Prof Peter Gallagher with French ambassador Stéphane Crouzat German ambassador Deike Potzel French embassy economic counsellor Paul de Vos French embassy PR counsellor Yoann Duperthuy
While the weather wasn't great earlier on in the week, thankfully things picked up when both the French and German ambassadors enjoyed trips to several local sites during a recent visit to the county last week.
I was delighted when the invite for the joint Franco-German visit popped into my inbox, saying the two ambassadors would attend at Coolderry NS in the morning of Friday, January 17 before heading towards Birr Castle Demesne for around 11.30am. So for my 'Tribune Living' this week, I decided to give it a bit of an European flavour and meet up with both Ambassadors and their small entourage in Birr Castle Demesne. And,I thought it would give you an insight into the exciting life I lead as a local journalist!
In replying to the email, I even managed to bravely (and rather embarrassingly) practice my 'quelques mots de Français' (a few words of French) saying I would pop along to say 'bonjour'. Unfortunately, I couldn't even attempt so much as a ‘hello’ in German.
Anyway, we all know how beautiful Offaly can be, that we have great education facilities and how amazing some of the projects, facilities and amenities are in the 'faithful county'. But, sometimes we forget! Well, I know that I do! And, sometimes when you take a step back and take on board the views of a visiting party, you do realise we really do live in a 'hidden gem' here in the midlands.
On Friday last, in gorgeous winter sunshine, the ‘Tribune’ met the French ambassador Stéphane Crouzat and German ambassador Deike Potzel along with Professor Peter Gallagher, of I-LOFAR, in Birr Castle at the old telescope where the ambassadors were treated to a brief history of this world renowned telescope. Both ambassadors were keenly interested in its history and its significance to astronomical history and discovery.
Professor Gallagher then brought the pair to the state of the art I-LOFAR telescope and its visitors centre. This telescope is part of an European network of stations in countries including France and Germany. So, both ambassadors were delighted to hear about the ground breaking work being carried out in Birr and further afield across Europe.
Basking in glorious winter sunshine, the ambassadors were happy to step out of the cold into the warm visitor centre and also to meet a group of students, who were participating in a Science Week workshop in conjunction with the Dublin based, Science Gallery on the day.
Later, Ambassador Potzel said the visit to the school was fabulous and thanked all of the students and staff, who put in “so much effort” presenting their project on the European Union. “It was lovely to hear them talking about the countries they were looking into. They had learnt a lot. They danced and sang songs for us. And, of course it was lovely for the two of us to be there together. It was very nice.”
Ambassador Crouzat enthused it was a “great opportunity to go and visit a school” as part of a Franco German friendship. “We were particularly struck by the questions that the children had to ask. There was lots of questions on Brexit, climate and change and it was very serious stuff.”
Talking about the visit to Birr Castle, the Ambassador said that it was “just so impressive”.“Here we have a gigantic European telescope and we are only seeing a small section of it with off shoots in both Germany and France, Ireland and the Netherlands. It’s just a wonderful European project.”
Ambassador Potzel then added that it was lovely to be in Birr Castle to see the history of the site and also to see the old telescope. “That was really brilliant. We are really looking forward to going into the castle in a little bit. Another aspect of the place and it is also so beautiful out here. It’s very impressive,” she enthused before heading off to meet Lord Rosse in the surroundings of Birr Castle.
Heading back to the office, I was delighted the Ambassadors had been given an opportunity to get a brief glimpse of our education system and also a sample of just one of the many fantastic tourist and historical sites that Offaly has to offer.