Jody Corcoran: Closing Vatican Embassy to Cut Costs Doesn't Add up

By Jody Corcoran
Irish Independent
February 5, 2012

The Government's stated reason for the closure of our embassy at the Vatican is questionable.

Eamon Gilmore, the Minister for Foreign Affairs, said the reason had to do with cost cutting, and was unrelated to a row between Ireland and the Vatican regarding co-operation with a child sex abuse inquiry.

The timing of the closure, in the immediate aftermath of the Cloyne Report, was certainly unfortunate from the Government's point of view, that is, if it expects people to accept its motivation was entirely as presented.

There are two Irish embassies in Rome, one to Italy, the other to the Vatican. The intention now is for diplomatic relations with the Vatican to be conducted from Dublin, an exercise that may well involve frequent -- and expensive -- trips to the Vatican by our man in, eh, Dublin.

But that is not the point. When Mr Gilmore cut the three embassies -- Holy See, Timor Leste and Iran -- the decision was, he said, taken purely on grounds related to the economy.

The argument is that under the old Lateran Treaty establishing the Vatican as a sovereign state, it is not possible to have an ambassador to both Italy and the Vatican and there has to be separate accreditation.

So the argument from the Department of Foreign Affairs is that once you shut the embassy to the Vatican, you cannot get the Italian ambassador to double up on the job.

But there were many other posts in the system where it would have been possible to accredit someone with an existing job to doing another, thereby making the required savings which may have saved our embassy at the Vatican.

Take the Organisation for Security and Co-Operation in Europe, of which Ireland has been given the chair. It is based in Vienna, Austria. But we already have an existing ambassador in Vienna.

We also have an ambassador to the Organisation for Economic Co-Operation and Development based in Paris, a permanent representative to UNESCO in Paris, and, of course, an ambassador to France -- operating from the same address.

We have an ambassador to the UN in Geneva, Switzerland, and also an ambassador to the UN in New York (with attendant offices); while in New York we also have a consul general and staff operating a completely separate mission, and we have an ambassador to Switzerland, in Berne.

Ireland has effectively three ambassadors based in Brussels: the ambassador to Belgium; the ambassador (permanent representative) to the EU and the ambassador to something called the Partnership for Peace Delegation, which, I'm sure, is involved in important work.

But how much more important can it be than to have a man in the Vatican, the ultimate listening post at a time when the Catholic Church has one billion adherents around the world?

You can expect this controversy to gather momentum and, with mounting Fine Gael opposition, within a year or two, for a formula to be found to reverse what was always a questionable decision.


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