Leo Varadkar, the first openly gay Prime Minister of Ireland has praised his country’s close ties with Seattle’s tech community. He pointed out tech giants Amazon and Microsoft as leading the way in what he described as a growth curve in the relationship between Washington state and Ireland.
In a tweet the prime minister was excited about the ties;
Beautiful setting of Chihuly Gardens for our business lunch. Strong Ireland-Seattle links: +800k people in Wash State claim Irish heritage pic.twitter.com/3QVod6RsD7
— Leo Varadkar (@campaignforleo) November 1, 2017
Speaking to GeekWire, the prime minister, who is the first first head of government in Ireland with Indian heritage, spoke of the ties that date back to 1985 when Microsoft opened a manufacturing facility in Ireland. He pointed out that Amazon, Microsoft, Tableau and other tech companies have invested billions of dollars in Ireland and he hoped that the growth in ties will be sustained. He singled out his government’s intervention in resolving planning issues that delayed setting up of data centers which are now running. He expressed the desire to have more data centers and an expansion of existing ones.
During the one-day visit to Seattle, Varadkar visited Amazon and Microsoft headquarters. He also made stopovers at Chihuly glass exhibit and Amazon’s 90-foot-tall Spheres.
The Irish government has been an ardent supporter of Microsoft and has in the past filed friend of the court briefs in Microsoft’s challenge to the U.S. Justice Department’s demands to access customer data on Microsoft’s servers, which are located in Ireland, in a drug trafficking case. The tech giant has contested the demands citing privacy concerns.
The prime minister spoke during a luncheon hosted by Irish Network Seattle. He told the audience that Ireland is at the heart of globalization and is a confident player with a liberal and progressive mindset. He emphasized the need to strengthen ties with cities and states that share common values with his country.
Making a bid to lure other companies, Varadkar said they were seeking new investors beyond the tech titans for the country’s growth plans.
Facebook and Amazon are expected to open new offices in Ireland next year while LinkedIn has already opened their European headquarters in the country. Amazon is also planning to spend $1 billion on building a data center north of Dublin. The data center will be a green project powered by renewable energy. A similar data center is earmarked by Apple in western Ireland. Varadkar will also meet Tim Cook, Apple’s CEO in California in what is his first U.S. visit as prime minister.