Opening-Ceremony at the Irish Embassy:
Ireland is famous not only for its beautiful green landscape but also for its great literature:
William Butler Yeats, Seamus Heaney, George Bernard Shaw, Samuel Beckett – the list of Irish Nobel Prize Winners in Literature is impressive.
And many people still wonder why James Joyce has never been awarded the prize. All these authors are famous throughout the world. They represent Irish literature. And they have one thing in common: they are all men.
If we look at the laureates from Germany, it is almost the same … apart from rare exceptions like Herta Müller.
And this is not only a phenomenon in Irish and German literature but with regard to Nobel Prize Winners in general. It is a reflection of a much wider picture.
Part of that picture is: females all around the world, as in the case of the writers, are still underestimated and underrepresented. It’s time to change this!
I am therefore delighted to welcome you here today at “Brigid meets Berlin”, a festival to celebrate Irish women writers.
When Nicolas invited me to this evening’s opening last October, I was all for it.
Today, on St Brigid’s Day, Irish embassies all around the world are celebrating the creativity of women.
A very appropriate day – as I learned, for St Brigid is the only female among Ireland’s national saints.
St Brigid’s Day is therefore also a good opportunity to discuss the challenges we face in our efforts to achieve full equality for women.
That is still a prime concern – and we are therefore using our time on the United Nations Security Council also to promote the issue of women, peace and security.
By the way, Mary Robinson, who I frequently see at the meetings in New York, is a strong partner in this regard.
And we need all the support we can get – because we’re facing a pushback. And we need to implement the WPS agenda.
At the same time, it is important to me that we also clear up in our own backyard.
We can only be credible if we join forces to fight the injustices we see here in Germany, Ireland and Europe.
That also applies to business and politics.
For instance, here in Berlin – Nicolas, don’t be cross with me for mentioning this – there are 124 accredited male ambassadors and only 37 female ambassadors.
That is slightly better than the Nobel Prize List – but there is still a lot to do.
So this evening, let us enjoy outstanding literature and engage in discussion.
Let us put the limelight on women.
Literature opens up new horizons, and books know no boundaries.
As long as people write and read, there is the hope that our societies will learn and come to understand that what we have in common outweighs that which divides us.
Nicolas, during our conversation, we also discussed the prospect of Brexit. We agreed that the controversy surrounding the United Kingdom’s withdrawal from the EU had the potential to polarise society in Great Britain, in Northern Ireland and to some extent also in Ireland for many years to come.
In particular, Nicolas shared with me his concerns about the potential for violence to flare up again in Northern Ireland.
In view of the speechlessness and the lack of constructive political dialogue in Northern Ireland over the last three years, that concern is justified.
I am therefore all the more pleased that a new basis for dialogue has been created with the formation of a new government in Belfast on 11 January 2020.
For the EU, preserving peace in Northern Ireland is a top priority in the Brexit negotiations.
We are more than an economic area. We share values and convictions, just as we face similar challenges.
The day after tomorrow, on 1 February the United Kingdom will no longer be a member of the European Union.
Our objective must therefore not be to erect new walls but to overcome them, particularly those in many minds.
Ladies and gentlemen,
The fact that German-Irish relations are so close is in no small part due to culture.
Many people have been involved in this, and I would like to express my sincere thanks to all of you for your commitment to our bilateral cultural relations. For your help with the never-ending story of creation.
One year ago, I had the privilege of opening the renovated Goethe-Institut in Merrion Square, Dublin.
A wonderfully successful design that combines the old and the new in a harmonious whole.
A large number of cultural events are held here – film, dance, literature – which are met with great interest from the public.
My visit to Dublin showed me very clearly the intensity of our cultural exchange and our close ties. And I hope we can intensify this exchange further.
Ladies and gentlemen,
I am delighted about the fact that such great Irish authors have come to Berlin.
Culture has the power to form narratives and shape the story of our common future.
It is therefore imperative that
- female creativity has an equal share,
- and that female voices are equally heard.
Or to slightly misquote the great Oscar Wilde: “Women are made to be loved, but also to be understood”.
Thank you very much.