Perfectly all right for Green Party leader John Gormley to get all up in the Chinese ambassador's face. A verbal slap? Fine, grand, give Mr. Liu a good hard tongue lashing. But don't call Tibet a country. That's taking it too far.
Mr. Gormley spoke at the Green Party conference, where Liu Biwei was most cordially invited to attend. The ambassador was given a heads up before hand, to let him know that Mr. Gormley was going to say a word or two about Tibet, and the man came anyway.
Respect for human rights, exploited, suppressed, etc. etc. said Mr. Gormley. And then he dropped the "c" bomb. He referred to Tibet as a country, and not a region of China that is seeking greater autonomy and even the Dalai Lama isn't talking independence or anything of the sort so it can't be a country.
Mr. Liu up and walked out over the "c" word. Foreign Affairs Minister Dermot Ahern has been in a flutter ever since.
Won't damage trade, not a bit of it, he's been reassuring everyone. The ambassador was offended by that one word, that's all. China will still buy Irish-made goods. They'll still export their own manufacturing. And that Gormley fellow, why, I never met him before in my life. I don't know him at all, at all.
Of course Mr. Ahern would put some space between himself and Mr. Gormley. After the ambassador walked out, Mr. Gormley refused to apologize, and even went so far as to remark on his own freedom of speech, in contrast with the utter lack thereof in China.
Would it have been better if he'd referred to Tibet as a nation?