Sir, – As a former secretary (general) of the Department of Foreign Affairs, long-since retired, I should like to offer a comment on what happened in that department on the evening of June 17th, 2020. I would hope that what I say will be reasonably objective notwithstanding my previous role.
I should emphasise that I no longer have any connection with the department and I have not been in contact on the current issue with its officials or with the Minister. So my comments are based solely on what I have heard and read in news media in recent days.
As I understand it what happened was something as follows. The 20 or so departmental officials involved had worked long and hard for several years on a difficult electoral campaign to gain Ireland a seat on the UN Security Council. Ireland, remarkably, was elected on the first count. Late in the evening, just after the vote had taken place in New York, the officials left their separate desks and gathered in euphoria in the central operations room to mark this successful outcome with a glass of champagne. However, there would still have been much to do to follow up on the outcome of the vote. So I assume that, late as it was in the evening, they would then have returned to continue work at their respective desks which were probably spread over several rooms . The secretary general tweeted a photo of the occasion but he took it down next day with an apology. The Minister was not present – he was in Government Buildings with the Taoiseach at the time – but he looked in briefly later to thank the officials, although with no champagne.
I have no wish to pre-empt any further enquiries or political debate which may now take place; and I note that apologies have been issued. But, if I am right in my understanding, I hope that your readers will share my view that whatever may have happened in the euphoria of the moment on what was otherwise a working evening in Foreign Affairs 18 months ago was at least quite different, in nature and in intent, from the series of parties in Downing Street, which we have been hearing about of late. – Yours, etc,
Sir, – Now that the Minister for Foreign Affairs has made himself available to RTÉ for a stern interview regarding the brief celebratory drink by some staff in his department in 2020, is it likely that the RTÉ director-general and the managing director of RTÉ news and current affairs will at last be available for a similar interview conducted by one of those who attended the farewell party organised in RTÉ during Covid lockdown? – Yours, etc,