Reinstate Our Man in the Vatican, Say Fg Tds

By Michael Brennan
Irish Independent
January 31, 2012

FINE Gael backbenchers are increasing the pressure on Tanaiste Eamon Gilmore to reverse his decision to shut Ireland's Vatican embassy.

It comes as the Pope's new representative to Ireland, Papal Nuncio Archbishop Charles J Brown, is due to arrive in Dublin today.

Archbishop Brown is filling the position left vacant after the previous Papal Nuncio, Archbishop Giuseppe Leanza, was recalled to Rome last summer in response to Taoiseach Enda Kenny's criticism of the Vatican's approach in dealing with clerical sexual abuse.

Fine Gael Sligo-North Leitrim TD Tony McLoughlin will put down a motion at the Fine Gael parliamentary party meeting tomorrow, calling on Mr Gilmore to review the decision to close the Vatican embassy.

"I'm in the constituency of Sligo-North Leitrim and there's been a huge response. I spoke to a number of colleagues and they would be of the same opinion," he said.

And last night Fine Gael Clare TD Pat Breen, who is chair of the Oireachtas Foreign Affairs committee, called for the appointment of former President Mary McAleese in a "bridge-building" role.

He said that Mrs McAleese could become a special representative to deal with the Vatican while she was studying law in Italy over the next two years.

"As president, she was a great ambassador in the past for our country and she could work in conjunction with David Cooney, the head of the Department of Foreign Affairs," he said.

Mr Cooney, who is based in Dublin, has been accepted by the Vatican as the new "non-resident" ambassador.

He has travelled to Rome twice in recent months, including a visit to attend Archbishop Brown's ordination as Ireland's new Papal Nuncio.

The closure of the embassy has highlighted different views within the Coalition on state relations with the Catholic Church. Fine Gael Dublin North East TD Terence Flanagan also said it had been a "mistake".

"I think people are feeling that it was one of the two parties that forced this decision in the first place," he said.

But not all Fine Gael TDs share the view that Labour is to blame for the embassy closure.

Speaking from Brussels last night, Junior Minister for European Affairs Lucinda Creighton said she would be dealing with the motion -- and cautioned that there would be no U-turn.

"I would like to see the embassy re-open in due course but it was closed for financial reasons, and I don't think there's any serious prospect of any decision being taken in the short term to change that," she said.


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