THERE is a conundrum when it comes to acting government ministers fanning out to various countries across the world this year on St Patrick’s Day promotional tours, even if they are ‘slumming’ it by not going first class on flights and not using the most expensive hotels. The coronavirus knows no boundaries and they are putting themselves and others at risk by going on planes and through airports.
Caretaker Taoiseach Leo Varadkar does need to keep up appearances for the occasion at the White House – to which Ireland is given unprecedented access at this time of year – as the majority of our foreign direct investment comes from the United States and the biggest Irish diaspora in the world lives there. As the spread of Covid-19 continues, an economic downturn will inevitably follow, so the government probably needs more than ever to remain prominent in the international shop window in order to attract more big multi-national companies to invest here and Ireland is probably a more attractive proposition now that it is the only English-speaking country in the European Union.
Although dismissed by some as junkets, these trade missions have an intrinsic value, especially now that we need to find other export markets as Britain leaves the EU. But, they should not be putting efforts to form a new government on hold until they return from their travels as that is the most urgent thing the country needs as quickly as possible.