Three of Irelands ambassadors are from town
by Jim Smyth Dundalk is probably unique in that for a town of its size it currently has three townspeople serving as Ambassadors in Irish embassies abroad.
And they are following in the footsteps of possibly one of Ireland’s most distinguished ambassadors, Dundalk man Wilfie Lennon, in some cases literally as they served in embassies in which he had previously been in charge.
The three locals all joined the Department of Foreign Affairs as third secretaries within two years of each other - Art Agnew from the Carrick Road in September 1970; James Brennan from Chapel Street in September 1971 and Donal Hamill from Wynne’s Terrace in May 1972.
Between them since then they have held an exhaustive list of posts, some of Art Agnew’s foreign postings being the Irish Embassy in Madrid in 1972; Permanent representative of Ireland to the EU 1986; he was appointed Ambassador to Argentina in 1996 and then Ambassador to Mexico in 2000, where he is presently serving.
James Brennan went to the Irish Embassy in Lagos in 1975 and then to Lisbon in 1979; he was made Head of European Union Division, Dublin (dealing with Ireland’s relations with the EU) in 1997, and was appointed Ambassador to Denmark in 2002.
Donal Hamill has also had a distinguished career in foreign affairs, which has included serving in the Irish Embassy in Stockholm 1973; in Bonn 1985; he was Consul General of Ireland in New York in 1993, before being appointed Ambassador to Norway in 2001.
And in an extraordinary coincidence, Wilfie Lennon, who hailed from St. Mary’s Road, served in several of the same embassies several decades beforehand, meeting a number of the great figures of modern history along the way.
An exceptional student, while he joined the Civil Service in the 1930s, it wasn’t until 1947 that he went into the then Department of External Affairs, before going to the Irish Embassy in Paris as First Secretary. He remained there until 1960, meeting General de Gaulle and Cardinal Renealli, the Papal Nuncio to France, later to become Pope John XX111.
In 1961 he was appointed Irish Ambassador to Portugal, before a year later he was accredited the dual role of Ambassador to Denmark and Holland, and in 1967 he was appointed to the sensitive post of Ambassador to Spain, where he presented his credentials to General Franco, another figure of 20th century history.
After Madrid, it was on to Geneva in 1970 as Irish Ambassador to the United Nations, and then in 1973 he was on his travels again, this time to South America as Ambassador to Argentina, presenting his credentials to one of the 20th century’s most controversial heads of state, Juan Peron, who had just returned to Buenos Aires after 15 years in exile in Madrid.
After three hectic years in Argentina, he became ill and returned to Dublin, where he still resides.