Last Saturday morning I listened to an interview with the editor of the Irish Catholic, Gary O’Sullivan where he warned of the aggressive secularist agenda and made pointed references to how the Labour Party should be more honest with its agenda. Having attended Labour Party conferences down through the years, I’ve never spotted any motion setting out the agenda that The editor of the Irish catholic believes is now at work in Iveagh House, but [perhaps it popped up on a Sunday morning session when I was at worship, but I doubt it! During the interview Gary confused the closure of Ireland’s embassy with ending diplomatic relations with the Holy See. Gary suggested that the decision not to reappoint an ambassador and close the embassy was effectively Ireland ending relations with the Holy See. He specifically described the closure as a juvenile response which was motivated by the Cloyne Report without presenting any evidence to support this. In fact Ireland has not ended its diplomatic relationship with the Holy Sea at all, despite what Gary suggests
In fact the previous Irish ambassador to the Holy See retired earlier this year and has not been replaced for some months. The embassy that serves the Holy Sea is the property of the Irish state while the embassy that serves Italy also in Rome is a rented building. Costs in relation to that rental alone are about €250K while 2 separate staffs are required to serve 2 full embassies. It is not possible to continue paying this at a time when within our own country fundamental changes in work practices in the public service are being implemented and our population is faced with stringent cuts in income. Why should duplication of diplomatic services by a small country continue in Rome? I understand that it is proposed that the present Holy Sea embassy building serve as the embassy to the Republic of Italy.
Closure of embassies by Ireland has happened before in other states and where that happened relations were maintained through assigning another ambassador to that country. Ireland’s ambassador to Italy also fulfils duties to the Irish community in other countries particularly North Africa. Indeed many countries also assign their UK ambassador to Ireland and these ambassadors deal directly with the Irish government on matters of mutual interest.
I understand that the Holy See will accept credentials from an Irish ambassador assigned to it and that will be done in due course. The ambassador could also be the Irish Ambassador to Italy if that is acceptable to the Holy See. In the meantime the Nunciature in Ireland still serves as a fully credited embassy and is entitled to its mission. The papal nuncio is entitled to do his valuable work linking the Irish hierarchy to the Roman Catholic Church. The position between Ireland and the Holy See is exactly comparable to that between Ireland and Sweden. The Swedish embassy in Dublin closed while the Irish embassy in Stockholm remains, Sweden’s ambassador to Ireland is assigned from London.
Interestingly, Britain only established formal links with the Holy See under John Major’s government. The absence of a full relationship didn’t prevent a visit by Pope John Paul 2 to the UK in 1982. The editor’s complained that the Vatican was being compared with Iran for closure as both were announced at the same time. I think that comparison is pretty juvenile myself! Iran after all is a rogue state that persecutes its minorities and where women are second class citizens.
Gary justifies the Irish embassy on the economic grounds as playing a role by referring catholic business people to invest in Ireland. I would however ask Gary, Is that not the role of Enterprise Ireland, The IDA, Department of Enterprise Employment and Jobs, or Irish ambassadors accredited to the countries where these business people actually live? Irish Ambassadors to countries with strong Irish communities which tend to be catholic have extraordinary networks through business communities there. Indeed few countries enjoy the type of access that Ireland enjoys to Capitol Hill and the White House especially around St Patricks Day. Other than Brazil few of the emerging economies like China, India have significant catholic business communities and the clear interest of this government is to sell produce into these markets; notably foods for business already established here.
At the end of the day, cutting back on ambassadorial numbers is a hell of lot easier than most other cuts that are being floated at the minute. That is the bottom line.