South Down MP Chris Hazzard  has described the recent cultural delegation to China as “highly successful” and says the Eastern superpower is keen to build increasing economic, educational & cultural relations with Ireland.

The MP travelled with Ulster University representatives including members of the university ‘s GAA team, traditional Irish musicians, and senior representatives of the local Confucius Institute - a Chinese government initiative to build relations globally.

Chris Hazzard MP alongside a strong Co Down contingent of GAA figures at a reception in the Irish Embassy in Beijing. From left: Oisin McConvey (Darragh Cross) Sean Cunningham (Drumaness) Niall Madine (Saval) TJ Farrell (Burren) Sean Blaney (Bredagh) Stephen Fegan (Burren) and Aaron Smith (Ballyholland).
Chris Hazzard MP alongside a strong Co Down contingent of GAA figures at a reception in the Irish Embassy in Beijing. From left: Oisin McConvey (Darragh Cross) Sean Cunningham (Drumaness) Niall Madine (Saval) TJ Farrell (Burren) Sean Blaney (Bredagh) Stephen Fegan (Burren) and Aaron Smith (Ballyholland).

Mr Hazzard said “The amount of trade between the island of Ireland and China has recently surpassed €11billon per year; with an increasing focus on our local agrifood sector.

“It was great to engage widely in Beijing this week with those who have played a key role in this; and to speak with Chinese officials on the mutual opportunities that lie ahead of us.

“An area of strong interest for the Chinese is the rich cultural aspects to Irish life - including Gaelic sports, traditional music, the Irish language and of course Irish dance. So it was great to showcase some of the finest musical & sporting talent from Ulster University throughout Beijing - the cultural heart of China.

Mr Hazzard added “With direct flights between Ireland & China opening within the next few months we will see an ever increasing amount of visitors, trade and educational exchange programmes.

“As Ireland plots a course away from the BREXIT disaster, this emerging partnership with the world’s foremost economic superpower will be vitally important as local businesses and students look for exciting opportunities.

“I look forward to picking these conversations up again with Chinese representatives next month as we will be welcoming fifty senior Chinese government officials and investment figures to Belfast as part of a regional economic summit.”