Vatican embassy to close

Thu, Nov 3, 2011, 00:00

Ireland is to close its embassies to the Holy See and Iran as part of cost-cutting measures, Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs Eamon Gilmore announced today.

Mr Gilmore said it was with "the greatest regret and reluctance" that the Government had decided to close the two embassies and Ireland's representative office in Timor Leste.

"Today’s decision follows a review of overseas missions carried out by the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade which gave particular attention to the economic return from bilateral missions," he said.

"In order to meet its targets under the EU-IMF programme and to restore public expenditure to sustainable levels, the Government has been obliged to implement cuts across a wide range of public services. No area of Government expenditure can be immune from the need to implement savings."

Mr Gilmore noted that while the embassy to the Holy See is one of Ireland’s oldest diplomatic missions, it yields no economic return.

"The Government believes that Ireland’s interests with the Holy See can be sufficiently represented by a non-resident Ambassador," he said. "The Government will be seeking the agreement of the Holy See to the appointment of a senior diplomat to this position."

Mr Gilmore noted that Ireland has had an embassy in Teheran since 1976. "Regrettably, trade volumes with Iran have fallen short of expectations and, in light of the current pressures on public finances, the Government has decided to close this mission and to seek Iran’s agreement to a non-resident accreditation," he said.

Ireland opened a resident mission in Timor Leste in 2000, prior to independence in 2002, to administer its bilateral aid programme. The office is headed by a chargé d’affaires with the ambassador resident in Singapore.

"Timor Leste has made substantial progress and, while the aid programme in that country will continue, it is no longer necessary to maintain a resident office in Dili. Our ambassador in Singapore will continue to be accredited to Timor Leste," Mr Gilmore said.

He added that the Government will continue to review Ireland’s network of diplomatic and consular missions to ensure that it "reflects our present day needs and yields value for money".

He said it will consider reshaping and expanding the network in light of developments and opportunities, as economic circumstances allow.

In a statement Primate of Ireland Cardinal Séan Brady expressed his “profound disappointment” with the decision saying it 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”.

“I hope that today's decision will be revisited as soon as possible and that it can be addressed at the next meeting of the Church-State structured dialogue,” he added.