Thank you, Deputy Prime Minister Peters, for those very nice remarks. On behalf of the Government and people of Ireland, I would like to welcome you here and thank you and your government for opening an Embassy in Dublin.
Relations between our two countries have always been close. I believe the State Visit to New Zealand by President Higgins last year demonstrates our interest in strengthening our links with you, and of course on personal levels, links have always been strong, given the number of Irish emigrants to your country, both over the years and more recently.
As island nations, Ireland and New Zealand have much in common. We have similar views and work together on trying to address pressing global challenges at a time when they are perhaps greater than in many decades. We also work with each other to improve our bilateral trade, investment, tourism and cultural links.
Opening resident diplomatic missions in Dublin and Wellington, as we have just done however, takes the relationship to another level. I have heard it said that it is the diplomatic equivalent of going steady.
So as we ‘go steady’ and build upon our already strong relationship, we are going to learn a lot more about each other. And hopefully as we do, we will find many new areas in which we can co-operate, bilaterally and also in terms of global issues such as countering the effects of climate change and promoting the use of green technology in agriculture and industry. Small countries can have a big impact, when they work together.
Although our two countries could hardly be further apart geographically, the political, social and cultural links between us have always been strong. I was delighted for example to learn that one in six New Zealanders claim Irish heritage. That said, we do not and should not take our close bilateral relationship for granted. I know that Ambassador Burgess in Dublin and Ambassador Ryan in Wellington will focus on promoting and strengthening greater awareness of our respective countries.
We have always been aware of each other when it comes to sport of course. I’m glad our excellent relations have not been negatively affected by the encounters between our two rugby teams over the years! I know the suffering has been mainly on our side, but, thanks to Chicago, we no longer have to dine out on Munster in 1978. I hope we’ll all enjoy watching the match this weekend at the Aviva Stadium.
On a more sombre note, yesterday we all marked the centenary of the end of the First World War. Many Irish people fought either as members of the ANZAC forces or alongside them, including at Gallipoli. It is important to remember all of the aspects of our shared history, including the most tragic, as we focus on ensuring a bright future.
That future does indeed look bright however, and so can I just finish by saying once again… Deputy Peters, Ambassador Burgess, thank you for inviting me here this evening. It is a pleasure to welcome you both to Ireland and I am sure that the opening of the Embassy of New Zealand heralds an era of closer co-operation between us than ever before.