The Irish Presence

The Irish Presence in Miami, interview with Sarah Kavanagh, the Consul General of Ireland in Miami

Sarah Kavanagh, the Consul General of Ireland in Miami, began her posting in October 2022. Before that, she was deputy director of the human rights unit of the Department of Foreign Affairs in Dublin. She previously worked as Special Adviser to Ireland’s Minister for Justice and Equality and earlier, to the Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade. She holds a barrister-at-law degree as well as master’s degrees in politics and in political communication.

Why did Ireland open a consulate in Miami in 2022?

In 2018, the Irish government adopted a new foreign policy called “Global Ireland 2025,” which committed to doubling our diplomatic impact. And when we analyzed our presence in the U.S., Miami emerged as an obvious choice for growth due to the scale of our bilateral trade, valued at $5.8 billion last year, and the size and importance of Florida in population and its economy. With the opening of our consulate in Miami, we have eight consulates in the U.S., led by our embassy in Washington DC.

What has most surprised you about your post in Miami?

I’m surprised by the degree that Miami is Latin and Caribbean. Before I came, I was very aware of the Cuban community in Miami but hadn’t realized there were huge Haitian, Venezuelan, Nicaraguan, and Brazilian communities, and so many others. You really feel the gravitational pull of Latin America and the Caribbean here. I feel lucky to have what I consider a dual post, with one foot in the USA and one in Latin America/Caribbean.

Where do you see the greatest potential to enhance the business and trade relationship between Ireland and Miami?

Ireland is actually the No. 8 foreign direct investor in Florida and had nearly $6 billion in bilateral trade with Florida last year. So, there’s a strong base to build on. [Irish airline] Aer Lingus now links Orlando-Dublin year-round and Miami-Dublin half the year, and that connectivity can help build closer ties.

I see huge potential to build understanding in both locations in terms of what we have to offer one another. Ireland is home to hundreds of U.S. multinationals, and we’ve refined our offering in terms of meeting their needs as well as providing access to the European Union market of 440 million people. Likewise, Miami has become an important bridge to Latin America/Caribbean as well as being a major city in an important U.S. state. So, there’s greater potential to build awareness for partnerships, and I’m working with Irish and Floridian economic agencies to try to do that.

Next year, the [Florida State University] Seminoles will open their 2024 season playing Georgia Tech in Dublin on August 24, and around 20,000 fans are expected to travel. I think that will be a big boost to deepening relations.

What are your priorities as Consul General in Miami?

My first priority is to ensure the consulate is fully operational, and that means providing services to the thousands of Irish citizens who visit Florida annually and may need consular care. It also means supporting Ireland’s economic agencies and their activities in the region; building connections that can help build bilateral trade, education, and innovation links; strengthening political links; promoting Irish culture; and connecting with our Irish diaspora, which is estimated to be around 1.8 million people in Florida.

Have you found any misconceptions about Ireland in Miami?

Many people think of Ireland as Guinness and whiskey, but Ireland is multi-faceted. In recent decades, we’ve transformed into a modern, progressive, and innovative country, with a highly-educated young population and a hunger to travel, do business, and connect. It’s not the Ireland of 50 or 100 years ago, and I urge people to come visit and find out for themselves.

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