Irish Prime Minister Brian Cowen has established the first ever Irish Diplomatic Mission in the Southern United States.

On the 3rd day of his economic mission to the US, Mr Cowen was in Atlanta, Georgia where he has opened a new Irish Consulate General.

The opening of the Consulate and the appointment of Paul Gleeson as the Consul General is seen as part a new strategy in Irish American relations.

Wednesday's opening in Atlanta brings to five the number of Consulates in the United States. They are located in Boston, Chicago, San Francisco, New York and now Atlanta. The Consulates operate as sub offices to the Embassy of Ireland in Washington.

To coincide with the opening, Mr Cowen and Mr Gleeson met with Governor of Georgia Mr Sonny Perdue in the morning.

Earlier on his arrival in Georgia, Mr Cowen described the new strategy for Irish relations with the Southern United States:

“Our diplomatic focus since the foundation of the State has tended towards the more traditional Irish areas of Boston, New York, Chicago and San Francisco. Those old links continue to go from strength to strength. From today, we can look forward to an important new link in Ireland’s network in America. Atlanta will be a new gateway for the Irish in America – for trade, for business, for culture, for education and for tourism. This is a sign of the new modern relationship between Ireland and America and a significant investment in the future of our country.”

Earlier on Wednesday, the Taoiseach met with senior executives from Coca Cola, who are a major employer in Ireland.