'Cardinal' and nuncio bond over Irish Scarlet Pimpernel


WE SEE Paul Coghlan of the Upper House is driving a lovely new Skoda in a gleaming shade of Papal White. He needs a good set of wheels to get him up and down from Dublin to Killarney every week.

Senator Coghlan was in Leinster House this week with Msgr Charles Browne, papal nuncio and the dean of the diplomatic corps.

The two men share an interest in the story of Msgr Hugh O’Flaherty, a Vatican diplomat who established “The Rome Escape Line” during the second World War, helping more than 6,500 Jews and allied soldiers to escape from the German forces.

O’Flaherty, who grew up in Killarney, became known as the Scarlet Pimpernel of the Vatican for his wartime exploits.

The nuncio was guest of honour at a cross-party dinner in the Members Restaurant on Wednesday evening, attended by 32 Senators.

“We all paid our own way,” pointed out Coghlan, moving swiftly to quash any rumours of State-sponsored dining.

An enjoyable evening was had by all, with Msgr Browne – a suave New Yorker who worked the tables like a political pro – telling the gathering about his Irish-American connections. Cardinal Coghlan (as he has been called all week) also spoke, managing an oblique reference to the power of prayer and the survival of the Upper House.

As one Senator put it afterwards: “Once upon a time, the church told us to pray for the conversion of Russia. These days in the Seanad, we’re praying for the conversion of Enda.”