Expat Life in Thailand welcomed the opportunity to find out more from the Ambassador, what makes his country so special to him and why he and his wife Marie are enjoying their current posting to Thailand.
How long have you been the Ambassador to Thailand?
I took up duty as Ambassador of Ireland to Thailand (also accredited to Myanmar) last August. It is always a great honour to be asked to represent your country as an Ambassador. I am particularly pleased and honoured to have been appointed by my Government to represent Ireland in the Kingdom of Thailand. Thailand is a country which Marie and I have come to know and enjoy particularly well from many holidays over the years. We first came to Thailand over 15 years ago as tourists and have returned over the years on many occasions. We have always received the warmest of welcomes in this most welcoming and friendly country.
Did you arrive in Thailand from home, or were you posted somewhere else before?
I arrived in Bangkok
Where are you born and brought up? At which age did you decide you wanted to become a diplomat? Do you have more diplomats in your family? Do you have children? What age and where do they go to school?
I was born and raised in County Cork in the south of Ireland. I am married to Marie who hails from Limerick in Ireland. We have one daughter, Aisling, married to another Cork man, Dave. Aisling and Dave lived in Sydney for the last 8 years or so and moved to Singapore last January. We are very pleased that Aisling and Dave are much closer to us now here in Bangkok particularly as we are expecting the arrival of our first grandchild in August! As you get older in life, you increasingly appreciate that the most important matters in life are family and good friends. We are very much looking forward to the arrival of our grandchild. Aisling assures that we will have plenty of opportunities to get to know – babysit – him/her!
How do you look at Thailand today? Have you had any obstacles since you arrived? Do you see any similarities between your country and Thailand?
We are living in Bangkok now just over nine months and settling in well. Ireland prides itself on being a very warm, welcoming and friendly country. The Thai people, without exception, have been so warm and welcoming towards Marie and myself since our arrival here that they could almost be considered as warm and friendly as the Irish!
How do you look upon your work here? What does an average day look like? As every Ambassador, I assume you have some goals you really would like to reach/fulfil before you leave Thailand. What are they? Do your country and Thailand have any exchange programmes for students today? What do you believe is your most important task as Ambassador?
There are longstanding and positive relations between Ireland and Thailand. We opened our Embassy here in Bangkok four years ago to mark the 40th anniversary of our bilateral relationship. The establishment of the Irish Embassy in Thailand marked a significant shift in the strength and depth of this relationship. Our opening of an Embassy here is a clear indication of the importance attached by my Government to deepening the relations with the Kingdom of Thailand and our strong desire to enhance every aspect of our relations. There have now been two visits from Thai ministers to Ireland and three visits of Irish ministers to Thailand in the last 18 months alone.HRH Princess Maha Chakri Sirindhorn also visited Ireland in 2014 who was most warmly received by our President and the Irish people. I welcome this increased engagement and hope that it continues.
We believe there is significant potential for our two countries to further enhance cooperation in many sectors including, for example, education, culture and economics. We are particularly pleased to see the continuing increase in the number of Thai students coming to study in Ireland. Only five years ago, there were less than ten Thai students in Ireland compared to over 120 today. Ireland is a world-class education destination which hosts over 35,000 international students every year. Our membership of the EU has played an integral role in building Ireland’s reputation as a location for world-class research and as a centre of excellence in higher education. Investment in education has transformed the Irish economy. All of Ireland’s universities are ranked in the top 5% globally, and in many fields of research, Ireland ranks in the top 1% globally. An Irish education – whether in our universities, institutes of technology or our private colleges – provides employment-ready skills for graduates.
