Czech Ambassador praises Irish recipient of prestigious 'Gratias Agit' award
25.11.2011 / 15:37
Czech Ambassador to Ireland Tomaš Kafka gave a speech in County Wexford in relation to Irish citizen, Mr. Ivor McElveen, being awarded the 'Gratias Agit' prize from the Czech Republic. The speech, given in Mr. McElveen's native county, acknowledged the valuable contributions made by the businessman to Czech business, culture and life.
The text of the presentation can be read below:
Ladies and Gentlemen,
I have been charged with the task of addressing you with some thoughts of the value of arts in recessionary times. I am extremely happy with this assignment. However, before I embark on it, I wish to pay a proper homage to the man whose company I take pleasure being in, alongside you all, today.
I can just hope that Mr. Ivor McElveen will not mind being held responsible for this gathering, but I cannot help doing it anyway. Ivor was recently decorated with the Gratias Agit, which is an award introduced by the Czech Foreign Ministry in order to express its gratitude towards people for spreading or maintaining the good name of the Czech Republic abroad and, increasingly, also at home. As he received his decoration I felt that it was not only a good day for the Czech-Irish relations but for me personally as well. And, perhaps, not just for me but for everybody who has been lucky to meet Ivor and his wife, Alice. The calm goodness and the firm belief in higher cultural goods they both radiate show they are reliable friends for good times and bad.
Ivor’s track record in Czech-Irish relations goes back to the 1990s as he helped the then Czech Government with the privatization and attraction of foreign investments for a couple of years. The Czech Republic was then a hopeful but still a bit disorientated country; Ireland was a booming but still a bit insecure country, globalization was perceived as young, and the EU was a dream coming true. This stage has changed during the last 20 years. However, the Czech Republic is still a bit disorientated, Ireland is still a bit insecure, globalization is now perceived everywhere and the EU cannot wake itself up soon enough.
Maybe, one of the conclusions as to which way we may jump at this stage is to send Ivor to Prague again? But it would be too selfish of us. Instead, we should be happy to share Ivor and Alice as our real Ambassadors of good Czech-Irish relations with their cross-border remits. I am sure that this appointment would be one of those you cannot reject, would it not? However, Alice, Ivor, don´t be afraid it is not yet official. Yet!
But the truth is that in recessionary times what we need is not only The Arts, but, first of all, inspiring people. They are, of course, important in good times as well, but they are less visible. Good times though, don’t always last too long. The old, shrewd Goethe already knew well that too much unarticulated happiness can stupefy. Maybe, from time to time we should all read our European classics? And we shouldn’t wait too long to do this, as we remember that the on-going crisis will be one day over.
But for the moment we can put the classics aside. Old wisdoms could sound a bit provocative or, maybe, arrogant. I deem it rather counterproductive to suggest that culture or arts would try to embrace their lost superiority and teach us materialistic sinners revengeful lessons. What we need is fantasy, new openness and curiosity! What we need to learn are not old moral lessons, but the ways in which we can forgive the world for the mistakes we have made on our own.
I was recently honoured to host a lunch for EU-Ambassadors accredited to Ireland. At this gathering there is a habit to invite a speaker to address the audience, and these speakers are usually recruited from political or economic circles. I decided to make an exception to this rule and to ask your fellow countryman (or county-man) Colm Tóibín to speak.
He presented to us his version of Europe which I agree with unequivocally. The bottom line was that Europe – and perhaps even EU – is established and kept by our inner ability to laugh at ourselves and also at the things which are dear to us. It is this laughter that gives us the sensation that we can handle our world, regardless of how difficult the problems that may face us may be. And it is laughter which advises us not to take everything so seriously. Seriousness makes its own way even without our support. The current crisis has shown that sufficiently.
But laughter as such is not a panacea - and we know it. We are not stupid. We just don´t know whether laughing is an appropriate reaction to the current state of play or not. I don´t know either. Maybe, we can cry as well? However (and this is my bottom line), we should never give up. We can be skeptical in theory but we have to remain open-minded to the idea that we still may help in practice. If we do the Arts and artists will help us with this task.