Sunday 18 February 2018

Ten times world leaders and diplomats were... less than diplomatic

Canadian Ambassador to Ireland Kevin Vickers intercepts a protester at a State ceremony marking the deaths of British soldiers during 1916. Photo: Tony Gavin
Canadian Ambassador to Ireland Kevin Vickers intercepts a protester at a State ceremony marking the deaths of British soldiers during 1916. Photo: Tony Gavin
Geraldine Gittens

Geraldine Gittens

Yesterday in Dublin Kevin Vickers, ambassador to Ireland, took matters into his own hands when he tackled a protester at a ceremony in Ireland.

Mr Vickers’ actions made headlines globally.

Here we take a look at ten times when the actions of diplomats and world leaders were, well, less than “diplomatic”.

• In October 2014, Kevin Vickers hit the headlines, as the Sergeant-in-Arms for the Candian parliament, after shooting gunman Michael Zehaf-Bibeau who had killed a soldier at the Canadian House of Commons in Ottawa. After the incident, he received a standing ovation in parliament.

• In October 2012, the British ambassador to Chile, Jon Benjamin, was forced to apologise after sending a tweet that referred to a Chilean football chant mocking the Falklands war. The chant, loosely translated, says, “Argentines, gays, they took the Falklands off you because you are cowards”.

• Britain’s jovial Duke of Edinburgh, Prince Philip, is well known for his diplomatic gaffes through the years. One such gaffe occurred when he was asked if he would like to visit the Soviet Union. He replied: "I would love to go to Russia very much - although the bastards murdered half my family"

• In January 2012, Enda Kenny was the butt of playful jokes when then-French President Nicolas Sarkozy ruffled the back of his hair at a European Council meeting in Brussels. Gerry Adams later said: "It is inappropriate for a Taoiseach to act like an eejit when he meets the French president.”

• Sarkozy was previously in an awkward moment in the 2011 G20 economic conference when he and Barack Obama were overheard by journalists expressing their exasperation with the Isaraeli leader Benjamin Netanyahu. The pair were wearing microphones when Sarkozy said, "I cannot bear Netanyahu, he's a liar," and Obama responded: "You're fed up, but I have to deal with him every day."

• Last March, the German ambassador to Turkey, Martin Erdmann, was summoned to its foreign ministry over the broadcast by German television of a song that made fun of Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan. Turkey condemned the satirical video. The German-language song alluded to the imprisonment of opposition journalists and featured a clip of Mr Erdogan falling off a horse.

• In June 2015, the Indian High Commissioner in New Zealand, Commissioner Ravi Thapar, was recalled to India after allegations about staff mistreatment. It came after a former chef at the High Commission was found in Wellington, New Zealand, distressed and taken to a night shelter. He alleged he was kept in slavery and had been assaulted by the High Commissioner's wife, Sharmila Thapar, and threatened by Mr Thapar. Both the staff member and the diplomat were recalled to India to avoid a full blown controversy.

• In 20019, Japan's finance minister, Shoichi Nakagawa, he was found to have slurred his way through a press conference at a G7 summit in Rome. He appeared to be on the verge of falling asleep, denied claims that he was drunk, and blamed the incident on a combination of jet lag, medicine for a cold and "a few sips" of wine.

• In 1992, George Bush senior was the source of embarrassment at a banquet hosted by Kiichi Miyazawa, Japan's then prime minister. He vomited, then fainted, and later blamed a flu bug.

• At the circular table of the G8 summit in St Petersburg in 2006, US President George Bush snook up behind Angela Merkel, the German Chancellor, to give her a neck massage. Ms Merkel flinched, and threw her hands up into the air.

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