New Zealand’s deputy prime minister has said that opening an embassy in Dublin was one of the first decisions his government made after Brexit.
Winston Peters, who is also the minister for foreign affairs, officially opened the first New Zealand embassy in Ireland on Monday.
Speaking to the media, he said that as the UK leaves the EU, Ireland and New Zealand could enjoy a more mutually beneficial relationship.
“The moment the Brexit decision happened on the 23 June 2016, it became very clear that we would have to, with respect to Ireland, set up an embassy here,” he said.
“It was one of the first decisions we made, and we could no longer think of carrying out the service from London, which had been going on in the past, that’s why we made the decision.
“We can be of assistance to the Irish in the Pacific and elsewhere, and we know the Irish can be a big help to us where the European Union is concerned, so if we both put our best foot forward we can deepen our relationship and mutually get more out of it.
“Brexit is a slow process, which won’t be over until March of next year, so in a way we’re getting ready early.”
The other reasons listed by New Zealand officials for the move to Dublin included Ireland’s growing economy, the influx of New Zealand immigrants into Ireland and historic ties between the nations – roughly one in six New Zealanders have Irish ancestry.
“This will have a lot of ramifications, we need to have a close relationship with Ireland and vice versa,” Mr Peters added.
“Ireland is stretching its reach off shore, it has always been a country that has seriously understood the importance of domestic and diplomatic relations.”
During the official opening ceremony, Mr Peters said: “We’ve been big fans of the Irish for a long time, and we have a similar sense of justified defiance, so I think we’ll get along just fine.”
The opening ceremony, which saw Maori cultural group Ngati Raukawa perform a traditional blessing ritual, was attended by the New Zealand ambassador to Ireland, Brad Burgess, as well as new local and seconded staff who will work in the embassy.
The group, dressed in traditional Maori costume, toured the offices blessing each room and singing, before performing religious hymn How Great Thou Art in Te Reo, the native Maori language.
Shortly after New Zealand announced last year that it would open the embassy, Irish President Michael D Higgins announced Ireland would likewise open an embassy in New Zealand.
According to a statement released by the president’s office, “the decision to establish an embassy reflects an exceptionally close partnership between Ireland and New Zealand in international affairs, including at the United Nations”.