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Politics Northwest

The Seattle Times political team explores national, state and local politics.

September 30, 2014 at 12:18 PM

Mayor Ed Murray visits Ireland to drum up business for Seattle

Seattle Mayor Ed Murray met with Ireland’s prime minister for at least a half-hour in Dublin on Monday, he said in a phone interview.

He and Prime Minister Enda Kenny discussed “American businesses in Ireland, Irish businesses in Seattle” and Kenny’s visit to Seattle last year to highlight a purchase of Boeing jets by Ryanair, the Irish airline, the mayor said.

Murray was scheduled to meet with Irish President Michael Higgins on Tuesday, the last day of his first official overseas trip as mayor. He left Seattle for the Emerald Isle last Wednesday and will begin a nine-day personal vacation this Wednesday.

A press release from his office last week said Murray would be spending $2,020.84 in city funds on his Ireland travel. But the mayor said Monday the press release was wrong. There will be no cost to the city because he and his husband, Seattle Parks Department official Michael Shiosaki, are covering all costs not paid for by the mayor’s Irish hosts, Murray said.

He kicked off his trip in Galway, a Seattle sister city. Murray, the first openly gay man elected mayor of a major United States city and a former state legislator who helped lead the push to legalize same-sex marriage in Washington,  met with Galway’s mayor and made a speech at the University of Galway about marriage equality.

Ireland has a national referendum on same-sex marriage in the works for next year.

In Dublin, Murray met with the American Chamber of Commerce in Ireland and with Irish business owners.

He chose Ireland for his first overseas trip partly because his grandparents emigrated from Ireland and partly because the country is an important trade partner for Washington and Seattle, he said.

Ireland is the state’s third-largest foreign consumer of service goods, such as software, Murray said.

“They aren’t in the Pacific Rim but because of Microsoft and Boeing and other companies such as Amazon, which is now the provider of one of the largest Irish bookstores online, we have a lot of connections,” he said.

Murray admitted he has so far been away from Seattle more than his predecessor, Mike McGinn. He has visited Washington D.C. several times and has also spent time in Boston and Jersey City, N.J.

But he said he has been traveling less than the Seattle mayors who preceded McGinn.

“I believe that the mayor of Seattle needs to be here, in China and Japan,” Murray said in the phone call from Ireland. “San Francisco has an entire office that deals with direct foreign investment from China. I don’t have a single employee that works on international business issues.”

“The Seattle-born mayor of San Francisco goes to China at least once a year, so one of the things I will do is I will be aggressively selling Seattle and Seattle businesses and trying to bring businesses to Seattle,” he added.

Boston Mayor Martin Walsh is also in Ireland this week and New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio earlier this year made his first official overseas trip to Italy, his family’s country of origin, Murray noted.

Comments | More in Local government, Politics Northwest, Same-sex marriage, State government | Topics: business, China, Ireland

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