Deep Dive into Foreign Service: An Internship with Ireland’s Department of Foreign Affairs

Author: Connor Patrick

Connor Patrick Outside Building
Connor Patrick ’23 stands outside the Irish Taoiseach’s (prime minister’s) building.

Connor Patrick ‘23 is a history major with minors in politics, philosophy, and economics; real estate; Portuguese and Brazilian studies; and liturgical music ministry. In the summer of 2022, he received support from the Nanovic Institute for European Studies to undertake a University of Notre Dame Dublin Global Gateway Partner Internship with the Irish Department of Foreign Affairs.

“I can truly say, I have spent some of the happiest moments of my life since landing in this country.” Thus wrote the famous American abolitionist, orator, and hero Frederick Douglass as he was departing from the island of Ireland in 1846. Douglass was only supposed to stay in Ireland for a few days. Instead, he spent four months traveling across the island. Douglass’ words are a testament to a longstanding truth: the United States and Ireland have enjoyed a special bond of mutual friendship for centuries, a bond that remains strong to this day. This summer, I had the incredible honor of working for the U.S. and Canada Desk at Ireland’s Department of Foreign Affairs, which works to sustain this relationship between our nations now and into the future.

My internship came at a watershed moment in global diplomacy. It is no secret that 2022 has been a trying year for global diplomatic relations. The world was rocked this past February by Russia’s invasion of the sovereign nation of Ukraine. While the work I was doing this summer at Ireland’s Foreign Ministry was not related to the ongoing war, this certainly was at the forefront of my mind as I went to work every day. Ireland has played an important role in supporting Ukraine; the country is currently serving a two-year term as a non-permanent member of the United Nations Security Council, where it has sought to swiftly and decisively take action to defend the Ukrainian people and uphold international law. The war in Ukraine was certainly a frequent topic of discussion for visitors to Iveagh House, the home of the Department of Foreign Affairs in Dublin.

My responsibilities in Iveagh House were incredibly exciting and varied from day to day. Certain days would involve welcoming political figures from the U.S. to Ireland, such as Senator Tammy Baldwin of Wisconsin and U.S. Ambassador to Ireland Claire Cronin. Other days would involve writing briefing notes on current issues in the United States. I assisted with brainstorming new marketing strategies to promote the Irish Working Holiday Agreement, which would bring American university students to Ireland for up to 12 months of work and travel,  and helped welcome college students from Texas and Oklahoma to Iveagh House for a discussion on Irish diplomacy and current events.

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Connor Patrick with US Ambassador to Ireland Claire Cronin. Ambassador Cronin is a big Notre Dame fan, and her daughter is a recent ND alumna.

No two days were exactly the same, which made my internship extremely exciting. In addition to my work for the U.S. and Canada Desk, I also was invited to assist the work of the Foreign Ministry’s Protocol Division. This division deals with the “nitty-gritty” of diplomacy, from setting up flags properly to crafting the menus for important diplomatic lunches and dinners. I was able to assist with many events at Iveagh House in addition to those relating to the U.S. As was the case with the U.S. and Canada Desk, no two days within the Protocol Division were the same. I was able to welcome ambassadors and visitors from all over the world to the foreign ministry, which was such a great honor.

My work for the Protocol Division culminated in assisting with the Irish National Day of Commemoration, one of the most important annual events for the Department of Foreign Affairs. This day honors Irish men and women killed in action while serving in war or in peacekeeping missions with the United Nations. This commemoration takes place at Collins Barracks and Dublin Castle, close to July 11, the anniversary of the 1921 truce with the United Kingdom that ended Ireland’s War of Independence. It is attended by nearly every ambassador accredited from a foreign nation to Ireland, as well as hundreds more Irish politicians, veterans, and members of the general public. The National Day of Commemoration was a beautiful, moving ceremony and it was truly special to have had the opportunity to be involved, from its planning phases all the way to the day of the event itself.

This experience with the Irish Department of Foreign Affairs was an amazing way to see diplomacy in action. In spring 2022, I took the course “Deep Dive into Diplomacy” through the Nanovic Institute, taught by Professor Clemens Sedmak. The course culminated in a “diplomacy tour” of Brussels and Vienna at the beginning of the summer, during which our class visited the European Commission, NATO, lobbying groups, ambassadors, and more. From there, I flew directly to Ireland to begin my internship. This class was the perfect “boot camp” to prepare me for working at Ireland’s Foreign Ministry this summer.

I am beyond grateful to my colleagues and supervisors at the foreign ministry who welcomed me with open arms this summer. Everyone treated me with incredible thoughtfulness. Not only did I learn so much about Irish diplomacy and politics from my colleagues, but I also learned so much more about Irish life and culture as well. My colleagues introduced me to Irish potato chips (called “crisps” in Ireland) and European Coca-Cola (which is way more delicious than Coca-Cola sold in the U.S.). In turn, I shared with my colleagues a staple of Americana close to my own heart — Krispy Kreme doughnuts — which were beloved by all who tasted them.

Without the generosity of the Notre Dame Dublin Global Gateway and the Nanovic Institute, this wonderful internship opportunity would not have been possible. Not only have I learned so much about diplomacy and international relations through my internship, I also left with many new friends which made saying goodbye to Ireland so hard. As Frederick Douglass so beautifully said all those years ago of his time on the Emerald Isle: “I seem to have undergone a transformation. I live a new life.”

Originally published by Connor Patrick at on December 19, 2022.