks and universities in D.C. will also figure prominently on her agenda.

“It’s not just that it interests me personally, but I think it’s very healthy that we have an agenda with the U.S. that isn’t just about us coming to the U.S. to ask for certain things, but where we are fully equal partners,” Anderson maintains.

“Ireland is at the cutting edge in its conceptual thinking about world hunger and development issues, so when we work with the U.S. on that we are co-leading something that is a shared agenda for us.  

“So I think that’s a very healthy place to be, and I look forward to working and building relationships that are beneficial both to Ireland and America.”

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