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Irish Voice News
German Envoy Criticizes Irish
September 24, 2007
By Paddy Clancy
THE German ambassador to Ireland, Christian Pauls, has been given a formal dressing-down for “crude remarks” about the country -– but he claims what he really meant to say was lost in translation.
Foreign Minister Dermot Ahern was said to be furious when the content of the ambassador’s speech to German businessmen at Clontarf Castle in Dublin was reported to him.
Ahern ordered the secretary general of his department, Dermot Gallagher, to tell Pauls that his address was “inaccurate, misinformed and inappropriate.”
European Parliament member Gay Mitchell, who heard the speech and addressed the meeting after the ambassador, said he was astonished by the tone and tenor of the diplomat’s words. He said they were somewhere between “resentment and spite.”
The ambassador was reported to have been extremely critical of many aspects of modern Ireland. In a wide-ranging address he spoke of salaries of Irish junior ministers being greater than the German chancellor’s.
He also spoke of excessive wage demands, of Ireland having a history sadder than Poland’s, of it being “a coarse place” where everyone drives 2006 or ’07 cars and where the health service is sub-standard. He also said 20% of the population works in the civil service.
Following his formal rebuke from the government Pauls, who speaks fluent English, said his speech was delivered in German to a mainly-German audience and it was “mis-translated” for the handful of Irish who were present.
He offered his “regrets” over any misunderstandings but gave only a qualified apology. He admitted his talks can be “provocative” in a deliberate attempt to get listeners to participate in a questions-and-answer session.
He hadn’t realized there would be no questions in Clontarf and so he had no opportunity to soften the initial impact of his speech. For that missed opportunity he apologized.
The ambassador went on to explain that he hadn’t said junior Irish ministers were paid more than the German chancellor. He had said secretary generals in the Irish civil service earn more money.
Neither did he say 20% of the Irish population were civil servants. He said 20% of the work force was employed in the public sector.
He admitted pointing out that most cars on Dublin streets were registered in 2005, ’06 and ’07, but he insisted he simply mentioned this because the average age of German cars is between eight and nine years.
An edited version of the ambassador’s explanation of what he really meant was published in The Irish Times. The full version is to be placed on the German Embassy’s website at www.dublin.diplo.de.
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