Ireland's brand-new government will jet across the globe for St. Patrick's Day in the hope of winning goodwill and new investment for the debt-struck nation, Irish Prime Minister Enda Kenny announced Thursday.
Kenny, who rose to power Wednesday, said he would meet U.S. President Barack Obama in the White House on March 17 for a now-annual ceremony of Irish-American solidarity. He said he also planned to meet Capitol Hill leaders and potential business investors during his two-day Washington trip.
But Kenny _ whose once-booming country is dependent on emergency funds from the European Union and International Monetary Fund _ stressed this will be the leanest, quickest St. Patrick's government tour staged in more than a decade.
"Rebuilding Ireland's reputation is at the core of the government's objectives for its first 100 days in office," said Kenny, 59, whose Fine Gael party triumphed in Ireland's Feb. 25 national elections.
"We will use the unique global platform that is St. Patrick's Day to give a clear message to the world that Ireland is open for business, that we have a bright future, and that a historic process of political and economic renewal has begun," he said. "We will do this ... in a way that ensures value for money."
Kenny noted that the politician he ousted as prime minister, Brian Cowen, last year sent 22 government ministers to 24 countries for St. Patrick's Day, some for more than a week, in an expensive junket out of tune with Ireland's rapidly unraveling finances.
Kenny said this time, only nine of Ireland's 15 Cabinet ministers would travel overseas, and to fewer places he identified as "top priorities for Irish trade, business and jobs."
Deputy Prime Minister Eamon Gilmore, who is also minister of foreign affairs and trade, will travel to New York City. Seven other ministers will meet political and business leaders in London, Paris, Rome, Berlin, New Delhi and Sydney.
Ireland's government began to mount major public-relations offensives every St. Patrick's Day in the mid-1990s as its Celtic Tiger economy purred to life.
The push gained impetus from then-U.S. President Bill Clinton, who pursued unprecedented American intervention in Ireland, both in brokering peace in Northern Ireland and in encouraging U.S. companies to establish bases on the island. Today, about 600 U.S. multinationals in Ireland underpin 5 percent of jobs and 20 percent of Ireland's gross domestic product.
In recent years the government has sent ministers to dozens of U.S. cities, particularly those with major Irish immigrant communities and St. Patrick's Day parades. This time, not even Boston is on the list.