Diplomatic corps forks out €2,000 on china service
'You wouldn't want dinner served on paper plates'
"YOU wouldn't want to see dinner being served on paper plates or with paper cups would you?"
That was the response from the Department of Foreign Affairs when the Sunday Independent had the cheek to ask why one of its officials spent more than €2,000 on fine bone china and cutlery in Arnotts last Tuesday.
"It's a most unusual query," the department's spokeswoman remarked when I contacted her seeking an explanation of what I had witnessed first-hand in Arnotts' household appliance section as I weighed up the financial implications of buying a new toaster two weeks out from my next pay day.
I had been standing a good 20 feet away from the counter, but I couldn't help but overhear the sum of €2,000 plus being sought by the store assistant from the woman for her purchases.
Given the austere times we're in, that struck me as unusual in itself. More unusual or unexpected though was the customer's request that the items be delivered to the Department of Foreign Affairs.
"No wonder the country's in the state it's in," was the remark I overheard from another employee as the civil servant made her way to where Arnotts keeps its china and crockery.
While I couldn't have agreed more, the Department of Foreign Affairs didn't see it quite like that.
Responding to my query (albeit somewhat tetchily), the department's spokeswoman said: "First of all, the expenditure incurred was absolutely legitimate. The purchase was made for representative purposes for a mission abroad. The goods were to be collected by a shipping agent to be shipped abroad."
Asked to identify the foreign embassy to which the goods are being shipped, the spokeswoman refused, saying simply that they would be going to a "residence abroad".
She then went on to defend the purchases on the grounds that Ireland's diplomatic representatives required appropriate facilities with which to entertain, saying: "You wouldn't want to see dinner being served on paper plates or with paper cups would you?"
Clearly annoyed by the reaction of a member of Arnotts' staff to the Department of Foreign Affairs' spending, the spokeswoman said: "We will be following this up with Arnotts. We are a business customer of an Irish company. We wouldn't want to see any member of its staff criticising customers."
Given that those very same staff are taxpayers too, perhaps our Mandarins should be a little more understanding.