While celebrating Saint Patricks Day past Thursday, Dr. Sinead Walsh, Irish Ambassador to Sierra Leone, while making her statement said for almost ten years they have started full operations in the country; since 2005 to date, “Irish Aid has invested over €100m in Sierra Leone.”

In the embassy’s well decorated green, white and orange flag, and among diplomats and other dignitaries, Dr. Walsh said while mentioning achievements of the Irish Embassy in Sierra Leone, she disclosed that she will focus on four achievements which include the upgrading to a full embassy status in 2014 and are now providing consular services to Irish citizens and visa services to Sierra Leoneans.

Secondly, she said they built development cooperation programme and Sierra Leone “has been promoted to one of Irish Aid’s top priority countries worldwide…” this is due to the excellent relationship we have with Sierra the Leonean government and due also to the strong work of our partners.”

The third achievement Ambassador Walsh mentioned is the area of support by the Irish Government to Sierra Leone “Irish Aid has invested over €100m in Sierra Leone since 2005. Through this funding, along with policy engagement and technical support, we continue to focus on our main areas: nutrition, women and governance.”

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On the issue of prevention of teenage pregnancy, which she said is a area they are working on strongly, the Irish Ambassador disclosed that three Sierra Leonean children are born to other children “this trend has got to stop because the of the huge implications on maternal mortality as well as the opportunities being lost to the next generation of Sierra Leonean children.”

She said in the area of boosting these opportunities which is a key priority for Irish Aid over the past year has been “ensuring that pregnant girls remain in the educational system.” She went on to explain that together with their partners and the Ministry of Education “we are supporting 14,500 pregnant and lactating girls for formal education as well as health and counselling services.”

On education Dr. Walsh said they have the Irish Aid fellowship which was launched in 2013 and gives Sierra Leoneans the opportunity to pursue master’s degree in Ireland “we look forward to this fellowship programme becoming one of the strong pillars of the relationship between Ireland and Sierra Leone.”

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Speaking about the significance of the St. Patricks Day, Ambassador Sinead Walsh said 2016 is a very important years for Irish people as it marks the centenary of the 1916 Easter Rising “which was a crucial moment in Irelands movement towards independence.”

She said the Embassy in Sierra Leone could not celebrate last year because of the ebola and that celebration could also have been very important as they mark the ten years anniversary of the Irish government presence in Sierra Leone. But that Ireland has been in the country for a very long time in the presence of the St Joseph’s of Cluny congregation and these Sisters have “been making huge contributions to the education sector.”

Dr. Samura Kamara, Minister of Foreign Affairs, in response said the relationship between Sierra Leone and Ireland transcends beyond the establishment of an Irish Mission in the country as they have been present here for over 150 years and that this relationship has been cordial deep and mutually beneficial. Adding that Ireland’s Policy for International Development marked Sierra Leone “as one out of nine key partner countries and the first in West Africa. This policy has provided support for our recovery efforts for successful transition.”

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He said Ireland demonstrated its commitment to deepen the level of cooperation with the country by upgrading the Freetown mission to a full Embassy status with a resident Ambassador. “Our government will continue to explore the possibility of reciprocating by opening an Embassy in Ireland to enable Sierra Leone to deepen the relationship between the two countries, in particular, economic and cultural cooperation.”

Dr. Samura Kamara stated that while the occasion calls for celebration, “it also provides us the opportunity for reflection, a time to look back and take stock of remaining challenges. We continue in our endeavour to understand our national principles and objectives and apply them in relation with others.”