Kiwi diplomat shares ups and downs
Ed McIsaac was standing on the balcony of the New Zealand Embassy in Ankara, Turkey at 4.30am when the sonic boom from an F16 rebel jet sent him flying.
It was all part of the job for the New Zealand diplomat, who was in Turkey as a coup broke out.
‘‘I was looking for a safe way to drive my car home and an F16 flew over and broke the sound barrier. The sonic boom knocked me over and smashed a window in the embassy,’’ McIsaac says.
Ten years before then, McIsaac was a commercial lawyer at firm Minter Ellison Rudd Watts in Auckland central but says it wouldn’t have kept him going.
‘‘It was a great place to cut your teeth but I’d always been interested in foreign affairs and curious about the world.’’
So, in 2006, McIsaac left the firm and applied for a role at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade, but didn’t get an interview.
‘‘It was a lesson for me, you’ve got to work hard to get what you want and you don’t always get it the first time.’’
After a ‘‘rewarding’’ stint with the Ministry of Social Development, McIsaac landed a job with MFAT in 2009. He spent three years doing United Nations environmental negotiation.
From there, McIsaac entered MFAT’s trade division, where he worked on the Trans-Pacific Partnership, before being posted to South Africa in 2013.
He was responsible for trade and economic relations with South Africa, as well as bilateral relations
‘‘I have a very positive view of South Africa, despite its challenges, and I think in New Zealand we don’t always get that.’’
He was also there when Nelson with Angola, Mauritius and Mandela died.
‘‘It was very sad but also a historic moment,’’ McIsaac says.
In 2015, he moved to Turkey where he is now New Zealand’s deputy ambassador.
One of his first assignments was assisting with centennial commemorations of the Gallipoli Landings. He was in Ankara when terrorism struck in mid2015 and heard and felt two terrorist attacks close to the embassy.
He was there for an attempted coup in July 2016, as tanks roamed the streets and F16s and helicopter gunships flew around. Another significant moment for McIsaac was discovering a human rights advocate and lawyer, Tahir Elci, had been shot dead at a peace rally, less than two days after McIsaac met him.
‘‘It was quite hard to remain composed … it really brought home to me the tragedy of some of what’s happening in Turkey, with good people lost every day.’’
But for every negative, there’s a positive. McIsaac’s daughter Zara was born in Ankara about 16 months ago, so Turkey will always be special for him and his wife, Susanna, who he met through foreign affairs.
While it’s hard being away from family networks, he always returns to the Shore where he grew up, and attended Rosmini.
‘‘One thing we miss is not being close to the beach. Ankara is about four hours away and, as a New Zealander … being away from the ocean is tough,’’ he says. ‘‘One of the lucky things about the Shore is the schools are of a high quality. You can go anywhere with the education you get on the Shore.’’
Ed McIsaac, centre, lays a wreath at the commemorative service at Chunuk Bair in August 2017. The site was seized by New Zealand troops in August 1915 and claimed back by Ottoman forces two days later.