The Irish Times published a letter of mine regarding German-Irish relations.
A chara, – Derek Scally opines that Ireland is on Germany’s mind and that Germany should be on Ireland’s mind (“Time to rethink our relationship with Berlin and Boston”, Opinion & Analysis, September 25th). Since living in western Germany from the beginning of the year, I have not found that to be the case. In fact, many Germans are blissfully unaware of Ireland besides the clichés of Guinness, Irish whiskey, Kerrygold butter, Irish pop music and singing football fans.
What I have discovered is that many Germans have a very inaccurate image of Ireland. While my German girlfriend was studying in Dublin, some of her friends from home visited her. In preparation for a trip to Ireland, one of my girlfriend’s friends contacted her to say that she was going to the bank and wanted to know how much sterling she should bring with her! When told that the euro is also used in Ireland, the friend said that because Irish people speak English and drive on the left, she thought that we used sterling as well.
The cause of this erroneous perception of Ireland is the fact that English is the main language of Ireland and thus Ireland is viewed as another England. While IDA Ireland and Enterprise Ireland like to go around the world telling everyone that Ireland is an English-speaking country (and this is somehow an economic advantage), it might not be any harm to let people know that Ireland has as its first official language a completely different language to English and that we have been speaking it for give or take 2,500 years. That always takes people’s breath away and lives a bigger impression.
In terms of improving relations with Germany, it would be very wise for Irish people to talk about the outstanding work that German-speaking linguists did in studying the Irish language. Ireland owes a huge debt to Johann Kasper Zeuss (the father of Celtic studies), Ernst Windisch, Kuno Meyer, Heinrich Zimmer and Rudolf Thurneysen. – Is mise,
SEANÁN Ó COISTÍN,
Then a few days letter came a very nice response to my letter.
Sir, – I read with interest the other day the letter from Seanán Ó Coistín entitled “Germany and Ireland” (October 2nd). In the letter, he seemed surprised that a German friend of his girlfriend should have thought that sterling is a currency used here in Ireland.
Sterling is indeed a currency used here in Ireland – certainly in part of our country! Sterling is the currency used up here in most of my native province of Ulster, the second most populous province in all of Ireland. So, to be fair to his German acquaintance, she was partially correct. – Yours, etc,
St Johnston, Co Donegal.
Of course Mr. Browne is correct, unfortunately sterling is used in the north of Ireland. Had my girlfriend’s friend been visiting Doire or Béal Feirste, then it would have been correct to bring sterling with her.