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"I'll be wearing green," Irish Ambassador says

The first Ambassador of Ireland to Samoa, Peter Ryan, is keen to build and strengthen the relationship between his nation and Samoa.

But he might have to wait until Monday to begin, since the two nations will lock horns in fierce battle on the rugby field on Saturday night at the Rugby World Cup. There will be no quarters given and none taken. Both teams are desperate for a win. 

For Mr. Ryan, he will be in enemy territory, likely to be wearing green and watching the game in Samoa.

The new Ambassador presented his credentials to the Head of State, His Highness Tuimalealiifano Vaaletoa Sualauvi II, on Thursday.

Sitting down with the Samoa Observer, the Ambassador said he plans to join some Marist Rugby supporters to watch the game.

“My wish is that we see an absolutely cracker and a tri-fest. I am a bit worried about the weather like a lot of other people, with a typhoon coming through,” he said.

“The one thing you can be absolutely sure of, the Irish supporters know how to enjoy themselves. We enjoyed ourselves when we lost to Japan, I think the Japanese were kind of stunned. We partied like it’s 1999 or whatever that song is, when we get together we enjoy ourselves.”

That is something Samoa and Ireland have in common, he said. Plus, he hopes Samoan born Irish player Bundee Aki will “do the business for us.”

“We’re lucky to have him.”

The Republic of Ireland, a country of 4.9 million people, is undergoing a diplomatic expansion. Under its Global Ireland strategy, the nation intends to double its footprint by 2025. Mr. Ryan calls it a “defining moment” in the nation’s history.

It has begun with New Zealand, sending Mr. Ryan in August 2018 to take up the first resident representative position in Wellington in 90 years of diplomacy. New Zealand, and also Canberra will be the points from which Ireland “services” the Pacific, he said.

As an island country, and one smaller than its neighbours, Ireland shares an affinity with small island developing states (S.I.D.S) and is a member of the S.I.D.S grouping and the chair of the S.A.M.O.A Pathway, the development strategy for all members.

Ireland’s increased presence in the pacific and specifically in Samoa is “overdue,” Mr. Ryan said.

He admitted Britain leaving the European Union and embarking on its own ‘Pacific Uplift,’ may have spurred Ireland to reach out as well.

“It certainly might have been an influence in part, and also it’s something that is overdue,” Mr. Ryan said.

“We have a lot of catching up to do. We don’t have the footprint that we would have liked and I think if we want to play a role on the world stage and we want to really make a contribution to other people in the world then we need to have that level of engagement.  

“If we are not here, we don’t hear those voices to the same extent we would like to.”

Mr. Ryan said Ireland’s place in the European Union and on the world stage is an important one for the small islands.

“It’s very natural for us to want to work in partnership with small island nations to see what we can learn and what we can do to support one another,” he said.

“A small country like Ireland, an English speaking country under common law that has a shared history with a lot of islands around the world, is at the decision making table with the European Union, the largest market in the world, a key global player in climate change negotiations. 

“That is the role Ireland plays today.”

The country has devised a national strategy specifically aimed at S.I.D.S, which outlines commitments to collaboration on oceans, development, trade, and a boost of money towards climate and disaster resilience.

Mr. Ryan said climate change is a major national issue for young Irish people, who are concerned with not only what is happening on their own soil but aboard too.

“Young people in Ireland feel just as connected to what is going on out here as they do to what is going on in their own place and you don’t have to be seeing the impact of climate change in your own country to understand its importance.”

Ireland itself, though enthusiastic, is struggling to meet its own 2020 carbon emission cutting targets. Its large agriculture sector is a major contributing factor, Mr. Ryan said.

He believes Ireland will continue to fund and focus on technological solutions to carbon emissions, as well as aim to reach the targets they have committed to.

According to the Climate Action Network, Ireland’s national energy and climate plan “does not demonstrate high ambition on energy savings and renewable energy, indicating a lack of focus in their actions for the next decade.”

Last year, the non-government organisation recommended Ireland end peat use in electricity generation by 2019, and coal use by 2025, and called on the country to join other E.U member states calling for increased, ambitious climate action.

The Irish Times reports the director of C.A.N Europe singled out Ireland among other lagging nations for its continued investment in fossil fuels and gas extraction until 2030 and beyond.

“E.U member states must see the writing on the wall and use the N.E.C.P’s (national energy and climate plans) as a tool to set out clear pathways to transition away from fossil fuels and scale up the development of energy efficiency and renewable energy in line with the Paris Agreement goals,” Wendel Trio said.

Other ways Mr. Ryan hopes to connect Samoa and Ireland is through cultural and economic ties. As a country that, like Samoa, sees most of its people living outside Ireland than in, the two can teach each other about diaspora engagement.

On a diplomatic level, it’s an ambassador’s priority to engage Irish diaspora of all shapes and sizes wherever their missions are. And inside Ireland, a dedicated Minister for Diaspora and in April launched public consultation on a new diaspora policy as part of the Global Ireland Strategy.

“We are lucky we can connect with people,” Mr. Ryan said.

“It’s in our D.N.A to find each other. We find commonality when we meet people.

“We try to be as inclusive as possible around and I think there are definitely lessons around that. Entry is not restricted to people solely of a certain level of heritage or blood line or whatever it is, certainly language is not a barrier, the date you left your home country is not a barrier.”

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