The Dutch Royal Visit to Ireland: A Reflection by Ambassador Kevin Kelly

19 June, 2019

Dear INBA members, 

I have returned to The Hague after what was a most successful visit last week to Ireland by their Majesties, King Willem-Alexander and Queen Máxima. It was the first Dutch State Visit to Ireland since the visit by then Queen Beatrix in 1990 and was therefore greatly anticipated by both countries. The three-day programme included visits to Dublin and Cork and started with all of the ceremonial aspects that one expects from a State Visit: An official greeting by President Michael D. Higgins and his wife Sabina, a wreath laying ceremony at the Garden of Remembrance and meetings with Taoiseach Leo Varadkar, several Government Ministers and Members of Parliament and the Speakers of both Dáil Éireann and the Seanad. Apart from the political aspects of the programme, the visit featured many economic sectors in which Ireland and The Netherlands collaborate, including IT, sustainable agriculture, efficient transport, and maritime infrastructure.

In Dublin King Willem-Alexander and Queen Máxima were guests of a state banquet where the King reaffirmed that The Netherlands stands “side by side” with Ireland. President Higgins hailed the warm relations with the Netherlands, which is underpinned by “outward-looking foreign policy, human rights emphasis, economic and trade policies facilitate our ties, and our common European Union membership”, with both countries working closely together on an international stage.

President Higgins also highlighted the fact that more than 10,000 Irish citizens live in The Netherlands and contribute to close relations between the two countries, who have shared their passions for Irish culture, music and sport with those around the world while “serving as ambassadors for our country”.

Trade was very much at the forefront of the visit as The King and Queen also saw examples of Ireland’s booming IT economy when visiting Dogpatch Labs in the centre of Dublin’s ‘Silicon Docks’ IT hub, and visited Dublin’s Botanic Gardens to see the opportunities for further agricultural cooperation.

Throughout the visit, I had the pleasure of accompanying the royal delegation and seeing first-hand the strong interest in genuine cooperation that Irish and Dutch companies have with one another, and the many areas in which partnerships can be, or have been, created.

The value of trade between Ireland and The Netherlands is already over €35.4 billion per year, and I look forward to seeing these new partnerships blossom and contribute to increasing this figure in the near future.


One particular area where many improvements can be expected is port development and maritime infrastructure. A parallel economic mission focusing on these aspects was led by Sigrid Kaag, the Dutch Minister for International Trade and Development Cooperation. A large group of Dutch entrepreneurs and businesses came to Ireland to do business with the ports of Cork and Dublin.

When I travelled through the Port of Cork, I saw existing Irish and Dutch links everywhere I looked. Decades ago Dutch engineers used their significant expertise to help expand Cork Harbour by reclaiming lands from the sea, while that same harbour now uses Rotterdam’s technology to increase its output and efficiency.

Now, as the Port of Cork seeks to redevelop its docklands, relocate and expand, it signed a new agreement during the visit with the Port of Amsterdam. These two ports will now share expertise and experience that will in turn allow trading links between these cities to flourish.


On Thursday, Patrick O’Donovan, The Irish Minister of State for Finance, Public Expenditure and Reform and Stef Blok, the Dutch Minister for Foreign Affairs signed a new double taxation treaty between Ireland and The Netherlands, aimed at tackling tax avoidance and avoiding double taxation of income and capital gains tax. 

A busy week for all – but one which more than reaffirmed the friendship and ever closer relations between Ireland and The Netherlands – while also signalling the areas for future growth!

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