Opinion: The case for an Irish consulate in Montreal

Published Date: March 14th, 2024

Author: ICCC Montreal Office

Published in The Montreal Gazette, March 14, 2024 

In the run-up to St. Patrick’s Day, ICCC president Ruth Hanna and Vice-President Vivian Doyle-Kelly presented the case for an Irish consulate in Montreal.

Montrealers may notice the Irish flag flying even more proudly than usual next to the shamrock of the City of Montreal’s flag this Saint Patrick’s week: Ireland’s deputy prime minister is in town.

Only one dark cloud hovers: Tánaiste Micheál Martin will not be seeing the Irish flag fly over a consulate in this, the city of early Irish settlement, famine graves, and prolific integration. None yet exists, despite the ongoing efforts of the Ireland-Canada Chamber of Commerce – Montreal.

We urge Quebecers to rally behind us to show Tánaiste Martin and the wider Irish government how much we in Quebec want to advance our Irish relations, not only on Saint Patrick’s Day but throughout the year.

Why an Irish consulate general in Montreal? The reasons are compelling:

The Irish presence in Quebec is significant and long-standing as exemplified by Montreal’s St. Patrick’s parade, the oldest in Canada. In all, 446,215 Quebecers identify as Irish, according to the 2016 Canadian census. That’s 5.46 per cent of the population. More than 40 per cent of Quebecers have Irish ancestry. Montreal hosts a raft of active and dynamic Irish associations whose ranks have recently been swelled by the growing numbers of Irish immigrants and businesses who choose Montreal as home.

An Irish consulate in Montreal would provide essential services to Quebecers and Irish alike. It would issue passports, including to dual citizens, provide emergency assistance and help with legal and administrative matters. It is essential that all these services be provided also in French, in the distinct society that is Quebec.

Importantly, an Irish consulate in Montreal would serve as a tailwind for trade and economic relations between Quebec and Irish businesses, and for economic exchanges. Irish companies such as CRH and Keywords Studios have already set up shop in Montreal, while Quebec companies CGI and Couche-Tard have expanded into Ireland.

Irish economist Jim Power makes a clear case for strong bilateral growth opportunities. He states there is “significant potential to grow the economic and business relationship between Canada and Ireland over the coming years, provided the conditions are right.” Let’s make sure the conditions are right in Quebec.

The absence of Irish representation in Quebec presupposes that Canada is a single economic and political unit. It ignores Quebec’s unique strategic role — half of Canada’s last 10 prime ministers hail from Quebec — and its devolved powers with regard to taxation, language, immigration, environment and public pensions, among others.

The lack of permanent Irish government representation results in Irish and Quebec companies flying under each other’s investment radars. Despite the presence of state agency Enterprise Ireland, Montreal is often bypassed by Irish government visits and trade missions as the result of its persistent official underrepresentation.

When, as former president of the Ireland Canada Chamber of Commerce – Montreal, Vivian Doyle-Kelly, presented a case for an Irish consulate in Montreal to the joint committee of parliament in Ireland, the Oireachtas Éireann, last June, he underscored the enormity of Ireland’s oversight: “For Ireland to have trade and diplomatic missions in Canada but not in Quebec would be like setting up in the United States but ignoring New York or Chicago.”An Irish consulate in Montreal is advantageous to Quebecers. It is advantageous to Quebec businesses looking to set up in Europe. It is advantageous to Irish businesses looking to expand into North America. It would cement the economic and cultural relationship that has existed between Ireland and Quebec for centuries.A call, then, to Irish citizens living in Quebec, to Québécois of Irish descent and to all who join us in joyous St. Patrick Day celebrations year after year: Support our campaign to have an Irish consulate in Montreal.

Read the Op-Ed online, on the Montreal Gazette website.