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Cleveland officials will board first direct flight to Dublin on taxpayer-funded trip

Aer Lingus Airbus A320 plane lands at Dublin airport, Ireland.
Peter Morrison
Aer Lingus Airbus A320 planes at Dublin airport, Ireland, Tuesday, Jan. 27, 2015.

Some of Cleveland’s top leaders — including Mayor Justin Bibb and Cuyahoga County Executive Chris Ronayne — are headed to the Emerald Isle this Friday on the first direct flight between Cleveland and Dublin, Ireland.

The four-day, taxpayer-funded trip will kick off at Cleveland Hopkins International Airport, where the Dublin-based airline Aer Lingus is launching a quicker and more affordable way to reach Ireland from Northeast Ohio.

Billed as an economic development opportunity, the trip includes a roster of top officials like Cleveland City Council President Blaine Griffin and Cuyahoga County Council President Pernel Jones. Public money from the city and county will pay the way for elected officials and supporting staff.

Cleveland's delegation of political and business leaders plan to meet with Dublin City Council, Lord Mayor of Dublin, the U.S. Ambassador to Ireland and more Irish businesses owners.

“This is one of the first flights that opens up the Cleveland market to the international market,” Griffin said. “This is an opportunity for us to try to make partnerships and build relationships.”

Most importantly, Griffin said, they hope to boast Cleveland as a tourism destination for Dubliners.

“A lot of this is exchange, fact-finding and everything in between,” Griffin said. “Most importantly, looking at how we can promote Cleveland and get people to come to our neighborhoods.”

Other Cleveland organizations represented on the trip include the region’s economic development partner Team NEO, Huntington Bank, Eaton, the Greater Cleveland Partnership and JobsOhio.

Northeast Ohio is home to a large Irish population, many of whom emigrated to the city in the 19th century. By 1870, 10% of Cleveland’s population was made up of Irish immigrants. Many settled in Irishtown Bend along the west bank of the Cuyahoga River: an area that has since been razed with plans to transform it into 23-acre park.

Earlier this month, Frontier Airlines launched a new direct flight from Cleveland to San Juan, Puerto Rico. Councilmember Jasmin Santana, who is Puerto Rican, was the only local official on board the inaugural flight. She personally payed for her one-week trip, which included business and political meetings with San Juan’s mayor and other public figures, as well as family visits.

“We really need to be connecting Cleveland to all these areas where our residents are from,” Santana said of her trip. “Getting that cultural education and needs and just really getting to know them.”

Abbey Marshall covers Cleveland-area government and politics for Ideastream Public Media.