With a population of more than 6 million, Ireland has seen an economic growth of more than 6 per cent during the last few years. While the Island nation sees more than 7 million tourists from all across the world annually, Ireland also has presence of more than 25,000 Indians and 2,000 students from India study there. With expertise in technology, pharmaceuticals and aviation, Ireland is looking towards cooperating with India in these sectors. In an exclusive chat with Chandigarh Newsline, Brian McElduff, Ireland’s ambassador to India, who was in Chandigarh, talks about Ireland expertise, historical links with India, corporation with Punjab and Chandigarh.
A lot of tourists visit Great Britain and Europe. Talking about tourism, what can Ireland offer to Indian tourists?
It is doing very well. From a fairly low base, Ireland attracts a lot of Indians because it has very clean image. Many Indians like to visit the UK and we want them to travel little further to Ireland. We are very close and it is a one-hour flight from London to Dublin. Now you only need one visa as we now have a joint visa programme with UK for one year. And we have Euro which is cheaper. Apart from Dublin, which has lots of pubs and restaurants and ancient attractions, we have got a beautiful coastline and a lot of outdoor activities. Apart from Dublin, cities like Limirick, which is also famous for poetry, sees a lot of visitors. People come for activities like hunting and fishing and we have got a lot of castles in which tourists can stay as well. We also have one castle that was owned by Maharaja Ranjit Singh, the Ballynahinch castle. The TV series, Game of Thrones, was shot in Northern Ireland and it also brings a lot of people to the country.
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Apart from tourism, how does Ireland see India as a partner?
I believe we have a lot to offer culturally to India. We have historic links with India for a long time. We founded a lot of schools in India and a lot of Irish teaches work in India. I am very pleased that Prime Minister Narendra Modi visited Ireland last September. One of the first countries in Europe to host him was Ireland. We have attracted a lot of investments. We have more than 25,000 Indians in Ireland and 2,000 students from India. They are coming to study our high-tech economy and environment. We are smaller if we talk about consuls. We are based in Delhi and we have got honorary consul in Mumbai, Chennai, Bengaluru and Kolkata.
Talking about Punjab and Chandigarh, what are Ireland’s plans for the region and which areas do you like to focus upon with this region?
We have not had a huge amount of cooperation with Punjab and Chandigarh. We do have presence here in terms of schools with strong Irish connections. We are interested in cooperating in same things as India is interested in like high-tech economy, pharmaceuticals, engineering, clean energy and aviation services. These are our strengths and apart from these, we have expertise in fields like equestrerian and golf. Many Indians come to Ireland for trade of good horses. We are very good in agriculture and farming products. We can provide cooperation in these fields. We are here for trade and cultural things and extending support in sports like equestrian and golf.
Talking of political visits and consuls in India, what are Ireland’s plans for India and how do you see India in terms of business opportunities and other areas?
India is doing well and Ireland is also doing well. In the last decade or so, we had a very strong Asia-specific strategy. But most of that focus was on China. But we are hoping to balance it by focusing on India. We wish to increase our presence in India, especially in Mumbai, as it is the trade centre. We might be small but we have a very active group here. The St Patrick’s day is coming and we had monuments like Eiffel tower and others lighted in green. We had such things done with the Gateway of India earlier and we hope to do the same in future. We have famous golfer Padraig Harrington playing in March in Delhi. Everybody in Ireland is fascinated by India’s history and I am hopeful that we would have increasing number of high-level political visits. It is all so because India is doing well. We are here to do trade with India and tourism also forms a part of it. India is a very important growth partner for us. We had general elections earlier this week and we have a very big community of Indians in Ireland.