Revealed: Bizarre requests received at foreign affairs

ONE man wanted to know where he could watch rugby in Thailand while a woman sought advice on how long to sunbathe safely on Sydney’s Bondi Beach. Then there was the mother with the slightly more pressing concern: whether her son’s girlfriend was cheating.

The Department of Foreign Affairs is well-versed in assisting Irish people who find themselves in difficulty abroad, but some of the requests it has received this year border on the bizarre.

Now it has released details of some of the more unusual cases.

In the case of the concerned mother, she contacted the department to see if staff at an embassy in a certain country could play detective.

“She asked officials to drive past the address a few times to see if there was any activity while her son was at work,” a department spokesman said yesterday. “The request was politely declined.”

Similarly declined was a request from a Saudi hospital worker who wanted an embassy’s help in procuring a date with an Irish nurse.

The department says it also received numerous requests asking for flights to be delayed because passengers were running late.

Sadly for those concerned, they found out the department’s statutory powers did not stretch to changing flight schedules.

On a more serious note, department officials say 2009 has been one of the busiest years on record for consular assistance.

Preliminary figures show the department has so far had to deal with circa 1,350 serious cases this year, ranging from accidents and natural disasters to crimes such as the high-profile kidnappings of Sharon Commins and Fr Michael Sinnott, both of whom were subsequently freed.

While the final total won’t be compiled until after the traditional busy Christmas period, the department says the number of requests is well up on previous years.

Foreign Affairs Minister Micheál Martin has again urged people travelling abroad over the Christmas and new year holiday to take proper precautions.

“There are a number of precautions we should all take before heading for the airport or the ferry. It is vital to have proper travel insurance, people travelling should register on our website www.dfa.ie, and it is vital that local laws and customs are observed when in a foreign country,” he said. “Travel advice for each country is also available on www.dfa.ie, and I would encourage anyone travelling to check this before leaving Ireland. It is also essential that people ensure their passports are in order before travelling. Officials at my department will be on hand to deal with emergencies.”


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