Taoiseach (Prime Minister) Brian Cowen will use his forthcoming trip to New York and the White House to promote Irish trade and investment and to highlight the plight of the Irish undocumented living here.

Cowen will arrive in New York on Sunday for an official visit accompanied by Foreign Affairs Minister Micheal Martin, before heading on to Washington, D.C. to present the traditional bowl of shamrock to President Barack Obama at the White House on St. Patrick’s morning.

On Sunday Cowen will launch the new Irishcentral.com website and present the Irish America magazine Irish American of the Year award to Dr. Kevin Cahill in New York, before traveling on to his first White House meeting with the new president.

On Monday morning he will be guest of honor at a special breakfast on Wall Street hosted by Enterprise Ireland. Cowen will be accompanied by leading businessmen from Ireland hoping to make American connections.  In the afternoon he will speak at the annual St. Patrick’s luncheon of the Ireland-U.S. Council.  He will then travel to the nation’s capital, and will attend the American Ireland Fund dinner that evening.

In Washington, D.C. on St. Patrick’s morning, Cowen will first have a 45 minute bilateral meeting with Obama before the traditional shamrock bowl ceremony.  Then both men will attend the annual Speaker’s luncheon on Capitol Hill hosted by House Speaker Nancy Pelosi.

Cowen will meet leaders of the Irish American community later in the day at an Irish Embassy sponsored event at a local hotel, and then at 7 p.m. he will be guest of honor at a reception at the White House hosted by Obama and attended by Irish American leaders.

In addition to the events where he will be accompanying Cowen in New York, Minister Martin will meet with members of the Irish Lobby for Immigration Reform (ILIR) to discuss the government’s efforts on behalf of the undocumented in the U.S.

He will also take the opportunity to meet with Enterprise Ireland’s North American Financial Services Advisory Board to explore what measures might be taken to assist Irish companies targeting the North American financial services sector.

Speaking to the Irish media on Monday, Cowen said he plans to use St. Patrick’s Day to send a message to global markets that Ireland has a clear and comprehensive strategy for dealing with the economic crisis.

“St. Patrick’s Day gives us the opportunity to recognize the contribution of our emigrant communities across the world.  Many millions of Irish were forced to leave home by economic conditions far worse than anything we are experiencing today.  Many of them helped us out when we were down and we should never forget or ignore them.  In this regard, I and other colleagues traveling to the U.S. will be drawing particular attention to the plight of the undocumented,” Cowen said.

Sharp cutbacks in the number of Irish politicians traveling to the U.S. have been made by the government. Recession hit Ireland is calling for a general reduction in the number of promotional trips abroad, and the number of ministers traveling will be halved.  The government has instructed all departments to ensure that costs are kept to a minimum.

Acknowledging concerns about the cost of the ministerial missions, Cowen said, “I know that some people question the value of these trips, particularly during this severe economic downturn, but St. Patrick’s Day gives Ireland a global platform that is the envy of practically every country in the world.”

The annual visit to the White House offered an ideal platform to promote Irish trade and investment, and Cowen said he would waste no opportunity to do so. “

St. Patrick’s Day gives Ireland a global platform that is the envy of practically every country in the world. It gives us an unparalleled opportunity to send out a positive message about Ireland and to inform political and business leaders, trading and investment partners and the international media about how we are tackling the current challenges,” Cowen said.

Other Irish ministers will travel throughout the U.S. on behalf of the government.  Minister Eamon Ryan will represent the Irish Government in San Francisco and New York. The core elements of his visit in San Francisco include visits to significant green tech companies, attendance at the St. Patrick’s Day Mass and parade on March 14, along with visits to the Immigration and Pastoral Center, the United Irish Cultural Center and the GAA facilities on Treasure Island.  

Key components of his New York program will be a meeting with Mayor Michael Bloomberg and attendance at the St. Patrick’s Day parade. Ryan will also visit a number of key technology companies.

 Minister of State Pat Carey will represent the Government in Boston, while Minister Mary Hanafin is representing the government in Philadelphia and Atlanta.  

Minister Martin Cullen will travel to Houston. He has meetings set up with senior business contacts, and a meeting with the Houston Chronicle editorial board.   

Minister of State Jimmy Devins is representing the government in Chicago, while Attorney General Paul Gallagher is representing the government in Seattle.