This week I have written to American Ambassador to Ireland Dan Rooney to press the case for US President Barack Obama using Shannon Airport when he visits Ireland in May.

The US President confirmed to An Toiseach Enda Kenny that he will visit Ireland towards the end of May on a state visit. While the final itinerary is not yet complete, I understand that the US President will spend time outside the main urban areas.

Shannon Airport is a well-recognised gateway to the West of Ireland providing first class access to the best tourist product on offer in Western Europe. The critical link which Shannon provides between the US and Ireland has allowed Irish – US relations to strengthen in terms of business, tourism and culture.

It would be a significant boost to County Clare and the Mid West Region if President Obama either flew into or out of Shannon Airport.

For decades Shannon Airport has been the main point of contact for visitors to and from Ireland and America, and indeed was the first European Airport to offer full US customs & boarder pre-clearance facilities. President Obama’s historic visit will
place Ireland centre stage in global terms for all the right reasons.

I want to congratulate our new Taoiseach Enda Kenny for the role that he played in securing this important visit. As An Taoiseach said in the White House, this visit represents a vote of confidence in Ireland, and presents us with a real opportunity to showcase what’s best about our Country on a world stage.

At a time when Ireland needs to continue to attract foreign direct investment, this visit by the US President will be of enormous benefit. The visit will give a massive shot in the arm to our tourist industry. With the visit of the President comes the attention of the world’s media. This is the kind of international advertising which money can’t buy. We have become accustomed to negative international press in relation to Ireland in recent years, yet President Obama’s visit will bring much needed positive commentary.

The news that the US President will visit is a vote of confidence in Ireland at a time when I believe there is renewed optimism in the air about the future of our country.