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State spent €16,832 on dignitaries' gifts of 'mutual appreciation' since 2003

The gifts included clocks and cufflinks – and a currach made out of ceramic.

Image: Carriage clock via Shutterstock

THE STATE SPENT a total of €16,832 on gifts for visiting dignitaries like carriage clocks, vases, ceramic bowls, and silver cufflinks over the past 10 years.

Deputy Patrick Nulty asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs, Eamon Gilmore, about the money that was spent on State gifts presented to foreign dignitaries.

‘Mutual appreciation’

In his answer to the parliamentary question, Gilmore said that it is “standard international practice in the context of Ministerial and other High-Level visits to exchange small, representative tokens of mutual appreciation”.

Gilmore pointed out that consultation takes place before the gift is chosen, “to ensure it respects the culture of the recipient and any ethics requirements”. These items are sourced in Ireland or are of Irish interest.

Newbridge carriage clocks were purchased for each head of delegation as a gift from the Tánaiste in his role as Chairperson in Office of the OSCE.

These were purchased at a reduced price of €45.38 and cost €3,902.68 in total to purchase them.

The figures released by the Tánaiste show that the amount of money spent on dignitaries’ gifts varied greatly over the past 10 years, in most cases simply due to the amount of dignitaries visiting.

The gifts

In 2003, €4,961.99 was spent on gifts, the most expensive of which was €145 on a Louise Kennedy 12″ Spindle Tree Vase for the Bahrain dignitary. Other expensive gifts included a Waterford Crystal Vase (€140), a Louise Kennedy crystal sea aster bowl (€144) and a Louise Kennedy Tri Star vase (€120).

In 2004, the spend on gifts came to €1649.82, with only one item reaching €140, for a Palestinian dignitary. In 2005, there were just 11 dignitaries given gifts totalling €668. The dignitaries came from Israel, Palestine and the Ukraine/Russia.

In 2006, the total reached €775, and gifts included a Patrick Francis scarf (€10), and a Celtic Warrior wallet and cufflink set (€40).

In 2007, large gifts including commemorative prints of the 50th anniversary of Ireland-Japan relations (€368) brought the total to €3069.

2008, meanwhile, saw 10 gifts bought, totalling €880 and including a Gold Cross pen (€80) and crystal cufflinks (€160).

The total dropped to €759 in 2009, with gifts including a €190 Declan Killen brooch.

In 2010, one of the most expensive gifts included a Waterford Crystal siren bowl (€160) for a Beijing dignitary, and the total for all gifts came to €1515.

Two years ago, in 2011, while there were only six gifts, they came to a total of €632 and included a framed ‘fáilte’ ogham stone, costing €180.

Last year, the spend was more than doubled from the previous year, to €1309.84, and included a three-person currach crafted in ceramic, costing €160, and a plain compact mirror (€12.40).

To date this year, the cost of gifts has reached €612.75, with the State choosing items such as the book A History of Ireland in 100 Objects (for a Turkish dignitary) (€15) and four pairs of €7 cufflinks.

Read: Just 11 heads of state have stayed in Farmleigh in four and a half years>

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