Friday 16 November 2018

Eamon Delaney: Now we're paying for ignoring this frank ambassador

The German, whose Celtic Tiger warnings were denounced as rude, tells Eamon Delaney why he has hope for Ireland

Eamon Delaney

Eamon Delaney

Sometimes we really don't what to hear what outsiders think of us, especially if it's the hard truth. You may remember the furore caused by Christian Pauls, the former German ambassador, in 2007 with his remarks about the excesses of the Celtic Tiger.

Speaking to a meeting of German business people in Dublin, he made some observations which were absolutely valid and, as things turned out, very prescient, but he got rounded on, and had to go on the radio to "explain" his views. Specifically, he described how in Ireland junior ministers earned more than the German Chancellor, almost 20 per cent of the then workforce was in the public sector, our "chaotic" hospital waiting lists would not be tolerated anywhere else, our wage demands were too high, and our immigration policy needed to learn from other countries. He also described how hospital consultants had rejected €200,000 a year posts as being "Mickey Mouse" money and brought laughter from his incredulous audience by describing the Irish obsession with having new cars, with new reg plates, whereas the average car in Germany was about nine years old.

All of these things were entirely true (some of them are still true, unfortunately), and have since been pointed out repeatedly. You'd think we'd be grateful for such blunt assessments from a foreign envoy but far from it. Ambassador Pauls was denounced for his "rude" and "undiplomatic" observations and in a bizarre interjection, Gay Mitchell said that his comments were "somewhere between resentment and spite". (Spite, at what, exactly?) And Foreign Minister Dermot Ahern ordered a dressing down.

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