Department reprimands German envoy

 

The Department of Foreign Affairs has reprimanded the German ambassador over a highly critical speech in which he described Ireland as a "coarse place" where junior ministers earn more than the German Chancellor and "chaotic" hospital waiting lists were tolerated.

The Department's Secretary-General, Dermot Gallagher, said the remarks, made by Christian Pauls during a function for German industrialists at Clontarf Castle in Dublin, were "inaccurate, misinformed and inappropriate".

Mr Gallagher is understood to have contacted the German embassy last Thursday to express his concern at Mr Pauls' remarks.

Mr Pauls is also understood to have criticised wage demands and the State's immigration policy which he claimed had learned nothing from Germany's experience.

The ambassador said today he would not apologise for the remarks as they had been misinterpreted by the translator. He said the issue was "a storm in a teacup" and that he would continue to use the speech in the future. However, Mr Pauls said he would be "less blunt" in his comments.

Fine Gael MEP Gay Mitchell, who spoke at the meeting, said the envoy had delivered about a dozen "appalling" jibes.

"He had a go at the medical services, traffic, the Catholic Church, the fact that Irish people have become coarser," Mr Mitchell said.

"There was a certain amount of resentment at our success in what he was saying, a sort of glee at the problems we have."

Mr Mitchell said some of the remarks may have contained "a nugget of truth" but described others "as crazy, lacking in context and painting a very bad image of Ireland to delegates".

"If I was a minister and I delivered a similar speech in Germany, the whole diplomatic service ... would have been wondering how I got off the leash," he said.

Mr Pauls referred to devastation wrought by famine in the 19th century and described a history sadder than Poland's, Mr Mitchell said.

He had not balanced criticism of modern-day Ireland with an explanation of the challenges posed by economic success, he said.

"It would be like me starting off with the sinking of the Lusitania, going on to Stalingrad and then the Third Reich and giving that as a sort of potted history of the success of Germany," Mr Mitchell said of events during the two world wars.