Gilmore defends Vatican decision

Fri, Nov 4, 2011, 00:00

Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs Eamon Gilmore has again defended the Government's decision to close the Irish Embassy to the Vatican.

He was speaking after Cardinal Seán Brady expressed his “profound disappointment” at the decision announced yesterday.

The Catholic Primate of Ireland said the decision “means that Ireland will be without a resident Ambassador to the Holy See for the first time since diplomatic relations were established and envoys were exchanged between the two states in 1929.

“I know that many others will share this disappointment,” he said.

“This decision seems to show little regard for the important role played by the Holy See in international relations and of the historic ties between the Irish people and the Holy See over many centuries.

“It is worth recalling that for the new Irish State, the opening of diplomatic relations with the Holy See in 1929 was a very significant moment. It was very important in asserting the identity and presence of the Irish Free State internationally in view of the fact that Irish diplomatic representation abroad was then confined to the legation in Washington, the office of the high commissioner in London, the permanent delegate to the League of Nations, and the Embassy to the Holy See.

“I hope that despite this regrettable step, the close and mutually beneficial co-operation between Ireland and the Holy See in the world of diplomacy can continue – based on shared commitment to justice, peace, international development and concern for the common good.”

Editor of the Irish Catholic, Garry O'Sullivan, said the closure of the embassy was an attack on Catholic culture.

Speaking on RTÉ's Morning Ireland programme, Mr Gilmore said the decision was "nothing of the kind".

He said he would have preferred if Ireland could have maintained two serving ambassadors in Italy - one in Rome and one in the Vatican. However, given the economic situation and a very tight budget for running such missions, it was "one of those regrettable decisions we have had to make".