Tánaiste suggests Vatican review possible


TÁNAISTE EAMON Gilmore has indicated that flexibility on the part of the Holy See about diplomatic arrangements could pave the way for a review of the decision to close the Irish Embassy to the Vatican.

Speaking in the Seanad yesterday, Mr Gilmore said if the Vatican showed some flexibility on the issue about the co-location of the Irish embassies to the Holy See and Italy, progress was possible.

He said there were indications of some flexibility from the Vatican on the issue of co-location and that would be explored.

The Tánaiste was responding to questions from Senators on a range of foreign affairs issues yesterday. The Vatican Embassy issue was raised following a decision of the Fine Gael parliamentary party on Tuesday night to call for a review of the decision to close the embassy.

Mr Gilmore told Senators that he took responsibility for the decision to close the embassy in the context of the scarce resources available to the Irish diplomatic service.

Responding to suggestions from Senators that the Villa Spada, which formerly housed the embassy to the Vatican, could be used as the embassy to the Holy See and to Italy, he said this was not a matter of choice for the Irish Government.

Mr Gilmore said the Vatican had not been agreeable to the use of one premises by both ambassadors based in Rome nor had it been acceptable for the same individual to serve as ambassador to both.

“If that position is relaxed by the Holy See it is something that can be looked at,” said Mr Gilmore.

Fine Gael Senator Paul Coghlan welcomed the Tánaiste’s comments saying the Embassy to the Vatican was an important one as well as being one of the oldest in the Irish diplomatic service.

“I welcome your openness to review the position and I believe that the appointment of the new papal envoy, Archbishop Charles John Brown, is a good opportunity to initiate the process,” said Mr Coghlan.

Senator Rónán Mullen said it was his understanding that co-location of the Embassies to the Vatican and Rome was a feasible option rather than a single embassy to both.

Mr Gilmore also repeated that a formal invitation to Pope Benedict to visit Ireland would be issued by the Government if there were indications that the Vatican wished such a visit to take place.

He added that this was the normal way such invitations were issued and it is what had happened in the case of Queen Elizabeth.

Also yesterday Dublin MEP Gay Mitchell said the effectiveness of Ireland’s diplomatic relations abroad should be reassessed with a refocus on emerging world powers. He said Ireland and Europe should take a more proactive role in developing relations with the emerging world powers of Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa (collectively known as Brics), among other nations.

Mr Mitchell speaking in Brussels, also suggested it was time for a thorough review of what Ireland’s ambassadors do.

“For example, we have four ambassador positions in Brussels: The Ambassador to Belgium, two permanent representatives to the EU and an Ambassador to the Political and Security Committee of the EU.

“One of the three representatives to the EU could double as Ambassador to Belgium.”