Ceisteanna—Questions Oral Answers. - Proposed Visits to United States.

Wednesday, 14 February 1996

Dáil Éireann Debate
Vol. 461 No. 5

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  3.  Mr. Dempsey  Information on Noel Dempsey  Zoom on Noel Dempsey   asked the Taoiseach  Information on John Bruton  Zoom on John Bruton   the plans, if any, he has to visit the United States of America. [3091/96]

[1273]The Taoiseach: Information on John Bruton  Zoom on John Bruton  I plan to visit Washington from 13 to 15 March, 1996. My proposed programme includes meetings with President Clinton, Speaker Gingrich and the Ireland-America Economic Advisory Board.

I will then travel to Newfoundland for an official visit from 16 to 17 March.

Mr. M. McDowell: Information on Michael McDowell  Zoom on Michael McDowell  Does the Taoiseach agree the state of Irish relations with America is of prime importance in the peace process? Therefore, does he also agree that it is a priority that every statement made at diplomatic and ministerial levels be co-ordinated in a common strategy in so far as such is possible? Furthermore, will he agree it is desirable that the US State Department and the Irish Government work very closely on any public pronouncements in the media on matters of domestic Irish political concern?

The Taoiseach: Information on John Bruton  Zoom on John Bruton  As a general proposition I agree with what the Deputy has said.

Mr. Dempsey: Information on Noel Dempsey  Zoom on Noel Dempsey  Did the Taoiseach say he would be in Washington from 13 to 15 March?

The Taoiseach: Information on John Bruton  Zoom on John Bruton  Yes. I will be in Washington, DC from 13 to 15 March inclusive and in Newfoundland in Canada from 16 to 17 March.

Mrs. O'Rourke: Information on Mary O'Rourke  Zoom on Mary O'Rourke  That was the venue the Taoiseach missed on the last occasion.

Mr. Dempsey: Information on Noel Dempsey  Zoom on Noel Dempsey  Will the Taoiseach agree that this year more than ever bearing in mind the current position vis-à-vis Northern Ireland — while appreciating that his travel arrangements may have been made prior to last Friday's atrocious event — it is even more important for him to spend longer in the United States, that he should be there for St. Patrick's Day and afterwards? Has he any proposals to amend his travel arrangements in the light of last Friday's tragic event?

[1274]The Taoiseach: Information on John Bruton  Zoom on John Bruton  During the course of my visit to Washington DC I will meet all the major political leaders at Federal level in the United States. It is always difficult to strike a balance in terms of how much time to spend out of the country and how much in the country.

Mrs. O'Rourke: Information on Mary O'Rourke  Zoom on Mary O'Rourke  While the cat's away——

The Taoiseach: Information on John Bruton  Zoom on John Bruton  As the House will be aware, I had to curtail my visit to Canada on the occasion of the postponed Summit last autumn. In view of the very strong Irish connection with Newfoundland, and since I believe I will be the first Taoiseach to visit Newfoundland, I am anxious to make that visit.

Mr. B. Ahern: Information on Bertie Ahern  Zoom on Bertie Ahern  It is a nice place too.

Mr. Dempsey: Information on Noel Dempsey  Zoom on Noel Dempsey  I appreciate the Taoiseach's comments and would not want anybody in Newfoundland to think we thought any less of them than of people in other parts, but will the Taoiseach, because of what happened last weekend and since it is crucial for trade, tourism, political and other reasons, consider spending a longer period in the United States, meeting a broader range of people including business people and not merely political people in America?

The Taoiseach: Information on John Bruton  Zoom on John Bruton  I would not like Deputy Dempsey to think I am neglecting contacts with the United States of America. I paid three visits to the United States last year and will travel there next month. I had meetings with senior American figures almost daily and on Friday last I met some very important American people. I meet people in American economic and political life almost weekly. While a visit by me to the United States obviously constitutes the best possible way of maintaining contact, there are other means of doing so. There are considerable pressures on my time because of our forthcoming Presidency of the European Union in the second half of the year. There has to be greater focus on [1275] Europe. Unfortunately, one must balance that against the very great requirement of maintaining close contact with American opinion but we are doing the best we can. As the House will be aware, the Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs was in the United States last week and other Ministers will visit America on St. Patrick's Day. It goes without saying I will keep under review the possibility of further visits during the year, as and when the opportunity and necessity arises.

Mr. R. Burke: Information on Ray Burke  Zoom on Ray Burke  While fully acknowledging the importance of such visits by the Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs and other members of the Government, the office of Taoiseach is of particular importance. I realise there are pressures on the Taoiseach's time in Europe and elsewhere, but will he reconsider leaving for the United States a few days earlier and availing of the opportunity to visit some other cities? Arising out of his comment that he has spoken to the United States President and others in recent days, has he raised the issue of former Senator George Mitchell being appointed a peace envoy? Does he intend pursuing that issue?

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Seán Treacy  Zoom on Seán Treacy  I am sorry, Deputy Burke, it is not relevant now.

Mr. R. Burke: Information on Ray Burke  Zoom on Ray Burke  It arose out of the Taoiseach's response.

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Seán Treacy  Zoom on Seán Treacy  It bears no relation to the question before us.

Mr. R. Burke: Information on Ray Burke  Zoom on Ray Burke  The Taoiseach responded and I am merely inviting him to elaborate.

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Seán Treacy  Zoom on Seán Treacy  The Chair is concerned only with the subject matter of the question before the House. Clearly the Deputy is injecting new matter I cannot entertain.

Mr. R. Burke: Information on Ray Burke  Zoom on Ray Burke  May I crave your indulgence for a moment?

[1276]An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Seán Treacy  Zoom on Seán Treacy  I must have made myself clear to the Deputy who is an experienced Member of the House.

Mr. R. Burke: Information on Ray Burke  Zoom on Ray Burke  I was merely responding to the Taoiseach and endeavouring to elicit further information.

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Seán Treacy  Zoom on Seán Treacy  That is not appropriate at Question Time, Deputy.

Mrs. O'Rourke: Information on Mary O'Rourke  Zoom on Mary O'Rourke  Will the Taoiseach meet former Senator George Mitchell?

The Taoiseach: Information on John Bruton  Zoom on John Bruton  I will be very happy to meet him.

Mr. R. Burke: Information on Ray Burke  Zoom on Ray Burke  I would prefer the Taoiseach to meet him here in advance of his American trip.

The Taoiseach: Information on John Bruton  Zoom on John Bruton  I may very well do so.


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