Minister Mitchell O’Connor to meet Irish Diaspora, Officials & Education Partners in Colorado & Kansas during St. Patrick’s Day visit

-   Mary Mitchell OConnor TD

Mary Mitchell O’Connor T.D. Minister of State for Higher Education has today embarked on a five-day trip to the United States of America as part of the Government’s programme of St Patrick’s Day visits. During the trip the Minister will visit Colorado and Kansas City.

On 16 March the Minister will meet with senior members of the Irish community and take part in the St. Patrick’s Day parade in Denver. The Denver parade attracts over 200,000 spectators each year.

Prior to departure, the Minister said: “the meetings with members of the Irish Community and the St. Patrick’s Day parade in Denver will provide me with the opportunity to celebrate our National Day with pride, together with of our Irish family and global diaspora. It gives me the opportunity as a member of the Irish Government to thank the Irish and the Irish Americans in Colorado for everything that they do in promoting Ireland in the US and for continuing the strong 150 year-old legacy of the Irish in Colorado.”

During her visit to Denver the Minister will meet with Governor of Colorado Jared Polis, and with Mayor of Denver, Michael Hancock. At these meetings the Minister will highlight Ireland’s close historic ties with Colorado and the potential for closer trade and investment links between Ireland and Colorado.

In Denver, the Minister will meet with the leadership of a number of higher education institutions to discuss opportunities to deepen the relationship between higher education institutions in Ireland and Colorado. She will also discuss these opportunities at a meeting with Inta Morris, Chief Operating Officer and Chief Financial officer of the Colorado Department of Higher Education which runs “StudyColorado”, an initiative of the State, its institutions of higher education and the business community focused on promoting higher education student exchanges between Colorado and partner countries.

Minister Mitchell O’Connor will be Guest of Honour at the Kansas City St. Patrick’s Day Parade on 17 March.

The Minister said “St Patrick’s Day has special meaning for our Diaspora across the world. It is their opportunity to express their deep pride in being Irish, and to recall and celebrate the great contribution of past generations of Irish emigrants to the development of cities like Kansas City and the states of Missouri and Kansas. Thirty-two million Americans – around one in ten people – are of Irish heritage. We in Ireland are so proud of all that they have achieved and are delighted to celebrate this day of Irish heritage with our global family.”

On 18 March, the Minister will meet with Governor of Kansas, Laura Kelly, and with Mayor of Topeka, Michelle De La Isla to discuss Ireland’s economic performance and the role of education in Ireland’s economic success.

The Minister said: “Both the Governor of Kansas and the Mayor of Topeka have identified how a top-class education system and the availability of a well-skilled and agile workforce are key factors in achieving economic success. Our education system has played a significant role in the economic recovery that we have experienced over the last number of years and I’m happy to share this story with our friends in Kansas.”

As part of the Kansas leg of her trip the Minister will visit the centre for Global and International Studies at the University of Kansas – Lawrence. The Minister will speak to an audience of graduate students of disciplines including European studies, international affairs and related faculties on Brexit, Ireland and the future of the EU.

The Minister said that “it is important that we communicate Ireland’s approach to Brexit and our commitment to our future EU membership at prominent seats of learning throughout the world. In the area of Higher Education, our membership of the EU has allowed for generations of Irish students to seize on the opportunities to live, work and study abroad and also for thousands of students from other parts of Europe to attend Ireland’s great higher education institutions every year.

At this event, the Minister will emphasise that “Studying abroad helps students bring home not just new skills that help our economy and but also new ideas and thinking that have promoted greater debate and dialogue and influenced change in Irish society in recent decades.”

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