Vatican in talks over embassy

Sat, Apr 28, 2012, 01:00

DIPLOMATIC EFFORTS are under way to seek agreement from the Vatican to allow the former Irish embassy to be used as a location for embassies to Italy and to the Holy See.

Minister for Foreign Affairs Eamon Gilmore said yesterday that the non-resident Ambassador, department secretary general David Cooney, was having discussions with Vatican officials to see if agreement could be reached about both missions cohabiting in the Villa Spada, which had been home to Ireland’s embassy to the Holy See until recently.

Ireland’s embassy to Italy is being moved from its rented quarters to the Villa Spada, which is the biggest of the 36 diplomatic properties owned by the State worldwide. The properties have a combined value of €148 million.

“One of the difficulties we had was the insistence by the Vatican that we had to have two separate ambassadors, two separate embassies, two separate buildings,” Mr Gilmore told Morning Ireland. “In our present financial circumstances I didn’t think that was sustainable.”

Mr Cooney, who is due to present his credentials as Ambassador at the Holy See next week, told an Oireachtas committee on Thursday that he was having discussions with Vatican authorities about the use of Villa Spada.

“One of the things he advised the committee yesterday,” Mr Gilmore said, “was the necessity for him to be allowed to do that work behind the scenes which is where diplomatic effort is more effective.”

Mr Cooney told the committee that he was adopting an approach of “the less said, the better” as the Vatican would be more likely to ease its rules against a country having one embassy serving both Italy and the Holy See, if the negotiations did not draw the attention of other states seeking a similar arrangement.