NEWLY minted American ambassador to Ireland Kevin O’Malley has paid a first official visit to Limerick and praised the “cultural offerings” of the region.
The diplomat, sworn into the position just five weeks ago in the place of Dan Rooney after an unprecedented 18 month vacancy, visited the Irish World Academy of Music and Dance in UL to mark the institutions’s 20th anniversary.
The visit began several days of celebrations through the Academy’s ‘Convocation’, which is taking place on campus over the weekend and in Dance Limerick in the city on Sunday.
Mr O’Malley met some of his compatriots studying in Academy and reserved praise for Limerick and the wider Mid-West region.
“The cultural offerings of central Ireland here, around Limerick, remind me a lot of the advantages of my own home in the US which is also in the Mid-West,” said the 31st Ambassador to Ireland, who hails from St. Louis, Missouri.
“There is so much opportunity here and the area has so much to offer that I think it is great.”
Mr O’Malley had special praise for the close relationship between Ireland and the US and made reference both to the student exchange between the countries, as well as immigrations issues affecting Irish in America.
“There is no doubt that the bond between the two countries is wonderful and we should do everything we can to nurture that bond, because it is the basis for a number of very good things,” he said.
“Simply the cultural exchanges are one, what I am seeing here, I met 20 students from the US that are studying music and dance here, that is a wonderful thing that is good for both countries.
“I think that the issue of visas is always a complex one and I have to admit that I have to look at all the implication of this a bit more closely.
“But I think that we are in favour of making sure that Irish citizens who want to study in the US, get the opportunity to do that and the individual regulations are something that I need to look at more carefully.”
Of further investment opportunities in the Limerick and wider region, Mr O’Malley said American companies were attracted to Ireland because of lifestyle reasons for employees as much as tax implications and made reference to the closing of the ‘double Irish’ tax loophole in the recent Budget.
“There is a great deal of American investment in Ireland in general, and I think that there is a great deal that the western part of Ireland has to offer to US companies,” he said, adding: “There are lifestyle choices.
“When tax policies are focused on creating real wealth and real jobs and real prosperity for real people, then companies are doing what they ought to. I think American companies understand that, I think Irish companies understand that, and I think the closing of tax laws and regulations that don’t promote that are a good thing.”