‘Brexit has brought us closer together’
Dutch Ambassador Adriaan Palm believes Brexit has brought The Netherlands and Ireland closer together and says both countries can learn a lot from each other around areas such as agriculture, housing, and tourism.
Ambassador Palm was speaking during a visit to County Roscommon on Tuesday, during which he visited Roscommon County Council, Elphin Windmill, and the Arigna Mining Experience.
“Since Brexit, we have looked across our ‘big neighbour’, the UK, more. We have found each other and realised we have a lot in common,” he said.
“Our trade has substantially increased in the last five years, both in goods and services. In services we are one of the largest partnerships now and in trade we’re also in the top ten with each other.
“We have a lot of similar challenges too: there is a housing crisis in Ireland and there is a housing crisis in the Netherlands. So there are areas where we have to look at each other and ask where we can learn from each other”.
Mr Palm’s tenure as Dutch Ambassador to Ireland comes to an end later this month when he takes up the role of Deputy Ambassador to Indonesia.
“Looking back on four years in Ireland, what has stood out for me is the Irish people, the accessibility, the friendliness, the reaching out, and the personal interest (they show). I hope that in those four years, despite Covid-19, we’ve been able to strengthen relationships,” he said.
“The fact that both the Irish and the Dutch are both quite down to earth helps in establishing better links. Covid has had an impact on relationships in general but at the same time, with the opening up of countries, people started to notice new places and I think that’s why so many people are visiting Dublin (from the continent). With that we also see an increase in the number of people visiting other parts of Ireland”.
The Dutch Ambassador’s tour of Roscommon took him to Arigna, where he visited the Mining Experience and also to Elphin, where he met compatriot Marika Leen, who recently re-thatched the local windmill.
“I think at the start of the 20th Century some of those windmills fell into disrepair and then say in the 70s and 80s you had communities that wanted them up and running again,” he said.
“It’s a community effort that you see in Ireland and in The Netherlands. I am very much interested to hear from my own compatriot to see what she thinks about the re-thatching of windmills in both countries and how we can use them to boost tourism and community feeling”.
Ambassador Palm said he was also looking forward to seeing what life was like for people in Roscommon, adding that the county shared many similarities with rural parts of The Netherlands.
“There are a lot of similarities between us in general. For example, when it comes to the windmills, the history of mining and agricultural development and challenges. This is where I want to see how we can create opportunities and find out where we can learn from each other,” he said.
Earlier in the day, Ambassador Palm met with local councillors in the Council Chamber, where he was asked about possible twinning opportunities between Dutch and Irish towns by Cllr Orla Leyden, who just returned from a visit to Chartrettes in France, a town which is twinned with Roscommon.
The Dutch Ambassador said the issue of twinning was very much up to the cities and towns themselves, but that rural areas in The Netherlands and Ireland could learn from each other when it came to agricultural challenges and the issue of young people emigrating.