TÁNAISTE Eamon Gilmore’s decision to close the Irish embassy to the Vatican was met with overwhelming opposition from the public with over 93% criticising the move.
It was in stark contrast to the hugely supportive response to Taoiseach Enda Kenny’s blistering speech on the Cloyne Report. It suggests, while the public thought Mr Kenny’s denunciation of the Vatican in that speech was merited, the decision to close the embassy was not.
Writing on the embassy closure, one member of the public claimed Mr Gilmore had a “raw hatred” of the Catholic Church and compared him to Oliver Cromwell.
Another claimed the Government was using the clerical child sexual abuse scandals as “cover” to wage a “vendetta” against the Church.
Several citizens questioned the economic rationale that Mr Gilmore put forward for closing the embassy, and said Ireland’s foreign policy efforts would ultimately suffer.
Mr Gilmore, in his role as foreign affairs minister, announced the decision to close the embassy on November 3 last, citing the need to save money.
He denied the move had anything to do with the fallout from the Cloyne Report in July, during which Mr Kenny had accused the Vatican of downplaying the rape and torture of children to protect its own primacy.
But whereas Mr Kenny received widespread public support following that speech, Mr Gilmore received mostly criticism following the decision to close the embassy.
The Irish Examiner sought to view, under the Freedom of Information Act, all letters and emails received by Mr Gilmore on the subject in the 12 days after the announcement of the decision.
A total of 102 records were released, 95 of which criticised the decision to close the embassy and just seven of which were supportive. In percentage terms, that meant 93.1% of the responses were critical and 6.9% supportive.
That was in contrast to the reaction Mr Kenny received after his July 20 speech, when 94.3% were supportive and just 5.7% were critical.
In an article published on January 16 headlined "Public decries closure of embassy to the Vatican" it was stated in the opening paragraph that the embassy closure "was met with overwhelming opposition from the public with over 93% criticising the move".
The Irish Examiner would like to clarify that it was, in fact, 93% of those who had written to the Dept of Foreign Affairs in the immediate aftermath of the announcement who had voiced opposition to the move - a fact reflected later in the story but not in the opening paragraph due to a copy review error.
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