It was one of the most positive afternoons this journalist ever spent in Longford Town Council chambers last Thursday, when the local authority officially welcomed the Mexican Ambassador, Carlos Garcia de Alba to these shores.
No stranger to Longford in fact, Mr Garcia de Alba has been here on two other occasions and this time, not only did he extend the hand of friendship by inviting Longford town to consider a twinning programme with a town of similar size and population in Mexico, he also hinted at the possibility of securing direct investment from Mexico - not just into Longford, but right into the heart of this very disillusioned nation. What a difference that would make?
The Ambassador had spend the day in the company of Town Mayor, Cllr Peggy Nolan and visited St Christopher’s Services and the Cameron plant on the outskirts of Longford town. It was only when he was told at the plant that the company had in fact manufactured the equipment necessary to stop the devastating oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico in May 2010 - which was recorded as one of the worst environmental disasters in modern times – that the Mexican Ambassador realised the close ties that Longford and his native homeland held.
“Mexico is the twelfth largest country in the world and one of the richest,” Mr Garcia de Alba beamed. “There are 5,000 Irish people living in Mexico and there are now 2,000 Mexicans in Ireland. I think Ireland is a good place to do business and a good place for Mexican students, couples and professionals to live in.”
The Mexican Ambassador to Ireland went on to say that he was left “very impressed” by his visit to St Christopher’s Services in Longford town and pointed to placing the service that it provides on the international stage. “Longford needs to show the world what St Christopher’s does; it must be promoted,” he added. “It was an honour also to visit Cameron here in Longford town. Cameron is a prestigious world-wide American company and from Ireland it has exported devices not just to the Gulf of Mexico but to places all over the world. We are celebrating the twentieth anniversary of the Mexican Embassy in Ireland this week and when we came here initially, Albert Reynolds was the Taoiseach!”
The Ambassador then spoke about the great Mexican-American War in 1846/47 which wiped out thousands of Mexicans as well as a large contingent of Irish who sided with the Mexicans in the fight to prevent the Americans taking over the land. “Mexico lost 100,000 and half of our land and on September 13 each year we have a commemoration service to remember the Irish who fought with us,” Mr Garcia de Alba continued. “There has always been a friendship between our people and since 2006, there has been USA $1b trade between Ireland and Mexico. In Mexico if we like, we like and if we want, we want; We like what we see here and why are there no Mexican companies here? They don’t realise the potential that is here, nor the financial incentives that companies get to set up in Ireland. We are able to invest in Longford and in Ireland and we can create jobs.”
Shortly afterwards he indicated that it was his intention to start the initial stages in the twinning agreement between Longford town and that of its counterpart in Mexico, an initiative which the Leader understands will be clarified in early Spring.
What a difference a day makes!