The Green Country’s Way to Promote Culture

An interview with the Irish Ambassador

December 03rd, 2019

On the 11th November, we had the pleasure of interviewing Nicolas O’Brien, the Irish ambassador and his collaborator Thomas Bellew, responsible of the Public Diplomacy department.

The Ambassador began the interview by highlighting the three most important aspects for a country; politics, the economy and its culture. Within this list, culture certainly plays a central role in promoting Ireland all around the world. For example, the impressive amount of Nobel prizes awarded to Irish writers, which can be seen as an example of the high recognition the country has at the international level. Alongside this storytelling, music and high-tech contributed as well, resulting in a common held positive opinion towards Ireland, known as a green and happy place to everyone. In this sense, it is not a surprise that the Saint Patrick’s Day celebration is one of the most appreciated in Munich, with thousands of participants.

Acknowledging the importance of culture, the embassy is therefore very active in Berlin, hosting weekly exhibitions, art displays, events and so on. Thanks to this, lots of Germans have had the opportunity to gain an insight into the Irish culture, thus positively influencing tourism and showing how culture is really an important vector to make people relate with foreign countries. Indeed, cultural products such as film and literature have been vital in discovering new places: Heinrich Boll’s book about his travel in Ireland is the reason why many Germans from the previous generations discovered the green country.

Nowadays new instruments and social networks make things even easier: spreading knowledge and cultural products is fast and simple. A video posted on Facebook can reach thousands of people and is therefore an important medium for ambassadors and diplomats who are trying to reach out to people. Their ultimate goal is for individuals as well as groups to comprehend each other and avoid conflict. In this sense, Erasmus represents a great achievement in creating relations between young people of different cultures and backgrounds. Ireland and Germany enjoy this project in a bidirectional way thus strengthening their links and as the ambassador said, “Young people with a personal appreciation and experience of the other country will contribute to Ireland-Germany relations in the years to come”.

As a matter of fact, relations and links are the solid foundation for a comprehension which is the best way to prevent conflict the ambassador continued and that’s what cultural diplomacy is made for. Europe has been living peacefully for 70 years, thanks to interpersonal relations, “If you know people you won’t be able to fight against them”. Words that must mean a lot to us as long as they’re pronounced by a member of MES. The ambassador informed us that there, all interests from different countries are listened to and respected. Politicians sit at the table to negotiate by acknowledging each participant’s importance for a successful outcome. In this sense, The Good Friday Agreement can be seen as the perfect example of a successful negotiation.

In order to promote culture financial support is needed and because of this the Irish departments of Foreign affairs administrates a fund oriented to both Irish people abroad and the assistance and promotion of cultural heritage around the world. Around 75% of it is implemented in Great Britain and the 25% in other countries.

As we can clearly see, the three big factors of politics, the economy and culture that were highlighted by the Ambassador at the beginning of the interview, are inherently related to what we call cultural diplomacy, which is incredibly important in order to promote and make a difference.

Giulia Russo Walti, Olivia Higgins, Michela Lucchesi, Mariachiara Scarati, Camilla Luperto, Elisabetta Quinzanini

Berlin Global, News from Berlin