Ceisteanna — Questions. Oral Answers. - Australian Bicentenary.

Wednesday, 29 April 1987

Dáil Éireann Debate
Vol. 372 No. 2

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1.

Mr. G. Mitchell: Information on Gay Mitchell Zoom on Gay Mitchell asked the Taoiseach if he intends visiting Australia in 1988 to mark its Bicentenary; and if he will make a statement on the matter.

The Taoiseach: Information on Charles J. Haughey Zoom on Charles J. Haughey A special committee, chaired by the Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs, Deputy Brian Lenihan, TD is preparing Ireland's response to the invitation from the Australian Government to participate in their bicentenary celebrations in 1988.

Irish people have made a remarkable contribution over two centuries towards the development of Australia, about one-third of whose population is now of Irish descent. I am convinced that the resulting ties of friendship between Ireland and Australia will be further reinforced by the active participation which the Government are planning in the celebrations. I regret that I am not in a position at this stage to say whether an official visit by me to Australia will form part of the programme of official projects which we are planning.

Mr. G. Mitchell: Information on Gay Mitchell Zoom on Gay Mitchell Is the Taoiseach aware that the number of people living in Australia who are of Irish descent is higher, as a percentage of total population, than that of any other country? Is he further aware that until comparatively recently two-thirds of the Government of New South Wales were of Irish descent? I think it is about a half at present. Would the Taoiseach consider that a visit by the Prime Minister of this country to Australia might assist this country in developing ties there which would be beneficial to our economy?

[456]The Taoiseach: Information on Charles J. Haughey Zoom on Charles J. Haughey I concur with everything the Deputy said about the very special situation that exists between this country and Australia. I am not sure I can agree that a prolonged absence by myself in Australia would help this country.

Mr. G. Mitchell: Information on Gay Mitchell Zoom on Gay Mitchell I assure the Taoiseach that it probably would help this country. Given the number of leading office holders of Irish descent, and the natural goodwill there is for this country in Australia even in such places as Federal State Parliaments, the High Court, and so on, would the Taoiseach consider that developing ties with Australia, a democratic and consumerist society, would be not just mutually beneficial but particularly beneficial to this country? Will the Taoiseach actively pursue the development of good relations with Australia?

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Seán Treacy Zoom on Seán Treacy There is an element of repetition in the Deputy's question.

The Taoiseach: Information on Charles J. Haughey Zoom on Charles J. Haughey I will gladly agree to do that. I think the Deputy will agree with me that we have neglected the special relationship between Ireland and Australia for too long. In recent years there have been very significant developments of contacts between the two countries. I assure the Deputy that I will do everything possible to promote and foster the relationship.


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