THE German Ambassador to Ireland has said more can be done to strengthen links between Cork and Cologne if people here are willing to work on it.
Speaking on a visit to Leeside yesterday, Deike Potzel, who took office as Ambassador in November, said that there are strong links between Ireland and Germany, but greater efforts can be made on a regional basis.
Cork and Cologne have been twinned since 1989, and regular cultural exchanges take place each year, like school exchanges. Last year, as part of the Cork Lifelong Learning festival and the UNESCO Conference of Learning Cities, a Cork-Cologne lecture series was launched.
Ms Potzel said that she would like to see a dedicated group founded in Cork to explore the relationship further.
"I feel that there is a lot of potential there from both sides to deepen that twinning. There is a German-Irish friendship group in Cologne, but there is none in Cork. I think the guys in Cologne would be very happy to have a partner group here in Cork, and maybe that would be a start for fresh ideas for that relationship. It would be wonderful.
"A lot of these things just need a personal commitment by somebody who is willing to do that. It's all about finding just a couple of people and, usually, these things get going," she said.
During her trip, her first to Cork, she met with Lord Mayor Tony Fitzgerald to discuss links between Ireland and Cork, visited University College Cork, Mount Mercy school, and met with Fianna Fáil TD Kevin O'Keeffe, who sits on an Oireachtas group that is aimed at strengthening Irish-German relations.
Ms Potzel said that her trip was focused on getting to know Ireland outside of Dublin and to promote Germany as a partner for trade, culture, and tourism.
She said that Germans are already a big provider of inbound tourism to Ireland, especially to counties like Cork.
"I think it is simply the beauty of the country. Germans love Ireland. It goes back a long time. Many people came here over the last few decades and spread the word.
"There is still a lot of potential. This year alone 650,000 Germans came here on a holiday. We are the third biggest tourism provider but there is still potential there," she said.
Aer Lingus recently announced that it is dropping its direct Cork to Munich flights this March, but Ms Potzel said that Ireland is easy to get to via Dublin. She said it is up to commercial providers to consider whether more flights would be viable to regional airports like Cork Airport.
She said that she was impressed by those engaging with German culture in Cork that she met during her trip especially by those in Mount Mercy, where students study German, and in UCC.
"It was so sweet to see the girls speaking German. It was really, really wonderful. They have a really committed teacher and a really committed principal.
"I was very impressed with what they are doing in the university. The German department is quite big and a lot of teachers there, and they are all very committed to what they are doing. It is really fabulous to see how many students they have there, whether they are learning German or learning about German culture and literature," she said.