First Minister, Carwyn Jones, has reaffirmed Wales’s commitment to boosting economic links with Ireland by revealing that the Welsh Government is to establish a full-time presence in the country.

In a statement to Assembly Members, the First Minister outlined the progress made during his recent visit to Ireland and confirmed a dedicated Welsh Government official will be based alongside the UK Trade & Investment team based in Dublin, with a focus on building business links between the two countries.

Ireland is Wales’s second largest exports market with the latest figures showing that £1,532 million worth of goods over the year went to Ireland from Wales. There are 50 Irish-owned enterprises active in Wales, who employ 2,600 people.

“I visited the Republic of Ireland on the 24th and 25th of January to promote Wales as a location for investment and Welsh businesses as partners for trade,” the First Minister said.

“Ireland is Wales’s only direct neighbour outside the UK and our second largest export market.  Relations between our two countries are deep, long-standing and in excellent shape.

“While in Dublin I addressed the British-Irish Chamber of Commerce and used the opportunity to emphasise the attractions of business opportunity in Wales.  I also met several companies interested in exploring potential investment plans in Wales. I can also announce my intention that the Welsh Government will deploy an official in Dublin to work alongside colleagues in UK Trade & Investment on business links between the two countries.  Both countries benefit significantly from mutual economic ties and now is the time to redouble our efforts to maximise any opportunities.

“Ireland is a valued friend to Wales as well as a hugely important trading partner.  Our close relationship is reflected in many levels of society and I look forward to Wales-Ireland co-operation going from strength to strength in the years ahead.”

The First Minister also commented on his meeting with the President of Ireland at his official residence in Phoenix Park.

“President Higgins is a friend of Wales and has visited the country many times,” he said.

“As a poet himself, and a former Minister of Culture, he has an impressive knowledge of our literature and wider culture.  I informed the President of our plans to celebrate the centenary of Dylan Thomas’ birth during 2014 and invited him to play a personal part in those celebrations.  I will be following up this invitation more formally in the weeks ahead.”