Irish envoy to US: We’ll be welcoming you back soon: A chat at Greenhills with Daniel Mulhall

Ed Forry

Ireland’s Ambassador to the US Daniel Mulhall (2nd right) visited Dorchester’s Greenhills Bakery on Monday. Pictured are: Dermot Quinn, Bartley Collins, Cindy Quinn, Amb. Mulhall and Ireland Consul General Laoise Moore. Photo courtesy Boston Irish Consulate

After 20 months of severe restrictions due to Covid-19, the island of Ireland is getting ready to welcome tourists and other visitors back, Ireland’s top diplomat to America said this week.

In a wide-ranging exclusive interview with the Reporter on Monday morning at Dorchester’s Greenhills Bakery in Adams Corner, Ambassador Daniel Mulhall, who had just visited the nearby Irish Pastoral Centre offices, said he hoped that near normal tourism activity will resume soon. “I predict that by the summer of next year, we’ll be back to somewhere close to what we had in 2019,” he said over a ‘cuppa tea’ in the busy Irish bakery.

Told that Delta Airlines has announced that it will soon begin Boston flights to and from Dublin on weekdays, and that Aer Lingus expected to restore flights to Shannon as early as next May, the envoy said, “I don’t know the details because each airline would make up its own mind. You know, they have things to think about, the loads and so on. But what I’m hearing from travel agents and people in the tourism business is that the demand for Ireland next year is very high. And if the demand is high, supply will develop.

“A lot of these airlines have spare aircraft after all, because they haven’t really used them for a year and a half. So I don’t think there’s any shortage of aircraft, which means that I think as soon as there’s a market for these flights, the flights will resume.

“I encourage people who haven’t been there for two years to go next year, because I think the welcome for Americans will be even warmer than it has been in the past.”

Looking ahead to the new year, Mulhall was enthusiastic: “It’s going to be a bumper year,” he said. “And I think it would be great to be there because it’s the centenary of Irish independence, which is the big thing. I think we should also celebrate the contributions that Americans have made to the independence of Ireland.”

The ambassador has served in his current post in Washington DC for four years, after a forty-year career that includes a post as ambassador in London. “My biggest takeaway is how important the Irish continue to be in this country as part of America, but also as a support for Ireland. I am privileged to have had the opportunity over the last four years to travel all over this great country, especially here in Boston, and to meet so many people who have a deep affinity with Ireland. Even though they may be descended from people who came here generations ago, they still have Ireland in their hearts. And that is vastly important to Ireland.”

Mulhall sounded a cautionary note about the continuing dispute with UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson, saying he would rely on Ireland’s close ties with America.

“We do not underestimate the value of Irish American support for Ireland, including today, when there are issues surrounding the border on the island of Ireland, when sadly the British government seems to be, or at least is toying with the idea of, walking away from an agreement they made last year to keep the borders on the island of Ireland open.

“If they do that, it will create a genuine crisis. And we will be looking to Irish America to support us, to prevail upon their government and their Congress to make it clear that that open border on the island of Ireland is an absolute must to be retained.

“Congressman Richie Neal [D-Springfield] is the most important Irish American for me over the four years I’ve been here because he has been stalwart in his support for Ireland. And also because his knowledge of Northern Ireland is unbeatable. We are deeply indebted to Richie Neal and the other members of the Friends of Ireland in Congress for having stood behind Ireland, and for having made it very clear that they will not be happy if the British government walks away from the agreement they made last year to keep that open border.”