"No greater honour can be bestowed upon a person", says Finland's Honorary Consul General in Dublin, Tom Eklund, who has served as a representative of Finland for over 40 years. Tom Eklund originally moved to Dublin in pursuance of his work, yet once he was here he fell in love with both the country and a local lady and the decision to stay in Ireland was formed.
The message was conveyed to Finland's Ministry of Foreign Affairs in November 1975, and Tom Eklund was appointed an Honorary Consul of Finland. In recognition of His distinguished service to his motherland he has been presented with the Knight and later the Commander of the Order of the Lion of Finland.
Two countries to call home
During the time that Tom Eklund has lived in Ireland and served as an honorary consul here, the country has developed in many ways. His mission is an ongoing process in an ever-changing environment. In honor of his 40 years of service the Finnish Embassy in Dublin requested an interview. As we sat to talk, Tom had become acquainted to the twelfth Finnish Ambassador to Ireland, Jaana Teckenberg, who started her term on 1.1.2016.
Tom Eklund recalls his first impression of Ireland as a country that lagged behind Finland in terms of material development, yet a wonderfully friendly and helpful country. For him it was clear from the beginning that Finland and Ireland share many points of natural contact. The two countries historical and geographical similarities are clearly visible, and have made the role of an honorary consul clearer, more natural, and thus smoother.
An Honorary Consul works in representative partnership with the embassy or consulate general, as an integral part of Finland's foreign representation network. The role of an honorary consul is varied and complex, and yet the position is highly desirable. Prior to the establishment of the Finnish Embassy in Dublin in 1989, when diplomatic relations were managed from the Hague, the role of the honorary consul concentrated on consular tasks such as the translation and notarization of documents, issuance of passports and visas and providing assistance to Finnish citizens.
After the establishment of the embassy, the consular functions transferred to the embassy and the role of the honorary consul shifted. Tom Eklund describes his main role as more active now, promoting the image of Finland in Ireland and improve relations between the two countries.
Honorary consulates play a vital role in Finland's image as intermediaries in their countries of residence. A strong network of contacts is an essential element for the success of any honorary consulate. Tom Eklund has fostered a wide-ranging network of business and other influential contacts in Ireland. Furthermore he has played an active role in the establishment of both the Irish-Finnish Society (1978) and the Finnish Business Club (1988). In a rapidly developing and shifting world, the ability to understand, adapt to and remain influential is indispensable, and Tom Eklund serves as the epitome of such an 'antennae'.
Although the role is unpaid, it provides more reward than a salary can. As the title suggests, it is regarded a position of respect to act as an honorary consul. Tom Eklund explains, that there is no higher honour than representing your motherland abroad. During his 40 years of service to his country, he has collected many extraordinary memories.
One of his most memorable moments was Finland's first state visit to the Republic of Ireland in 1996, when he had the opportunity to meet with President Martti Ahtisaari. According to Tom Eklund, in addition to his work and personal life, his position as a honorary consul is one of the things that has kept him in Ireland. Had he returned to Finland he would have been required to resign from this official representation of Finland, something he would not have been willing to do.
Lisa Advani, intern in the Embassy of Finland, Dublin