DUBLIN - Ireland and China have developed a strong relationship with plenty of success stories at the people-to-people level, Irish Ambassador to China Eoin O’Leary said on Friday. Speaking at a seminar organized by Asia Matters, an Irish think tank, O’Leary hailed bilateral ties over the last 40 years and said country-to-country links can only be built on the basis of strong people-to-people links and close local ties.

Chinese Ambassador to Ireland Yue Xiaoyong, who also attended the seminar, said he has visited 22 counties of Ireland ever since he became ambassador to the country, during which many local government officials have expressed their interest in forming partnerships with China.

Noting the important role of local governments in promoting bilateral ties, Yue said seven pairs of Chinese and Irish provinces and cities have formed sister relationships since 2015.

Alan Dukes, chairman of Asia Matters and former Irish minister for finance, said China is the world’s second largest economy and its regions and cities can offer tremendous business opportunities to Ireland.

He said there has been an increasing interest by Irish local authorities in seeking a strategic economic partnership with China particularly when Ireland faces the imminent withdrawal of Britain from the European Union.

Over 50 people including officials at the central and local levels, senior diplomats, business leaders, experts and scholars attended the seminar, with topics focused on the importance of forming a partnership with China at the local level, how to form such a partnership and lessons drawn from past experiences.