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Signing Ceremony of MOU on Intern Work and Travel Pilot Program

John D. Negroponte, Deputy Secretary of State
Micheál Martin, Minister of Foreign Affairs for Ireland
Treaty Room
Washington, DC
September 24, 2008

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DEPUTY ASSISTANT GRAFFY: My name is Colleen Graffy and I am the Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for Public Diplomacy in the Bureau of European and Eurasian Affairs.

The Deputy Secretary of State John Negroponte and the Foreign Minister of Ireland Micheál Martin are signing today the memorandum of understanding between the governments of the United States of America and the Government of Ireland on a 12-month Intern Work and Travel Pilot Program. This agreement expresses the intention of our two governments to promote closer cooperative relations between our two countries and is in recognition of the close links that have existed between our two peoples.

With this agreement, the U.S. and Irish governments are significantly expanding mutual understanding between the people of the United States and the people of Ireland by expanding exchange opportunities for citizens to experience the culture and the way of life in each other’s countries.

Gentlemen, if you could please sign each of the copies of the memorandum of understanding.

(The memorandum was signed.)

Please, welcome the Deputy Secretary. (Applause.)

DEPUTY SECRETARY NEGROPONTE: I want to thank you all for being here today. And I particularly want to thank Foreign Minister Martin for his visit. We just concluded a very productive meeting where we discussed a wide range of topics. The United States truly appreciates the strong partnership that we enjoy with Ireland, and we look forward to building greater cooperation on a number of fronts in the future.

And in the spirit of promoting closer cooperation, our two governments have now agreed to expand the exchange opportunities offered to both nation’s citizens. These exchanges enable our citizens an opportunity to broaden their cultural horizons and gain insight into the other country’s way of life. The new agreement, which we just signed, will follow in that tradition, allowing young people from both of our countries to experience new and interesting things.

Today’s signing is designed to cultivate further mutual understanding between the people of the United States and Ireland. Participants in this pilot program will be able to seek internship opportunities that follow their educational interests while, at the same time, permitting them to travel.

Starting in the next few months, the United States and Ireland will begin to implement a 12-month intern work and travel pilot program for post-secondary students or recent graduates. Details and prerequisites will soon be available at the United States Embassy in Dublin and the Embassy of Ireland in Washington, D.C. And by enacting this new agreement, we hope to expand the international work and travel experience for those who may not otherwise have had the opportunity. It is a win-win situation for all of us.

And again, I want to say how delighted we are, Foreign Minister Martin, to welcome you here in Washington today. Thank you very much. (Applause.)

FOREIGN MINISTER MARTIN: Deputy Secretary of State Negroponte, and ladies and gentlemen, may I first of all say that I’m particularly pleased to be here this afternoon and I thank you for you very warm hospitality.

Indeed, the relationship between Ireland and the United States has rightly been celebrated for its depth, diversity, and endurance. And the flow of all people to America over several centuries has ensured that our two countries are bound inextricably by a common kinship and sense of identity. And today that enduring bond between our two peoples remains the bedrock of our relationship.

Fortunately, emigration from Ireland has decreased dramatically over the past decade. Indeed, in recent years, thousands of Irish people have returned to Ireland from the United States and elsewhere to take advantage of the new economic opportunities. And we’ve now become a country of mass inward migration for the first time since the famine of the last – of the 19th century.

In this changed context, it’s essential, however, that we invest in the future strength of our relationship by creating new opportunities for Irish people and Americans to work and travel in each other’s country. And I’m delighted, therefore, that following months of negotiations that we have reached an agreement on a new working holiday program. This agreement will enable Irish citizens who are in, or have recently completed post-secondary education, to work and travel in the U.S. for up to 12 months. And I’m pleased to say that we in Ireland also look forward to welcoming thousands of Americans to our shores under the terms of this program.

Today’s agreement is a significant development in our visa arrangements with the United States in almost two decades. By working and traveling for an extended period in our two countries, our young people will be long-term connections, which will help to maintain and enhance our historic bilateral relationship.

Before concluding, I would like to thank President Bush, Secretary of State Rice, Deputy Secretary Negroponte, and all of your officials for their very supportive engagement in this process, and particularly Stanley Calvin and, of course, Colleen Graffy. And with a name like Colleen, we knew we were on the home straight from – almost from the beginning. (Laughter.) But your work was greatly appreciated and the time the effort that was put in. And I know that President Bush has (inaudible) very positively last March with our former Taoiseach Bertie Ahern. I also want to pay a very warm tribute to U.S. Ambassador Thomas Foley, who worked hard on this particular project, and his colleagues at the Embassy in Dublin for their very helpful contribution, and indeed to our Ambassador Michael Collins in Washington, who worked extremely hard on this as well. Our own government and (inaudible) Brian (inaudible) sends his best wishes. He’s on his way to New York. He’s very pleased with the outcome of the negotiations.

We are confident that this agreement will successfully attract thousands of participants. And we would strongly urge all those who may be eligible to consider applying. The opportunity to work and travel in Ireland, or indeed, in the United States, holds the promise of an experience that will long be remembered by all who participate. This agreement provides that opportunity. It is good for our citizens, good for our two countries, and good for our relationship.

Thank you very much, indeed. (Applause.)


Released on September 24, 2008

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