New ambassador to the Holy See appointed

Embassy to re-open this summer after being closed for almost three years

Bishops attend the canonisation mass of John Paul II and John XXIII on April 27, in the Vatican City. Photograph: Getty

Ireland's new ambassador to the Holy See is Emma Madigan, who had been an assistant chief of protocol at the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade.

Her nomination was approved by the cabinet at its meeting today. She succeeds Noel Fahey who retired from the position in summer 2011.

On July 20th 2011, one week after publication of the Cloyne report on clerical child sex abuse in that Catholic diocese, Taoiseach Enda Kenny criticised the Vatican’s handling of the Irish church’s sex abuse crisis in the Dáil, saying: “Far from listening to evidence of humiliation and betrayal with St Benedict’s ‘ear of the heart’... the Vatican’s reaction was to parse and analyse it with the gimlet eye of a canon lawyer.”

On November 3rd 2011 Tánaiste and Minster for Foreign Affairs Eamon Gilmore announced "with the greatest regret and reluctance" that the Government had decided to close Ireland's embassy to the Holy See.


“While the Embassy to the Holy See is one of Ireland’s oldest missions, it yields no economic return,” he said, adding, “the Government believes that Ireland’s interests with the Holy See can be sufficiently represented by a non-resident Ambassador.”

Since then Ireland has been represented at the Vatican on a caretaker basis by secretary general at the Department of Foreign Affairs David Cooney.

Last January Mr Gilmore announced that the Embassy to the Holy See was to reopen as part of an expansion of Ireland's diplomatic network which will also see embassies opening in Thailand, Indonesia, Croatia, and Kenya.

The new embassy will not be housed at its old site of the State-owned Villa Spada which, in the meantime, has become the Irish Embassy to the Italian state. It was stated that this was not because of any Vatican veto on a dual purpose embassy but rather because there is no space available at Villa Spada.

Foreign Affairs has also said the new Embassy will be a "modest", one-person operation, in keeping with the desire of Pope Francis of "a poor church for the poor," and will re-open this summer.

Taoiseach Enda Kenny attended the canonisations of St John XXIII and St John Paul II at the Vatican on April 27th last where he also met Pope Francis, who he invited to visit Ireland. Following that event he announced that the a ppointment of new ambassador to the Holy See was imminent.

Patsy McGarry

Patsy McGarry

Patsy McGarry is a contributor to The Irish Times