Green Party Minister Eamon Ryan has suggested that Mary McAleese and opposition leaders should represent Ireland abroad over the St. Patrick’s Day holiday falls during the general election campaign.
Mr Ryan has suggested that President McAleese should be involved in the celebrations with President Obama at the White House while Opposition party representatives should travel elsewhere.
He has suggested that Fine Gael leader Enda Kenny should travel to Germany to meet Chancellor Angela Merkel while Eamon Gilmore should travel to Spain to meet with the socialist leaders there.
The Minister emphasised the importance of Ireland maintaining its traditional contacts with the While House on St. Patrick’s Day.
He said “Can I suggest that we should consider whether the involvement of our own President on the day might help us maintain this important contact given the unusual circumstances of the visit this year.
“Our international diplomacy efforts need the fillip that St Patrick’s Day provides, and I believe the wider political representation set out above would reflect well, showing us as a mature State that can place national interest firmly ahead of party politics in the middle of an election period.”
Minister Ryan made his proposal at Wednesday’s Cabinet meeting and wrote a to Prime Minister Brian Cowen giving details of his proposal.
Speaking in Cabinet he said “Given the likelihood that it will take until the end of February to secure the passage of the Finance Act, it is probable that this Government will be in office for St Patrick’s Day this year but that the date may fall in the midst of a general election campaign.
“We should not relinquish the opportunities the national day affords Ireland on the world stage, particularly at this pivotal time for the country.”
Mr Ryan continued “To that end, I propose that both Government and Opposition leaders would officiate at key St Patrick’s Day celebrations. I believe that if the leaders of each of the political parties in the Dáil [Parliament] travelled and engaged in meetings with high-level political representative, it could be of real benefit to the State at this difficult time.
“It might make particular sense to ensure that the leaders might travel to countries where they have political links with the parties of government. For example, Deputy Kenny could go to Germany and meet with Chancellor Merkel, while Deputy Gilmore could meet with his colleagues from the European Social Democratic party in Spain."