Successive taoisigh have given over €38,000 worth of state gifts to foreign dignitaries over the past 10 years, including 52 pieces of Waterford Crystal, an Aran sweater and CDs.
The most expensive gift was a crystal dragon worth €1,972.50 given to Emperor Akihito and Empress Michiko of Japan by the then taoiseach Bertie Ahern when they visited Ireland at the height of the Celtic Tiger in May 2005.
The most hard done-by dignitary appears to have been the Latvian prime minister, Valdis Dombrovskis, who last June received a Foxford woollen scarf from visiting Taoiseach Enda Kenny worth just €17.05.
The last time German chancellor Angela Merkel visited in 2008, she cleaned up with a damask linen tablecloth worth €240, a month before Bertie Ahern threw in his own towel and resigned from office.
Former French president Nicolas Sarkozy received stylish Waterford Crystal flutes worth €198, along with a DVD of Ireland from the Air worth €36.30, in 2008.
Successive US presidents received the most State gifts, with the traditional bowl of shamrock presented by the Taoiseach for St Patrick’s Day, costing €300 when given by Mr Kenny in 2012. However, the value was €714.93 when presented by Bertie Ahern in 2008 to president George W Bush, who also received a retirement present of a piece of bog oak worth €197.82.
Back in 2004, relationships between Ireland and USA warmed considerably at an EU/US Summit when Mr Bush was presented with an Aran sweater worth €125.64.
However, Ireland treated world superpowers equally: Vladimir Putin of Russia received a Waterford Crystal bowl without the shamrock worth €327.71 in 2003.
When president Hosni Mubarak of Egypt visited in 2006, Mr Ahern presented him with Waterford Crystal candlesticks worth €148.21, by far the popular present, as they were also given to the King of Belgium in 2007, Xana Gusa, president of East Timor, and the presidents of Estonia, India, Serbia and Montenegro, and South Africa, and Prince Abdu Aziz of Saudi Arabia.
British prime minister Tony Blair may have been 50 when he visited in 2003, but Mr Ahern gave him a teenager’s present of a music book and music CDs worth €93.16, while Britain’s horse-loving Queen Elizabeth fared much better on her historic visit in 2011 when she received the Special Edition Sweeney Guide to the Irish Turf 1501-2001, worth €200.
When Mr Ahern travelled to the Vatican in 2005, he brought Pope Benedict a hand-painted batik of St Benedict worth €394.70, while the President of the European Commission, Manuel Barroso, received a handy pair of silver King Sitric cufflinks priced at €92.
However, it was 18ct gold cufflinks worth €281.60 for King Harold of Norway when he came to Ireland in 2006.
In a written reply to a Dáil question last week, Mr Kenny said all state gifts are carefully sourced in Ireland with the emphasis on suitability and value for money.
© Irish Examiner Ltd. All rights reserved