By John Neary, Ambassador of Ireland to the Kingdom of the Netherlands.
March is a very special month for Ireland as March 17th is our national holiday, St Patrick’s Day.
St Patrick’s Day is an opportunity for Irish people and friends of Ireland around the world to renew their links with family and friends at home and to celebrate those aspects of Irish life which we share – our music, our culture, our sports, our natural environment and our rich community life.
Ireland is a small country but, through the millions of Irish people who have emigrated to all parts of the world, we have an enormous global footprint. Irish people overseas adapt quickly and easily to their new homelands but they retain a strong sense of their Irishness and make new friends for Ireland in their local communities.
Here in the Netherlands, there are about 7,000 Irish people. They are to be found in all parts of the country and they play an important role in maintaining the close and friendly relationship between our two countries.
The Netherlands is an important partner for Ireland in the European Union. We are both open economies and we share similar views on many EU policies.
The bilateral economic relationship is also very important for Ireland. The Netherlands is our 7th largest export market and an important source of foreign direct investment and tourism.
In the political area, we share a deep commitment to human rights and the rule of law and we both strive to make constructive contributions to promoting peace, security and justice through our international relations.
Ireland is an ancient nation but a young country. Our culture is rooted in the pre-Christian era and the influences of the Celtic tribes that came to Ireland over three thousand years ago can still be found in our arts, language, heritage and design.
Since we became an independent state in 1922, our economy has developed from an agrarian model to a modern and dynamic mix of high tech manufacturing and service industries. Agriculture is still an important part of our economy but Ireland is now as well known for its pharmaceutical, IT and financial services industries as it is for our grass-fed beef and lamb. Research, Development and Innovation are being prioritised to build a smart economy for the future.
After a deep recession following the global financial crisis in 2008, Ireland now has the fastest growing economy in Europe, with 4.5% growth last year and a forecast of 3.5% growth for this year. Exports, investment and employment are all increasing and this year our budget deficit will be below the 3% EU limit. Our borrowing costs are at an all time low and there is a new confidence in our economic recovery at home and abroad.
So let me conclude by wishing all the readers of Diplomat Magazine a very Happy St Patrick’s Day. If you would like to learn more about the Irish Embassy’s work, log onto www.embassyofireland.nl or follow us on Twitter @IRLEMBTHEHAGUE.