Dáil Éireann - Volume 387 - 07 March, 1989

Ceisteanna—Questions. Oral Answers. - Presentation of Gifts.

1. Mr. J. Higgins asked the Taoiseach the gifts which were presented by him to the Crown Prince of Saudi Arabia and his party on the occasion of their visit here; the value of the said gifts; and whether the gifts in question were paid from Government resources.

The Taoiseach: I personally presented the Crown Prince with two gifts. These did not involve any cost to public funds. On his departure, I presented the Crown Prince with two books which were paid for from State funds. Individual members of the party accompanying the Crown Prince were presented with items of china, crystal and books, which were paid for from State funds.

The presentation of these gifts was in accordance with longstanding international practice which has been followed for very many years by successive administrations. It would detract from the value of the gifts as tokens of friendship and goodwill to make public their monetary value. The Deputy can be assured that they were in good taste and suited in every way to the needs of the occasion.

[2354] Mr. J. Higgins: I accept that procedure, protocol and good diplomacy have established that gifts are part and parcel of the normal exchange between diplomatic figures and heads of Governments but it is not the value of the said gifts which is at issue here. Would the Taoiseach not agree that because the gifts given by him to the head of state were purchased from taxpayers' money that, therefore, they were gifts from the nation and the converse should be true — the reciprocal gifts should be regarded as gifts to the nation and their ownership by the nation should be the question at issue here?

The Taoiseach: The Deputy is misleading himself. The principal gifts on this occasion to the Crown Prince did not involve any expenditure by the State.

Question No. 2 postponed.