Links between Brazil & Ireland






The joys and woes of an Honorary Consul

By P. J. Murphy, Honorary Consul for Brazil, Dublin, 1966-1993




I received a letter in September 1966 from the late Michael Sieyes, then Ireland’s Honorary Consul in Rio, saying that he had been requested by the Brazilian Foreign Ministry to suggest the name of someone who would be prepared to act as Honorary Consul for Brazil in Dublin.  Would I be prepared to have my name go forward?   Ideally, an Honorary Consul is appointed from expatriates, but in the case of Brazil this poised a problem, therefore someone with experience of having lived there and with a known affection for its inhabitants was the next best thing.  Having checked with friends who were acting as honorary Consuls, and having determined that the work and time required were not onerous, I agreed.  Trade between Brazil and Ireland at the time was nominal, and as I was engaged in the export business, I felt that there was plenty of scope for improvement.


When I had gone to live in Brazil in 1950, I had to travel to Liverpool to obtain a visa; with that experience I reckoned that a consulate in Dublin would overcome the inconvenience for other Irish citizens.  Furthermore, the certification of documents in commercial, and indeed, personal circumstances, would be more easily and more expeditiously dealt with in Dublin. What my Honorary Consul friends failed to warn me of was the personal problems, which might arise for Brazilian citizens.  I was to learn of these during the ensuing 27 years ...  Enquiries on tourism matters I was able to refer to the Brazilian Tourist Office in London, & shipping difficulties plus many difficult commercial problems were often resolved with help from the Embassy, or the Brazilian Chamber of Commerce in London.


One of the great pleasures of the job was making the acquaintance of Brazilians resident in Ireland, and of those who came to spend time here.  Just as important was the acquaintance of Irish who had been resident in Brazil; as they included many religious who had done Trojan social work there.  I will always be grateful for the assistance that I received from resident Brazilian citizens.  The occasions were numerous, and I will cite just two of these.


A visiting Brazilian lady had the misfortune to fall into the company of a local blackguard, who raped her.  The police dealt speedily with him, and a lady police constable took the victim to a maternity hospital for treatment.  But that left a traumatised citizen.  My call to a “simpatica” compatriot brought her instant support, and a family “abandoned” while the mother spent the night with her.


The other occasion concerned a Brazilian sailor who became involved in a dockside brawl, during which he knifed another sailor IN THE BACK – a serious crime in any jurisdiction. Arraigned before a court in a provincial town, there was no interpreter, and the outlook for him looked bleak.  A call to the Brazilian wife of a friend in the area meant her presence in court and, as a consequence, the sailor was sentenced to a long prison term unless he were to leave the jurisdiction within twenty-four hours.  This, needless to say, was duly arranged, and the sailor rejoined his ship in Amsterdam.  History does not relate what effect a glamorous Carioca caused in a dingy provincial courtroom.


There were other problems involving Brazilian nationals – problems common, of course, to other foreign missions.  Dublin, like other large cities, is not immune to the “disease” of handbag snatching.  I recall three instances that took place within a short space of time, each being reported to me by disgusted and distressed Irish citizens.  A ’phone call to the relevant police station brought about the swift recovery of the loss of property – the handbag with all its contents, less, of course, any Irish currency.  In each case a sympathetic policemen handed it to its owner in her hotel.  The police usually had an idea where they were “dumped”, and the thieves were only interested in ready cash.  I have to record that I always received the greatest co-operation from members of the police force.


There were other incidents I could have done without.  One afternoon a host of schoolchildren with their teachers and a press photographer arrived at my home to protest at our Government’s treatment of the Indian population of Amazonas.  I sent my wife “out to bat” – she having been a teacher before her marriage.  She explained to them the difference between an ambassador representing his government, and a consul representing a government department, and suggested that the appropriate place to deliver a protest was the Brazilian Embassy.  The Embassy accredited to Ireland at the time was in The Hague ...   On another occasion a coffee importer published a “Quiz” in the national newspapers as a promotion of his products.  This took the form of a series of questions about Brazil – ironic, as Ireland was not a direct importer of Brazilian coffee.  My home received 30 ‘phone calls on a Sunday – the last one recorded at 10:00 p.m. – seeking to learn the name of Brazil’s capital, currency, etc.


There were other disagreeable incidents, happily now a distant memory.  Taking the rough with the smooth, the job had many rewards.  I had the satisfaction of having repaid part of a debt I felt I owed to a country and a people where I had spent some very happy years.  And I met many charming Brazilians who were living in Ireland, as well as many who stayed only temporarily.  I made the acquaintance of many Irish people who had spent time in Brazil, including nuns and priests who had done magnificent social work there.  Then there were all those in the various branches of the Brazilian Foreign Service, who were always so helpful to me.  Nevertheless, with the years pressing, it was music to my ears to hear the news that a Brazilian embassy was to be opened in Dublin, and in September 1993, with the new Embassy, I passed my responsibilities to the consular section there.


Footnote:  In recognition of his services over the years, and for his assistance in setting up the Brazilian Embassy in Dublin, the Government of Brazil presented Mr. P.J. Murphy with the prestigious decoration of  “Ordem de Rio Branco”.