Vatican embassy closure stands

 

THE DECISION to close the Irish embassy in the Vatican stands, the Department of Foreign Affairs has said.

It was responding to remarks yesterday by Catholic Archbishop Dr Diarmuid Martin of Dublin, in which he expressed confidence the embassy would reopen “in some other way’’.

He added that it would be a “leaner embassy’’ because of the cost involved.

“I do not think it will be long before other arrangements are found – maybe not immediately,’’ said Dr Martin.

Confirming that the decision to not appoint a resident ambassador to the Vatican still stood, a department spokesman said, “it may be reviewed down the line in the light of the economic circumstances and the resources available to the department and our diplomatic network abroad’’.

This latest twist to the controversy is likely to heighten tensions between some backbenchers and the Cabinet, most notably the Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs Eamon Gilmore, on the issue. A number of TDs, mostly from Fine Gael, have called for the reopening of the embassy.

Minister of State for European Affairs Lucinda Creighton was among a large number of TDs and Senators who last month met a group of lay Catholics seeking the embassy’s retention.

Ms Creighton said “there will be an opportunity in the future – perhaps not as quickly as we might like – to reopen the embassy’’.

Dr Martin made his remarks when speaking to journalists before a liturgical reception in the Pro-Cathedral in Dublin for the new papal nuncio, Archbishop Charles John Brown. The nuncio did not refer in his homily to the embassy’s closure.

Dr Martin said the Italian and Vatican embassies could be on the same site, and share some facilities, while remaining separate.

Since last November’s decision to close the embassy on cost grounds, the Government has nominated Department of Foreign Affairs secretary general David Cooney as non- resident Ambassador.

Dr Martin said Mr Cooney was very active and was currently in Rome, adding that he was “a very effective diplomat’’.