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
“Ireland is still in a period of national recovery; our Embassies are at the front line, and the first priority is to advance economic relations. We also have to keep momentum in the political relationship – political and diplomatic relations are essential as the framework in a country like China.
“Our agenda needs to be very focused and ambitious, but we also need to be careful. A lot of people – not in Ireland but elsewhere – approach China a little wide-eyed; we have to make sure we approach it with patience and due diligence and reap the rewards steadily.”
Former permanent representative to the European Union; incoming Ambassador to France
“The priority for all of Ireland’s ambassadors continues to be the country’s economic recovery and contributing to economic growth and employment. France is an extremely significant market for Irish goods and services; it’s also an important tourist market for us.
“A major part of my job will be to continue promoting trade and investment . . . Understanding France’s EU priorities and the domestic context in which those priorities are fashioned, and seeing where they might coincide with or differ from Irish priorities, will be a crucial part of my work.
“In addition to that I will be explaining where Ireland is coming from in terms of our own economic recovery.
“As I found in Brussels, there is an interesting balance to be struck, because you have to accentuate the positive, but at the same time you want to paint a realistic picture and acknowledge there are several problems still ahead.
“In all bilateral relationships there is a need to keep the relationship fresh and energised. People in France and Ireland generally have positive views of the other country, but they are often, in a way, quite sentimental and old fashioned.
“I think one of the biggest challenges is to present in France a picture of Ireland which is modern and realistic but without discounting all of the factors – the scenery in the west of Ireland, for example, or the quality of Irish food – which have long been important in terms of shaping French perceptions of Ireland.”
Former ambassador to China; incoming Permanent Representative to the European Union
“I am taking up my post in Brussels on the back of an extraordinarily successful Irish presidency of the EU. The challenge now is how to sustain, develop and build on the great work of the presidency.
“I see that as an important theme in the next chapter of Ireland’s activity in the European Union.
“The presidency played an important role in consolidating Ireland’s reputation within the EU, and the next phase is to drive forward specific objectives which have been agreed at EU level, including those of particular interest to Ireland, like banking stability, economic governance, trade agreements and the whole question of a people-centred approach.
“Stability, jobs and growth was the motto of the Irish presidency. It was essentially a people-centred theme, and I think it struck a chord within the EU and outside the EU . . . Ireland is viewed as having addressed its economic challenges in a very serious way, in a way which has been both methodical and successful, and that is important. The question now is how to turn that to best effect within the EU.
“One of the key advantages of the Permanent Representation in Brussels, apart from it managing the business of Ireland’s relations with the EU, is that it allows us to build relationships with key policy advisers and key players in the other member states. That is important, because within the EU the background music is as important as the symphony.”