The government’s decision stems from a gradual recognition that it needed the same strong ties with the Irish citizens and Irish-Americans living in the Southeast that it already has with those living in the Northeast, Mr. Conboy said.
The consulate’s potential economic impact and goals are still unclear.
Mr. Conboy said IDA Ireland, the Irish government agency that seeks to attract inbound investment in the country, already has an office in Atlanta.
Ireland, a country of a little more than 4 million people, ranked fourth in terms of Georgia's imports in 2005. That year, the state imported $2.1 billion in goods from Ireland through the Savannah customs district while exporting only $238 million in goods to the country.
The consulate could focus on boosting Ireland’s exports to the Southeast and promoting tourism links, Mr. Conboy said.
Ms. Hanafin seemed interested in the latter as she plugged the country’s charms as a vacation destination.
She said that there are 192 flights from the U.S. to Ireland every week and that the internationally popular “Lonely Planet” travel guidebooks rated the country the friendliest in the world.
Ms. Hanafin will visit Georgia Gov. Sonny Perdue this afternoon. Mr. Perdue hosted Irish president Mary McAleese in Georgia in 2007 and traveled to Ireland on a trade mission later that year.
Ireland currently has consulates general in Boston, Chicago, New York, San Francisco and Washington.
With reporting by Wade Caldwell and Phil Bolton.