Speech by Minister of State Michelle Müntefering on the occasion of the opening of the Goethe-Institut Dublin

19.09.2018 - Speech

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If the Goethe‑Institut did not exist, then we would have to invent it. And I’ll tell you why.

The Goethe‑Institut is promoting the cause of peace – all around the world. With its worldwide network, the Goethe‑Institute builds bridges, brings people together and creates a safe environment.

At a time when nothing can be taken for granted any more, as Foreign Minister Maas summed up the situation recently, this is more important than ever.

This not only applies to countries and regions in which the Goethe‑Institut, with its safe environment, makes free exchange and therefore cultural freedom possible in the first place, but also, to an increasing extent, to Europe, whose fundamental idea of freedom is at risk of eroding.

We must counter this trend. I therefore found a current project by the Goethe‑Institut in Dublin particularly striking when I came across it, namely the project “Freiraum”.

Throughout Europe, the branches of the Goethe‑Institut work with over 50 actors from the worlds of culture, science and civil society and focuses on important topics of our day and age.


  • What does freedom mean in Europe today?
  • Where is it under threat? How can we strengthen it?

The Goethe‑Institut in Dublin is, to my mind, implementing this project in a most impressive and practical way.

In cooperation with the Trinity Access Programmes, which aim to increase the share of students from non‑privileged families at Trinity College Dublin, the project is geared towards pupils aged from 15 to 16 in particular – an important time for young people.

It’s objective is to point out ways for pupils to access language and culture and to demonstrate how these can enrich their lives both privately and professionally. This takes place within the framework of school visits, for example.

If we can get young people enthusiastic about European languages and cultures and help open doors to courses of study for them, then I’m certain that this is both a successful European and a successful international cultural policy.

This is a shining example of the fact that the Goethe‑Institut’s strength lies in a cultural policy that is not a vehicle for exporting culture.

It offers a protected, politically independent environment for culture, education and exchange, as well as scope for expanding cooperative partnerships and friendships. We consider this to be a shift from a cultural policy representing the nation to a cultural policy that focuses on the social function of culture.

We have a vested interest in strengthening this approach and we will continue to support the Goethe‑Institut’s worldwide network – also together with other European partners.

It is therefore a particular pleasure for me to speak to you today at the reopening of the Goethe‑Institut in Dublin on Merrion Square at the heart of the Irish capital in these wonderfully restored premises. The Goethe‑Institut in Dublin was one of the very first branches of the institute to be established abroad. It was opened here in this building on 25 October 1961 at a ceremony attended by the Taoiseach.

In his opening speech, the Ambassador at the time, Dr Reifferscheidt, declared the following: “May the opening of this house later be remembered as a milestone in our traditional friendship”.

Ladies and gentlemen,
Team of the Goethe‑Institut,

And so it is with great joy that we recall this event today. The Goethe‑Institut in Dublin has become a pillar of the German‑Irish friendship.

The language courses that you offer, the cultural events promoted throughout the country, and now the library shining in new splendour are impacting perceptions of Germany among the Irish. You are opening doors to Germany and promoting mutual understanding and the development of joint ideas.

What we have in common is under threat, however. Partnerships and international solidarity, which were once safe as houses, are being put to the test.

We are observing a resurgence of nationalism, isolationism and populism in many countries.

We’re taking this seriously and are focusing on cooperation and partnership instead of national isolationism – and culture plays a decisive role here as the third pillar of German foreign policy.

Culture depends on exchange and would otherwise neither exist nor have any impact.

The European Union is the best example of this, and not in spite of, but owing to its cultural and linguistic diversity.

Should you, as European Union citizens, have opened your passport before, then you will have perhaps come across the following: “An tAontas Eorpach”: That’s what the EU is called in Irish. Irish is one of the 24 official languages of the EU, although it is only spoken on a daily basis by a small proportion of Ireland’s 4.5 million people nowadays, namely 1.8 percent.

While only few people speak this language, this is a reflection of Europe’s cultural richness – and an embodiment of our motto “united in diversity”.

Being open to this diversity and understanding it is a tangible contribution to the cause of peace, also in Europe.

I’m therefore all the more delighted that the Goethe‑Institut in Dublin is such a strong partner at our side for our international cultural policy in Ireland, a partner that thinks in a decidedly European way.

I’m certain that these new premises, which combine the old and the new, will continue to strengthen your linguistic and cultural work – and thus also promote the cause of understanding.

Over 1000 people will learn German here each year, get to know Germany and delve into the German language with the help of the library’s collection of 10,000 media items, as well as attend cultural events here.

I hope that this will be a lively institution, here in the centre of Dublin, that will, I’m quite sure, continue to make a vital contribution to our bilateral relations with Ireland. It’s no coincidence, Minister Madigan, that our Irish friends have attached great importance to art and language in a review of our bilateral relations.

These two things have always helped to bring our countries closer together – we need only think of Heinrich Böll’s Irish Journal, published 60 years ago. I hope that we will harness this dynamism, also against the backdrop of Brexit, to continue to strengthen our bilateral relations as a whole.

Allow me in conclusion to wish you all a wonderful evening and thought‑provoking discussions with one another.

I wish the Goethe‑Institut’s staff and visitors, as well as its language course participants every success and a great deal of fun in these new premises.

Thank you very much.


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