The Irish Network ATL was one of Mr. O'Brien's, (front, with suit) many stops in Atlanta. Photo: @IrelandAtlanta on Twitter

When Atlanta comes up as a destination for ministerial visits, Irish government officials must be jostling for a spot at the front of the line. 

The city hosted an unprecedented three government ministers — cabinet-level officials — from Ireland last year alone, and before that, the Irish Chamber of Atlanta’s St. Patrick’s Day breakfasts have attracted two sitting prime ministers and one minister of sport and tourism who would go on to become today’s leader: Prime Minister Leo Varadkar. 

This year’s honored guest, Darragh O’Brien, Irish minister of housing, local government and heritage, said many are clamoring to check in on Irish ties in the Southeast U.S.

“It’s specifically asked to come here to Atlanta,” Mr. O’Brien said during the chamber’s 2023 breakfast Tuesday. 

That’s partly due to Atlanta’s reputed warmth and hospitality, but also thanks to the solid, business-focused portfolio Ireland has built in this region, especially since Atlanta’s Consulate General of Ireland opened in 2010. 

“The sense of momentum in the Ireland-Georgia relations is really, really palpable,” Caoimhe Ni Chonchuir, the Irish consul general here, said during opening remarks the Capital City Club thanking the chamber and introducing the minister. 

Mr. O’Brien complemented the consulate’s team and said twice that his visit, a flurry of activity bookended by parades in Atlanta and Savannah, was a testament to the connections spanning varied array of topics, from longstanding familial ties to current-day tech partnerships. 

Events like those of St. Patrick’s week in Atlanta forge stronger relationships that should lead to even deeper business links, he said. 

“You do business with people that you know in the main and that you trust in the main as well, and that’s something I think that we share,” Mr. O’Brien said. 

The foundation with Georgia is strong, as Irish trade and investment supports about 8,000 jobs in the state, with employers like CRH Americas, Kerry Group and an array of tech firms making a significant impact. Atlanta players like Coca-Cola Co., Equifax, UPS, ClickDimensions, Elavon, Global Payments and others are among the more than 900 American firms operating in Ireland — a list that includes practically all of the largest tech and social media giants. 

The more than 1,700 multinational enterprises that have staked their ground in Ireland employed 301,000 people there last year, up from 170,000 a decade ago in a country with about half (5 million total) of Georgia’s population. Thirty Georgia-based firms employ 3,000 Irish citizens, according to Mark Leonard, a vice president for financial services in the Atlanta office of IDA Ireland, the inbound investment agency. 

As managing editor of Global Atlanta, Trevor has spent 15+ years reporting on Atlanta’s ties with the world. An avid traveler, he has undertaken trips to 30+ countries to uncover stories on the perils...