Maura Healey’s Ireland Trip Cost Taxpayers Nearly $84,000

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By Michael P. Norton and Alison Kuznitz
State House News Service

The costs and benefits of Governor Maura Healey’s recent trip to Ireland are starting to come into focus.

In response to State House News Service requests, the Healey administration estimated a cost of about $83,835 for airfare, hotels, ground transportation, and meals for Healey, Cabinet secretaries, and staff who accompanied the governor to Dublin. That includes $49,418 in state dollars from the Massachusetts Tourism Trust Fund, which supports travel, tourism, international trade, and economic development efforts at the Massachusetts Marketing Partnership, the administration said.

The governor was joined on the June 25-30 trip by state economic development secretary Yvonne Hao, energy and environmental affairs secretary Rebecca Tepper, and undersecretary of economic strategies Sarah Stanton, as well as four Healey staffers, including director of communications Jillian Fennimore.

The Massachusetts Technology Collaborative covered about $21,720 in travel costs for the administration, with the Massachusetts Competitive Partnership, a nonprofit group of Massachusetts chief executive officers, footing about $12,700 in expenses, according to figures provided by the administration.

As far as specific business expansion commitments the governor’s office could point to as returns on investment from the trip, the governor’s office said that “we have already heard from several companies asking to set up follow up discussions because they are considering expanding into Massachusetts.”

“There are many synergies between Ireland and Massachusetts when it comes to investment in workforce, education and technology, in addition to proximity, which together make for a great opportunity for business development,” Healey spokesman Karissa Hand told State House News Service.

Hand also said that “several next steps” were discussed during a clean tech, energy, and sustainability higher education roundtable hosted by UMass Lowell at the Westin Dublin College Green.

“We will share more details as plans around these new initiatives are further developed and finalized,” she said.

Generally speaking, the initiatives are expected to include strategies to increase collaboration between Massachusetts and Ireland to fund clean energy research and development, strengthen partnerships with companies and universities “to support workforce and economic development,” develop partnerships to implement sustainability programming in K-12 schools, and develop communications streams to share best practices on decarbonizing buildings.

Another area of potential collaboration includes identifying ways colleges can assist environmental justice communities where they are located, such as increased air monitoring and universities serving as “anchor institutions” to accelerate decarbonization efforts, Hand said, citing the Lowell Networked Geothermal Pilot Project.

UMass Lowell has partnered with the city of Lowell and National Grid to evaluate the potential use of geothermal energy to heat and cool residential and commercial buildings, and was the first site selected for the utility’s five-year geothermal pilot project, which state regulators approved in late 2021.

In April, crews drilled 600 feet below the Wilder parking lot on the south campus of UMass Lowell so that researchers could study the bedrock properties and collect data to help National Grid design a networked geothermal energy system intended to use the thermal properties of subsurface rock to heat and cool buildings at UMass Lowell and for nearby National Grid customers.

The administration viewed the Ireland trip as an opportunity to “establish and grow relationship,” according to Hand. Healey’s travel coincided with Ireland’s 30-year anniversary of decriminalizing same-sex sex acts and the 60-year anniversary of President John F. Kennedy’s visit to the country.

In an address to the Irish Senate last month, Healey hearkened back to her family’s Irish roots and emphasized the “living, breathing connection” between Ireland and Massachusetts.

“My administration’s vision is of a Massachusetts that provides opportunity and wellbeing to all our people, drives the innovations that heal and help humanity, and shines as a beacon of human rights, equality, and freedom,” Healey had said. “Our relationship with Ireland is a powerful and necessary resource for advancing each of these goals.”

The trading relationship between Ireland and Massachusetts is estimated to be around $27 billion each year. Ireland’s deputy leader Micheál Martin expressed interest in growing that figure during a special event in Dublin alongside Healey, U.S. ambassador to Ireland Claire Cronin, and President Kennedy’s nephew Stephen Kennedy Smith.

“There’s a fantastic relationship, particularly in the life sciences, in which we [Ireland] are very close to Massachusetts,” Martin said. “A strong relationship in the technology to digital world too. It’s all down to talent and to be open to talent, about the migration experience of the last 40 years and that is truly the game changer.”


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