Ambassador says parts of speech were mistranslated

 

The German ambassador has sought to calm the controversy surrounding remarks he made about Ireland to a visiting German business delegation by claiming parts of his speech were mistranslated.

The ambassador, Christian Pauls, said he regretted any misunderstanding caused by his speech, adding he would have taken offence if he was an Irish person reading the remarks as they were reported.

"I would have said 'he is a complete idiot', which I don't think I am," he told RTÉ news, adding that the story had become a "storm in a teacup and we should get over it".

The Department of Foreign Affairs has reprimanded the ambassador for the comments, which it said were "inaccurate, misinformed and inappropriate".

The ambassador made the remarks during an unscripted speech to 80 industrialists, all members of the German Federation of Buying and Marketing Groups, at Clontarf Castle in Dublin. He spoke in German and his comments were translated into English for the small number of Irish people in attendance.

In a statement yesterday, the ambassador denied using the word "coarse" to describe Ireland. "At one stage I said that the question being posed in Ireland was whether the new prosperity had made Irish society a rougher, less caring one," he said. Explaining that his talks are usually "quite black and white, yes, even provocative", to encourage participation in question and answer sessions, the ambassador said he made the mistake of assuming there would be such a session at the event. There was, he said, "no possibility to soften the initial impact. For this, I apologise. It goes without saying that I regret any misunderstandings that might have arisen".

He said he opened his speech with the remark "that very many Germans, including politicians and high-ranking civil servants, believe that it was EU money, including a large portion contributed by the German taxpayer, which was responsible for the Irish success story". The ambassador says he dismissed this as "rubbish" and pointed out that "95 per cent of the success . . . was owed to the work of the Irish people".

He acknowledged describing Irish history as "sadder than Poland's" and also admitted telling his audience Irish doctors offered salaries of €200,000 a year had reportedly described the offer as "Mickey Mouse money".