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Taoiseach Enda Kenny presents a Waterford Crystal bowl of shamrock to President Obama. Photo by: Google Images

Waterford Crystal is Irish politicians’ go-to gift for foreign dignitaries

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Taoiseach Enda Kenny presents a Waterford Crystal bowl of shamrock to President Obama. Photo by: Google Images

Waterford Crystal remains the favorite choice for members of the Irish government when they need a gift for a foreign dignitary.

Although the Waterford factory closed down in 2009 products of the smaller House of Waterford Crystal which opened in 2010 are still a major attraction, especially in the U.S.

Waterford bowls holding gifts of Shamrock are carried to U.S. presidents each year.

In a written reply to a Dail (Parliament) question last week, Taoiseach (Prime Minister) Enda Kenny said all state gifts are carefully sourced in Ireland with the emphasis on suitability and value for money.

The Irish Examiner reported that successive taoisigh (prime ministers) have given over €38,000 ($52,000) worth of state gifts to foreign dignitaries over the past 10 years, including 52 pieces of Waterford Crystal, an Aran sweater and CDs.

The most expensive gift was a crystal dragon worth €1,972.50 ($2, 713) given by the then Taoiseach Bertie Ahern to Emperor Akihito and Empress Michiko of Japan when they visited Ireland at the height of the Celtic Tiger in May 2005.

The traditional bowl of shamrock for St. Patrick's Day cost €300 ($413) when presented by Kenny to President Obama in 2012. However, the value was €714.93 ($983) when it was presented by Ahern in 2008 to President George W. Bush, who also received a retirement present of a piece of bog oak worth €197.82 ($272).

Former French President Nicolas Sarkozy received stylish Waterford Crystal flutes worth €198 (272), along with a DVD of Ireland worth €36.30 ($50), in 2008.

Vladimir Putin of Russia received a Waterford Crystal bowl without the shamrock worth €327.71 ($450) in 2003.

When President Hosni Mubarak of Egypt visited in 2006, Ahern presented him with Waterford Crystal candlesticks worth €148.21 ($204). These were by far the most popular present, as they were also given to the King of Belgium in 2007, Xana Gusa, president of East Timor, and the presidents of Estonia, India, Serbia and Montenegro, and South Africa, and Prince Abdu Aziz of Saudi Arabia.

When Ahern traveled to the Vatican in 2005, he brought Pope Benedict a hand-painted batik of St. Benedict worth €394.70 ($543).

The last time German chancellor Angela Merkel visited in 2008, she cleaned up with a damask linen tablecloth worth €240 ($330).

England's horse-loving Queen Elizabeth fared better on her historic visit in 2011 when she received the "Special Edition Sweeney Guide to the Irish Turf 1501-2001," worth €200 ($275).

Most hard done-by dignitary appears to have been the Latvian prime minister, Valdis Dombrovskis, who last June received a Foxford woollen scarf from Kenny worth just €17.05 ($23.40).

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