Flying the flag for Ireland
With more than 20 Irish Ambassadors taking up new posts in the coming weeks, seven diplomats about to embark on key missions explain why their job matters and what they plan to do with it
Photograph: Patrick Swan/Design Pics/Getty
In the coming weeks more than 20 new Ambassadors will take up postings at Embassies around the world in one of Ireland’s biggest diplomatic reshuffles in years. New heads of mission will take over in Washington, Beijing, London, Berlin, Paris and other capitals. Ireland will have a new Ambassador, or Permanent Representative, to the European Union in Brussels and a new Permanent Representative to the United Nations in New York.
The most important postings in terms of Ireland’s foreign-policy priorities include the US, China, Britain, Germany, Paris, the EU and the UN. Those taking up these high-level ambassadorships are among Ireland’s most experienced and distinguished diplomats – several are swapping one key posting for another.
Their primary mission, as has been the case with all of Ireland’s Ambassadors since the financial crisis hit in 2008, will be promoting Ireland’s economic interests internationally and contributing to its recovery. They will be tasked with weaving new narratives about where Ireland stands right now, and challenging outdated or ill-informed ideas about how it got there.
Former ambassador to Washington; incoming Ambassador to Germany
“Moving to Berlin after six years in Washington – I was the longest-serving Irish ambassador to the US in the modern era – is a major change in focus. To be in Berlin at this moment is to be at the crossroads of so much that is important in the political and economic life of Europe.
“It is of fundamental importance to Ireland, because we have very big interests to protect and advance in terms of our economic agenda, and this will obviously be my main focus.
“Germany has a relevance to Ireland like never before, and it is my job to capitalise on that. My role is to explain Ireland in Germany, to promote Ireland and connect Ireland with Germany. We have had to make a sustained effort in our diplomatic missions across the world to regain the reputation that was so badly damaged in 2008-9. We have gained a good reputation in Germany for how we have handled the crisis. Ireland is seen as a much-needed success story for the euro zone. We will continue to project the sense that Ireland is recovering and that we are destined to emerge from the bailout programme in the coming months.
“Germany is our fourth-largest export market and the second biggest for inward investment – there are more than 100 German companies in Ireland, employing more than 10,000 people in total.
“Today Ireland and Germany are more thoroughly connected and interwoven than at any other time in our history. The more we know one another the better.”
Former political director of the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade; incoming Permanent Representative to the UN, in New York
“The UN has traditionally been a cornerstone of Irish foreign policy, and Ireland has always been a very active and loyal member of the UN. This enables us to punch above our weight in international affairs. We have been able to make a real difference, whether in the contribution made by our peacekeeping troops to UN missions, the profile we have had in disarmament and nonproliferation, or the work we do on global human rights and development within the UN framework.
“The UN is not perfect and has its share of frustrations and setbacks, which we see at the moment with the impasse on Syria at the Security Council, but it is the best we have, and no other body has the political and moral authority or the legitimacy the UN holds from its near-universal membership. The UN must be reformed and strengthened; we all want to work to improve it.
“Together with my colleagues, I hope we can . . . put an Irish imprint as far as possible on policies, actions and reforms which are agreed at the UN. The priorities for us will be our continuing involvement in UN peacekeeping, including the sensitive and challenging UNDOF mission in Syria; and the development agenda ahead of the 2015 deadline for the Millennium Development Goals.