His Excellency Leonard Sacco, Ambassador of Malta to Ireland with John Minihan, Honorary Consul of Malta in Cork.
By John Minihan, Honorary Consul of Malta in Cork.
My recent appointment as the Honorary Consul for the Republic of Malta resulted in me attending the Biennial Consuls meeting in Valletta on the 28th and 29th of May. Whereas I have holidayed in Malta on a number of occasions this was a great opportunity to meet with other Consuls and get a hands on introduction to my new role. An Honorary Consul is the official representative of the government of one state in the territory of another and it is certainly an honour to be nominated to take up such an appointment. My primary role is to provide consular support to Maltese citizens in Ireland should the case arise and to promote areas of interest between the people of Malta and Ireland.
Every two years, the Honorary Consuls forming part of Malta’s extensive network come together to touch base and receive guidance on the various aspects of our work. The purpose of the meeting is to learn about the direction in which the country is being steered, strengthening relations with the network of Consuls in order to explore additional avenues of cooperation.
The theme for the meeting was ‘Expanding Our Horizons’ and emphasising the importance placed on the meeting, it was hosted for both days by the Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade Promotion, Carmelo Abela, who informed me he will visit Cork for ‘Our Ocean Wealth Summit’ on the 10th June. The conference was also addressed by the Prime Minister, Dr Joseph Muscat who spoke about the vision for his Government under three headings Infrastructure, Innovation and Inclusion.
The two-day agenda reflected the priorities of government and, in keeping with the theme centred on listening and receiving feedback from Consuls on the ground.
Extensive briefings were provided on:
- Political issues
- External Relations and European Affairs
- Trade Promotion
- Foreign Direct Investment
- Global Issues, International Development and Economic Affairs
A reception was hosted by the President Dr George Vella who spoke openly about both the challenges and opportunities for Malta in a changing International environment. Meeting with my fellow Consuls from around the world emphasised the honour of being appointed to this position and I hope I can use the position for the benefit of both Ireland and Malta where two peoples with many similarities have so much in common.
The Maltese Islands, nestled in the Mediterranean Sea between Italy and Tunisia, are rich in history and made up of Malta, Gozo and Comino with a total population of 400,000 friendly inhabitants occupying an area of only 316 sq. km. Malta is the smallest member state of the European Union, having joined the bloc in May 2004, Malta has become the most densely populated country in the whole of the European Union. It is less than one quarter the size of Co Wicklow, but has almost four times the number of residents. Even though it is small in size, Malta has its own language, Maltese which is a combination of Arabic, Italian and English influences. However, this is not the only language spoken on these Islands English is also an official language.
Malta enjoys some of the worlds clearest and most breathtaking waters, making it one of the best destinations for diving due to its vast variety of marine life beautiful reefs and sunken ships. Malta’s capital city is one of the smallest capital cities in Europe. Valletta is rich in both history and culture making it one of the most picturesque capital cities in the world. Malta is a religious country with Roman Catholicism being the main faith. In fact, the Maltese Islands have 365 churches meaning you can visit one on each day of the year. British rule in Malta lasted until 1964 when Malta became Independent. The Maltese adapted the British system of administration, education and legislation.
The Sovereign Military Hospitaller Order of St John of Jerusalem, of Rhodes and of Malta, commonly called The Sovereign Military Order of Malta (SMOM), or simply the Order of Malta, or the Hospitallers, is the oldest order of chivalry in the world. The Order first arrived in Ireland in 1171 and it swiftly established houses that offered medical care services and facilities in Counties Wexford and Waterford. By 1174, the Order’s Irish headquarters, the Priory of Ireland and Hospital of St John was established at Kilmainham in Dublin. For 800 years the Order of Malta has been providing a voluntary first aid service to communities and public events across Ireland.
During the global recession and the public sector debt crises in Europe, Malta was capable of maintaining a healthy level of economic growth and outrunning the economies of larger, more resource-rich nations. Prosperity has now returned to Malta post the 2008 financial crisis. Last year, almost two million tourists visited Malta and Gozo, its smaller, neighbouring island. Ireland, like Malta, has long been recognised as large financial centre for hedge funds and fund administration. Since its launch in 1987, Ireland’s main financial regulator, IFSC, has been enhancing Ireland’s role in both the European and global marketplace as a preferred destination. Meanwhile, through the diligent work of the MFSA, Malta has strengthened its brand as a solid performer for financial regulatory services
There are strong political, economic and cultural ties between Ireland and Malta that go back many years. But it is our shared values, language and outlook that provide the foundations for the development of such ties into the future. Ireland, like Malta, is a committed EU Member State, and we have both benefitted enormously from membership. The future prosperity of both our island nations rests firmly within the EU:
- We both share EU values – democracy, rule of law, human rights, international cooperation and sustainable development.
- With Malta the only other English-speaking country left in the EU after the UK’s departure, Ireland and Malta could become more popular as a destination for European students on the Erasmus programme. Malta also has a strong tradition as a destination Teaching English as a Foreign Language (TEFL).
- As island nations on the periphery of Europe, Ireland and Malta know too well the imperative to reach out beyond the confines of our shores and to become truly global islands.
- We are both militarily neutral. Our two countries have rich maritime traditions and millennia of archaeological remains to be explored on site, and in our museums.
The Military and Naval history of the Island is remarkable and the role played by the Maltese people should not be forgotten. After the end of WW11, the whole Island of Malta and all of its inhabitants were awarded the George Cross medal for their bravery in resisting the constant attacks from the Axis forces. It is interesting that we have our own military ties with Malta. During the Humanitarian operation in the Mediterranean, our Naval Service used Valletta as a port for logistic supply and support. For the past few years the Maltese army Cadets are integrated with our Cadet Classes and trained in the Military College in the Curragh.
Having spent yet another week in Malta I have no hesitation in saying, Malta is a gem for those who seek the benefits of a warm climate, blue seas and the holiday atmosphere mixed with a rich vein of history, culture and Mediterranean cuisine there are many similarities between our Nations. With Direct flights from both Dublin and Cork, Malta is set to become a destination of choice for Irish Holidaymakers.