We spend some time getting to know Owen Feeney, Ireland’s newly appointed Consul General to New South Wales.
Can you share a bit how you got started and what led to your appointment as the Consul General of Ireland to New South Wales?
I joined the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade on January 4th 2001. I had always been interested in travel, international affairs and different cultures and societies. Studying politics and working with a member of the European Parliament increased my interest. In almost twenty years in the Department, I have worked on EU Affairs and development cooperation, in communications and the office of a Government Minister. This is my third overseas assignment.
How important is the role of the Irish consulate in Australia, both historically and today?
Ireland and Australia will always be close given the long standing ties and the number of Irish who have made a home here. Our challenge as a Consulate is how do we go beyond this already impressive relationship and add even greater value. We are also constantly reviewing our practices, to ensure we provide the best possible consular services to the Irish community in New South Wales.
Before you came to Sydney you held appointments in France and in the Irish Prime Minister’s officer, what are the highlights of those roles?
Living in Paris for four years was quite a treat (but no Sydney!). We enjoyed getting to know the city and diving beneath the tourist surface. Plus the work was fascinating for a nerd like myself; analysing French foreign and European policies! Returning from Paris, it was great to have the opportunity to work with two very different Taoisigh on foreign relations and issues such as climate change.
What is your primary focus while here in Sydney?
In addition to maintaining the high quality of consular services provided by the Consulate to Irish residents and visitors, my key objective is to ensure Australians think of Ireland and all it has to offer, in terms of business, sport, the arts and a country to visit. We have a lot to offer, it’s just a matter of getting the message out there.
Please give us a bit of an overview of the Irish Consulate’s services and your responsibilities as Consul General
We strive to provide the best possible service to the Irish community in New South Wales, whether or not its passport renewals (which you can now do on-line) or other consular services. When we’re not doing that, we’re working with the trade agencies to open doors for Ireland, hosting events to raise Ireland’s profile or advancing bi-lateral cooperation through Ministerial or other high-level visits.
What are some of your favourite aspects of this job?
I love getting out and meeting people and making the connections that strengthen relations and the Irish community. It’s incredible how many Irish and friends of Ireland there are across New South Wales doing innovative things, often in senior positions. Very often it is just a matter of joining the dots.
How do you relax?
My husband would probably say ‘not well enough’. To switch-off I love getting out for a walk with our dogs, Luca and Jane, or having a pint with friends. I also find gardening and art great ways to tune out and use another part of my brain.
What was your first job?
One of my first jobs was selling t-shirts in Darling Harbour during the Sydney Olympics, while backpacking. Not in my wildest dreams did I think I’d be back as Consul General.
If you were to start your career over, what advice would you give yourself?
Have more confidence in yourself. Follow your interests and passions and you’ll succeed.
Finally, if you could invite three people to dinner who would they be and why?
Eileen Gray because I am a huge fan of this extraordinary Irish woman’s architecture and design and she was quite a character.
Josh Thomas because we gorged on all four seasons of Please Like Me before moving to Australia.
And finally, as a political nerd, I would include Prime Minister Morrison. Would make for lively dinner discussions!
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