Minister Burke viewing a photo of Sean's Bar which featured in an exhibition in Milan.

Burke returns from Italy and Vatican St Patrick's Day trip

Minister Peter Burke, the Westmeath Minister for European Affairs, spent St Patrick’s Day and the two days preceding it in Italy as part of the Government St. Patrick's Day initiative. The European Affairs Minister said he was delighted to get the opportunity to head to Milan, Bologna, Rome and Vatican City over a busy three-day period.

“I had a whirlwind trip, arriving in Milan early Wednesday morning where we visited an outdoor Irish photography exhibition on the main shopping thoroughfare. I was absolutely delighted to see that it featured a photo of Sean’s Bar, Athlone! There was a food expo with Irish food producers doing demonstrations with their products and we met with local traditional musicians and Irish dancers. I also met the staff of Tourism Ireland, the Irish Embassy in Rome, Bord Bia and Enterprise Ireland, all who are extremely busy in what is their peak time of year for business and trade promotion.

“The next morning, we were up early to board the train to Bologna to attend the largest beauty trade fare in the world, Cosmoprof Bologna. For the first time, Enterprise Ireland had organised an Irish Pavilion to support Irish traders who wanted the opportunity to sell their products to a more international audience of suppliers. There were eight companies present, and it was great to meet with each and discuss the current market and their experience of trying to grow their business offering across Europe.

“We travelled on to Rome then, where there was a St. Patrick’s Day reception for the Holy See. Ireland has two separate embassies in the Rome area, like most countries worldwide, a national embassy for the country of Italy, and a Holy See Embassy which overs the Vatican. At the Holy See reception, we met our fantastic Ambassador from Clonakilty Frances Collins. She and her team had invited the Irish community in the Vatican which included two priests from Westmeath, Fr. Kieran Cronin who travelled over from Multyfarnham and who delivered the homily on St. Patrick’s Day, and Fr. Padraig Brehony from Athlone, who is based in Rome. It was great engaging with the clergy, which included a number of nuns also.

Minister Burke with Fr. Kieran Cronin from Multyfarnham and Fr. Padraig Brehony from Athlone.

“The next day was St. Patrick’s Day and we attended a lovely ceremony in St. Isidores, a traditionally Irish parish of Franciscans. We then headed to Vatican City, to meet Archbishop Paul Gallagher, who is the Holy See’s version of Minister for Foreign Affairs; his title is Secretary for Relations with States. We had lunch at the Irish Seminary and then I met with the Italian Minister for Foreign Affairs, Raffaele Fitto. The final event of the day was a reception for the diplomatic and Irish Community, hosted by Patricia O’Brien, Irish Ambassador to Rome at the beautiful Villa Spada where the Irish Embassy is based. We had an early flight back to Dublin Saturday which rounded off a hectic but productive few days.

“While these trips are enjoyable, you can really see the value they bring when you see the access you receive as an Irish Minister when it comes to key political actors. It’s also important to see first-hand the experience of Irish companies, the support they receive from Enterprise Ireland and the further support that could benefit them in the future. I also use it as an opportunity to sell Ireland, to sell Longford Westmeath as a great place to base a business in and invest and I was glad to have the opportunity to do this on all three days."

Addressing a Holy See reception
At the Vatican