The President represents all the people of Ireland, both at home and abroad.
The President plays an active role in promoting Ireland's image and role in the international arena. He or she makes State Visits abroad and receives other Heads of State on visits to Ireland at the official residence, Áras an Uachtaráin.
State and Official visits
State visits, which occur at the formal invitation of another Head of State, express the quality of relations between Ireland and the host country and provide an opportunity for enhanced cooperation between the two states.
Although Ireland has a permanent international presence through its network of embassies abroad, personal encounters between Heads of State continue to hold a special significance in deepening bilateral relations between states.
When the President makes a State Visit, he is often accompanied by Government representatives as well as representatives of Ireland’s business, academic and cultural communities.
Foreign Heads of State are invited on a State Visit by the President of Ireland. They receive a ceremonial welcome at Áras an Uachtaráin, including the playing of the national anthems of the two nations, a review of the guard of honour, and full military honours that include a 21-gun salute and a fly-past by the Air Corps. A state luncheon or dinner is also held in honour of the visiting Head of State.
Heads of State are invited to plant a tree at Áras an Uachtaráin. The tradition of planting ceremonial trees in the grounds of Áras an Uachtaráin began in September 1853, when Queen Victoria planted the first of three trees. The tradition was continued after Ireland's independence, and the first tree planted by a President of Ireland was planted in 1939 by President Douglas Hyde. Since then all Presidents of Ireland have planted ceremonial trees and visiting Heads of State have also been asked to plant trees.
The President also makes Official Visits abroad which generally involve less formal engagement with the host authorities.
Official Visits refer to a visit by high-ranking officials (Ministers, Heads of Government or Heads of State), who are invited to visit by the host Government. At Official Visits, ceremonial honours are given if the visiting official is the Head of Government or the Head of State, but not for cabinet-rank officials. With Official Visits, the host country is not required to provide a luncheon or dinner.
The worldwide Irish community
“It is my wish to be a President for all of the Irish at home and abroad. We Irish have been a diasporic people for a great part of our history. The circumstances that have impelled – and that continue to impel – many citizens to seek employment and a better life elsewhere, are not ordained by some mysterious hand of fate. They challenge our capacity to create a sustainable and prosperous economy and an inspiring model of the good society. We, in our time, must address the real circumstances that generate involuntary emigration, and resolve that in the years ahead we will strive with all our energy and intellect, with mind and heart to create an Ireland which our young people do not feel they have to leave and to which our emigrants, or their children, may wish, in time, to return to work and live in dignity and prosperity. I invite all of the Irish, wherever they may be across the world, to become involved with us in that task of remaking our economy and society.”
Inaugural address, 11 November 2011
Through state and official visits and his ongoing outreach to the Diaspora, President Higgins wishes to engage with Irish people worldwide throughout his Presidency. He is encouraging Irish people everywhere to contribute to his Presidency Seminars.
Appointment of Irish Ambassadors
Irish Embassies and Consulates represent Ireland in many countries around the world. On the recommendation of the Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade, the Government formally nominates Ambassadors to be appointed by the President. These appointments are made once the President signs the necessary letter of credence in respect of the nominated Ambassador.
The Irish Ambassador then presents his/her credentials to the Head of State of the receiving state, which allows the new Ambassador to begin work in that country.
Accreditation of Foreign Ambassadors
When another country wishes to appoint a new Ambassador to Ireland the Government must agree to that appointment. An accreditation ceremony subsequently takes places at Áras an Uachtaráin.
The Ambassador-designate is greeted on arrival at Áras an Uachtaráin and invited to sign the visitors book. The Ambassador-designate then proceeds to the State Reception room, where he/she formally presents a letter of credence to the President of Ireland.
The formal exchanges of greetings between the new Ambassador and the President gives them the opportunity to get to know one another and also to convey messages between the authorities of the respective states.
Following accreditation, the new Ambassador is escorted by the President to the main front door of Áras an Uachtaráin where he/she inspects a military guard of honour. The new Ambassador then departs Áras an Uachtaráin with a military escort.