Gov. Martin O'Malley left Tuesday for a five-day trip to Europe that includes a "congressional pilgrimage" to northern Ireland and a conference in Amsterdam.
The governor, whose Irish heritage inspired his Celtic rock band and his taste in poetry, will first visit Dublin along with civil rights leader U.S. Rep. John Lewis of Georgia as part of a 50-person delegation to learn about the island's historic divide and reconciliation efforts, organizers said.
O'Malley then plans to attend a conference on progressive governance in Amsterdam on Thursday and Friday before returning to Ireland, his office spokeswoman said. The governor also traveled to Dublin last June and gave a speech at Iveagh House, headquarters of the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade, to commemorate the 50th anniversary of John F. Kennedy's visit to Ireland.
This week's sojourn to Europe is the latest in O'Malley travels out of Maryland, though the policy mission is distinct from his more recent domestic trips to rally Democrats across the country and raise his national profile.
The governor, a Democrat who is weighing a bid for the White House, plans to visit Las Vegas at the end of next week to be the keynote speaker at a Democratic fundraiser. Last week, he held a fundraiser in California with U.S. Rep. Nancy Pelosi and former vice president Al Gore, an aide confirmed.
His trips out-of-state have raised eyebrows among Republicans, who say they will be vigilant about ensuring that taxpayers do not foot the bill.
"My biggest concern keeps coming back to: are they paying for everything?" said Joe Cluster, executive director of the Maryland Republican Party. The trips to Europe, he said, "sound political to me. They don't sound like they are furthering the interests of Maryland."
O'Malley's press secretary, Nina Smith, said Tuesday the organizers of each event covered all of the governor's expenses, including the security detail that travels with the governor.
On Wednesday, Smith said the Maryland State Police will pick up the tab for troopers on the governor's security detail.
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The Faith & Politics Institute organized the Ireland trip, which is part of the Washington-based group's mission to provide members of Congress with experiences that enhance their leadership, the institute said.
In the Netherlands, O'Malley will attend the Progressive Governance Conference, which invites politicians, policy-makers and academics from Europe and North America to discuss how to make progressive politics work. It is organized by three think tanks: Policy Network, an international group; the Center for American Progress, a U.S. group; and Wiardi Beckman Stichting, a Dutch group.
Last year, O'Malley participated in a panel discussion when he attended a similar event in Copenhagen. In 2013, O'Malley also visited Israel, Jordan, Ireland, France, Brazil and El Salvador, some of which were trade missions.