Belfast Telegraph

Thursday 24 April 2014

Irish embassy to Vatican closes in cost-cutting drive

Cardinal Sean Brady

Catholic primate Sean Brady says he’s “profoundly disappointed” at the Irish government’s announcement that it is to close its embassy to the Vatican.

The Minister for Foreign Affairs Eamon Gilmore said the announcement was made with the “greatest regret”.

According to Mr Gilmore the decision to close the embassy along with two other offices was part of government cost-cutting plans.

Making the announcement yesterday, he said that although the embassy was one of “Ireland’s oldest missions” it yielded “no economic return”.

He said due to EU targets to help restore public spending the Government had “been obliged to implement cuts across a wide range of public services” and “no area of government expenditure” was immune.

“The Government believes that Ireland’s interests with the Holy See can be sufficiently represented by a non-resident ambassador,” he said.

He added he would be seeking the agreement of the Holy See to appoint a senior diplomat to the position.

Along with the Vatican, the Irish embassy in Iran and a representative office in Timor Leste, formerly East Timor which is a predominantly Catholic country lying between Australia and Indonesia, will also shut.

It is understood the changes will come into effect next year.

Cardinal Brady said: “I wish to express my profound disappointment at this decision which means that Ireland will be without a resident ambassador to the Holy See for the first time since diplomatic relations were established and envoys were exchanged in 1929. I know that many others will share this disappointment.”

The decision to shut the Irish embassy to the Vatican comes after the Papal Nuncio, the Vatican’s representative in Ireland, was recalled in July following the impact of the Cloyne Report into clerical abuse. Mr Gilmore insisted the closure was not as a result of the report’s controversy.

According to the minister, the Irish government will not sell Villa Spada — the Irish embassy in the Vatican — but instead staff working in the embassy to Italy will be transferred there.

The grand building is the most expensive property owned by the Irish diplomatic service.

The annual saving from the closures is thought to be around £1.4m a year. Mr Gilmore added the move would allow the relocation of six staff to offset losses elsewhere.