French honour 'Irish Times' journalist

 

"In the name of the president of the Republic, under powers vested in me by him, I name you Chevalier of the Légion d'Honneur."

Pinning a red ribbon and cross to the chest of "La Petite Californiene", writer Michel Déon last night inducted Irish Times Paris Correspondent, Lara Marlowe, into France's Légion in tribute to her contribution to Franco-Irish understanding.

At a ceremony in the Irish College in Paris, Mr Déon paid tribute to Ms Marlowe's writing and to the paper, speaking of the pleasure and insight he said both had given him, reawakening his thirst for world affairs.

A writer and member of the Academie Francaise he is the author of Un Taxi Mauve which was made into a film in Ireland. He has now made his home in Co Galway.

In introducing Mr Déon, the editor of The Irish Times, Geraldine Kennedy, noted that "women are nearly as scarce in the ranks of the Légion of Honour as they are among newspaper editors: 90 per cent of those who receive the distinction are men". She said the newspaper was honoured and delighted by the tribute France had paid to its correspondent.

A clearly moved Ms Marlowe spoke of her love for France and the French language and her joy at being introduced "to the splendours and miseries of its political life".

She had worried briefly that the award might lead to "autocensure".

"Would I still dare to criticise those princes who govern us? Be assured, I have every intention of continuing."

Among those in attendance were the French ambassador to Ireland Frédéric Grasset, Ireland's Ambassador to France Anne Anderson, the former UN special representative to Afghanistan and Iraq Lakhdar Brahimi, the former French foreign minister Hubert Vedrine, and the writer Amin Malouf.

Napoleon Bonaparte established the Legion of Honour in 1802 to acknowledge "eminent services". Some 3,000 French people and a few dozen foreigners are honoured each year.