PROVIDENCE, R.I. — Irish Prime Minister Enda Kenny visited the city Wednesday, saying he planned the trip to reflect on the “exceptionally deep and personal” relationship between Ireland and Rhode Island.
Kenny was in New York City on Tuesday for the U.N. Climate Summit, where world leaders gathered to discuss how to combat global warming. He arrived by train Wednesday in Providence in his only other U.S. stop, Governor Chafee said.
The visit was billed as a time for Ireland and Rhode Island to explore business and tourism opportunities. It follows Chafee’s visit to Ireland on a trade mission in May, which was described in a similar fashion.
“I see enormous opportunity both ways here. This is the start of a process of engagement of deeper links [with] the United States and Rhode Island,” Kenny said during a reception at the State House.
Nearly a dozen business leaders from Rhode Island and Ireland were introduced during the event, though no specific plans for businesses to locate in Rhode Island were discussed.
Chafee’s May trip came after the Dublin-based Greencore Group, a company described as the world’s largest sandwich maker, announced plans to build a $33-million plant at the Quonset Business Park that is expected to bring just fewer than 400 jobs to Rhode Island next spring.
On Monday, Chafee said the visit demonstrated that Ireland and Rhode Island “continue to have a collaborative economic relationship and most of all, a friendship.”
The only concrete idea floated Wednesday came as Chafee noted that officials are exploring the possibility of adding flights between T.F. Green and Ireland’s Shannon Airport. Those same discussions were also noted when Chafee traveled to Ireland earlier this year.
The State House reception was attended by dozens of officials, including state legislators, local leaders and candidates for office. The state’s congressional delegation was also present.
U.S. Sen. Jack Reed said a “historic relationship” exists between Rhode Island and Ireland and noted that “so many Rhode Islanders are so proud to claim Irish heritage.”
“We have our shared values and traditions,” Reed said. “As my mother often said, ‘You can’t be Irish without suffering.’”
Kenny also visited the Rhode Island Irish Famine Memorial in Providence on Wednesday.