St Vincent and the Grenadines opens new consulate building in Comber
THE Caribbean nation of St Vincent and the Grenadines (SVG) has established a diplomatic present in Comber with the formal opening of an enhanced consular building in the town.
It it the first Caribbean country and first Commonwealth realm to establish a Consulate General in Northern Ireland outside Belfast.
SVG’s permanent diplomatic presence is only the fourth country in Northern Ireland, adding to the other Consulate Generals from the United States of America, People’s Republic of China and Republic of Poland.
Approval was granted last November by Ards and North Down for a full resident SVG diplomatic presence in Comber, and Vincentian Dr Christopher Stange is its Consul General.
The consulate will serve the interests of a growing population of 1,200 people of Caribbean descent currently living in Northern Ireland as well as another 4,000 who live in the Republic.
Dr Stange said the decision to locate in Comber was part of a wider commitment to the diplomatic network to further international relations by its Ministry of Foreign Affairs.
"Northern Ireland was identified as an emerging market with an increasing Caribbean community, peace and stability, coinciding with the 20th anniversary of the Good Friday Agreement this year," he said.
"St Vincent and the Grenadines’ diplomatic presence on the ground allows us to work more effectively to further trade, cultural, sport and international links between countries."
Cllr Richard Smart, mayor of Ards and North Down, said: “The establishment of the official Consulate General of St Vincent and the Grenadines in Comber opens up new possibilities and we are delighted that Comber has earned this status.
"It is an important time for relations between our two countries. The consulate will allow the Caribbean population to be better represented on the ground now and in the future, and there are also significant trade opportunities to be harnessed.”
St Vincent and the Grenadines is situated in the Eastern Caribbean at the southern end of the Windward Islands chain.
It is an archipelago of islands, St Vincent being the largest, with the smaller Grenadines comprising Bequia, Mustique, Canouan, Mayreau, Union Island, Palm Island, Petit St. Vincent and a number of small islets.
The country gained independence from Britain in October 1979.