Tea, biscuits and a warm welcome for Ambassador

Donal Lyons, left, deputised for mayor Niall McNelis, for the ‘secret’ visit of the Israeli Ambassador to Galway earlier this year

Bradley Bytes – a political column with Dara Bradley 

An extract from the mayoral visitors’ book contains a message from Ambassador of Israel, Ophir Kariv, who said: “Thank you for the warm welcome”.

It was dated February 15, the day of the visit of the ambassador to City Hall; a visit that was not communicated to elected members of Galway City Council, or publicised more widely.

Records released to this newspaper under Freedom of Information (FOI) now shine some light on the visit, which was criticised by councillors for being ‘secret’.

The “courtesy call”, as it was officially called, was instigated by the Israeli Ambassador.

His assistant wrote to the Mayor’s Office on February 4, to say that he was visiting Galway 11 days later, and “would be delighted to have the opportunity to pay a courtesy call to the Mayor of Galway City.”

An official in the Mayor’s Office responded to say that the request was forwarded to Mayor Niall McNelis.

He added that the mayoral diary showed McNelis had appointments in the morning of February 15, but there was a “possibility” of an afternoon appointment. The Ambassador’s office replied to say he’d be glad to meet in the afternoon, and asked for a specific time.

McNelis then told his own office that he was “not available” because he had a NWRA (Northern and Western Regional Assembly) meeting. “Can you ask the deputy mayor to attend,” he asked.

There is no correspondence with Cllr Donal Lyons, but he obviously agreed to deputise and met Mr Ophir on February 15.

The Ambassador’s office didn’t sound too disappointed that McNelis couldn’t attend and reported that Mr Kariv, “would be delighted to meet with the deputy mayor”. She attached a biography of the Ambassador, so that Donal could brush-up for the small talk.

On February 11, the office of Chief Executive, said “it looks like” Brendan McGrath “will not be available” to meet the Ambassador as he was at meetings “right up to 3pm” and another at 3.15pm and 3.30pm. “But you never know, he may pop down if free.”

The Mayor’s Office submitted an order for “tea/coffee/biscuits/water” for four people for the Mayor Room on the day of the visit. No minutes of the meeting were recorded, although photographs of Deputy Mayor and the Ambassador shaking hands, were taken inside City Hall.

The meeting appears to have been nothing more than a photo opportunity – so why the secrecy? And despite the charm offensive, the mayor seconded a motion by Colette Connolly, this week, calling on RTÉ to boycott the Eurovision Song Contest ‘as long as it is held in Israel’.

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