Melbourne set to get its own Irish consulate

Melbourne is one step closer to getting its own full-time consulate after the Irish government announced plans for a rapid expansion of its diplomatic footprint in the Asia Pacific.

Plans to double the country’s representation in this region were announced last week as part of the next phase of the Global Ireland 2025 initiative.

Taoiseach Leo Varadkar and Minister for Foreign Affairs Simon Coveney said full details of a new strategy for the region would be revealed during next month’s Rugby World Cup in Japan to promote Ireland as a great place to invest, study, trade with, and visit.

Currently, the Irish mission in Australia consists of the embassy in Canberra, a full-time consulate general in Sydney and an honorary consulate in Perth. The Melbourne Irish community has long argued for a full-time diplomatic base in Australia’s largest city.

Irish academic Professor Jarlath Ronayne served as the city’s only honorary Irish consul. He was appointed in 2002 and retired in 2008. He was not replaced.

Former Irish Honorary Consul for Melbourne Prof Jarlath Ronayne with former Irish Ambassador Richard O’Brien in 2002.

Former Irish Honorary Consul for Melbourne Prof Jarlath Ronayne with former Irish Ambassador Richard O’Brien in 2002.

Ambassador of Ireland Breandán Ó Caollaí said the Irish government was committed to “augmenting our diplomatic presence in Australia”.

“While no decision has yet been taken on where that will be, the growing economic importance of Melbourne, with its a large Irish community, will be an important consideration,” he said, pointing to the opening of a new Enterprise Ireland office in the city in March. Other options for the Irish government might include another new consulate in Brisbane or making the Perth mission a full-time office.

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The expansion plans were announced at a special summit at Dublin Castle to mark one year since the launch of the Global Ireland initiative. The government strategy aims to double the scope and impact of Ireland’s global footprint by 2025. Mr Varadkar told attendees that good progress had been made in the past year with eight new embassies and consulates having opened, including one in New Zealand.

“We are opening new embassies and consulates because we know that by expanding and enhancing Ireland’s presence overseas we can grow our economy here at home and increase our influence internationally,” he said.

“As a small open economy, it is vital that Ireland is open to opportunities on a global scale.”

“The new embassies and offices that we have opened are a clear signal of intent and are already providing practical assistance to Irish citizens, Irish businesses and Irish cultural voices,” Minister Coveney added.

“This is where we are seeing the real value of Global Ireland.

“We have to keep the momentum up and build on this investment to enhance our global presence.”