Creighton backs bid to re-open Vatican embassy

JUNIOR Foreign Affairs Minister Lucinda Creighton has backed a campaign to re-open the Irish embassy in the Vatican.

Ms Creighton was among dozens of TDs and senators from across parties who met yesterday with campaigners applying pressure on the Government to re-open the embassy in the Holy See.

They included Labour parliamentary members despite the fact it was their leader, Tánaiste and Foreign Affairs Minister Eamon Gilmore, who recommended closing the embassy.

The group, Ireland Stand Up, has sent thousands of postcards to the Government in its bid to overturn the closure. Ms Creighton met with the group in Dublin and later pledged to be at the forefront of efforts to re-open the embassy.

“I think it’s important that the Government is aware that there’s a very strong, and important and sizeable amount of people who are disappointed with the decision and want to see it overturned and who clearly aren’t happy.

“I’m very much committed to ensuring that at a point in the future when we’re in a position to do it, that we will re-open our embassy to the Holy See,” said Ms Creighton.

Fifty-five TDs, 20 senators and several ministerial representatives, including an official on behalf of the Taoiseach, attended yesterday’s Dublin meeting.

Foreign affairs secretary general and ambassador designate to the Vatican, David Cooney, also attended.

Group spokeswoman Mary E Fitzgibbon said the campaign was inspired by a Dublin mother who was offended by the embassy closure. The group has since sent 15,000 postcards to the Government in protest.

Ms Creighton said a consular presence in the Vatican was important for Ireland.

“It’s very important, not just for Catholics in Ireland, but for the Department of Foreign Affairs strategy.

“Our foreign policy agenda is at one with the Vatican. When it comes to the priorities for us, human rights, hunger, all of these freedoms that we promote all over the world, particularly in Africa, we do it hand in hand, side by side with the Vatican.

“For that reason, from a strictly foreign affairs perspective, I think it would be very desirable in the future to step up our relations with the Vatican again. Now is obviously not going to be possible, but certainly in due course... At that point, I’ll certainly be one of the loud voices calling for it to happen,” she said.

Ireland Stand Up also wants the Pope invited to visit Ireland and for Enda Kenny to make the gesture next month, when the Eucharistic Congress Bell is in Rome.

A spokesman for Eamon Gilmore last night said: “He has always said that he would have preferred if Ireland could have maintained an embassy to the Holy See. However, given the economic situation and a very tight budget for running such missions, it was one of the regrettable decisions that we had to make.”

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