Ireland has also extended its ‘stay-back option’ for non-EU/EEA students at postgraduate and PhD level to two years for eligible graduates. This allows non-EU/EEA students who have graduated from Irish higher education institutions to remain in Ireland for up to 24 months to seek employment. As a safe
I wish to see more Thai companies which are expanding internationally consider Ireland as a cost-effective and barrier-free access point to Europe’s 500 million consumers. Ireland is an ideal place for Thai companies looking for an English-speaking gateway in which to do business,
- The top 10 pharma companies of the world
- The top 15 software companies
- 10 of the top 10 born-on-the-internet companies
- Top 5 worldwide security software companies
- 8 of the top 10 industrial automation companies
- 17 of the top 20 global banks
- 11 of the 15 global insurers
- 14 of the top 15 global medical devices companies
- 19 of the top 25 financial services firms
- Over 40% of all commercial leased aircraft are leased/managed out of Ireland
Increasingly, Ireland is attracting companies from the Asia Pacific region who are using Ireland as a cost-effective base to do business in Europe. Regional giants from Asia Pacific such as Huawei, Tata,
Looking to the future, I would like to see Ireland continuing to deepen our relationship with Thailand even further in the areas of Education, Aviation, Fintech, Food and other sectors in which Ireland and Thailand can forge strong economic links. There is also significant potential to grow our respective tourism numbers. There are increasing numbers of Irish and Thai visitors travelling to experience the vibrant cultures and landscapes our countries have to offer. In 2017 Ireland welcomed over 9 million visitors from all around the world to our beautiful shores – a record number. Whether you want an exciting outdoor adventure, a luxury food experience, an itinerary packed with history and culture, or simply to relax, enjoy the fresh air and take in the stunning landscapes, Ireland has something for everyone. I know that over 72,000 Irish people visited Thailand in 2017 and that visitor numbers from Thailand to Ireland have been increasing in recent years. It is my hope that more and more Thai people will choose to visit Ireland in the future and allow us to extend our“hundred thousand welcomes” as Thailand shares its famous Thai kindness and warmth with Irish people here in the“Land of Smiles.”
Have you been travelling around
We have done some travelling around Thailand but plan to do much more. So far, I have been to Hua Hin, Khon Kaen, Phuket, Pattaya and Udon Thani. All parts of Thailand are unique and incredibly beautiful in their own way. One location which particularly stays in my mind is Phi Phi Island which we first visited some ten years ago now but which is most definitely on our list to see again!
When you have a day off, what do you prefer to do? Do you have any special hobbies?
I am interested in all sport but more particularly horse racing and golf. Thailand, again like Ireland, has an incredible golf offering. Ireland has world-class courses in some of the most spectacular locations on the planet. We host a quarter of the world’s natural links courses and some of the world’s best golfers hail from our fair isle, including Rory McIlroy, Darren Clarke, Graeme McDowell, Paul McGinley and Padraig Harrington. I certainly don’t come anywhere near playing as well as the aforementioned but try to make time to play golf over most weekends on Thailand’s endless variety of magnificent golf courses. We enjoy eating out in Bangkok
How many of your countryfolk are living in Thailand? When and why did Thailand become a desirable destination for your people? Do you regularly meet up with your community? What else would you like the expat community to know about your efforts?
For centuries, Irish people have travelled across the globe and made their homes in all countries around the world. Currently there are over 850,000 people, born in Ireland, who now live
Your annual celebration of St Patrick’s Day on the 15th March at the Eastin Hotel was a great success this year enjoyed by your countryfolk, many foreign Ambassadors and VIPs.
Yes, thank you we were particularly pleased that this year an Irish Minister for the first time attended our National Day celebration in Thailand. Minister of State Patrick O’Donovan, T.D., presided at our National Day festivities. We were also very pleased to welcome the attendance of the Minister of Education, H.E. Dr Teerakiat Jareonsettasin and Vice Minister of Tourism and Sports, Lieutenant Commander Worawit Techasupakura as well as many leaders of the Thai business world.
If you could choose your next destination, where would you like to go?
I have been fortunate to have had the opportunity to travel all over the world. I have visited every continent and seen many beautiful and exotic locations. Thailand is most certainly on a par with the best destinations and with its unique beauty, charm and warmth is an incredible location to visit and to live in. However, without a doubt, the best country in the world and my favourite destination by far is Ireland!