THE COMBINED SAVINGS generated by the recent closure of three embassies by the Irish State amounts to an estimated €1,175 million annually, according to the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade.
In a statement today, the Minister of State at the Department of Foreign Affairs Joe Costello, said that the “lion’s share” of the savings – €845,000 – comes from closing the Vatican Embassy.
In reference to the decision to close the Embassy of the Holy See, Costello said that the move would not be reversed “in the immediate term.” As well as citing the financial motivations behind the decision, Costello pointed out that the Vatican’s embassy had not been involved in the normal services such as consular services, such as trade promotion or development aid.
Costello said that the decision to close certain mission followed “a comprehensive review of the Diplomatic network in which particular weight was given to the economic return from Missions in these difficult economic times and the Missions role in rebuilding Ireland’s reputation abroad”.
The Secretary General of the Department of Foreign Affairs has been appointed as a non-resident Ambassador, a move that has been accepted by the Vatican, and he will present his credentials on the 4 of May.
Currently, seven other EU member states – Sweden, Finland, Denmark, Estonia, Latvia, Luxembourg and Malta – have non-resident Ambassadors to the Holy See.
In July of last year, the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade made a submission to the Comprehensive Spending Review, which identified the Embassies of the Holy See and Timor Leste for closure. During the autumn, a third Embassy in Iran was added to the list, he said.
Costello said that the decision to close the resident Embassy to the Holy See would not be reversed in the immediate term – but added that “as the economic situation improves, and in the context of the regular review or our diplomatic network, it may be possible to revisit the matter at some time in the future.”
On the issue of co-location of Missions to Italy and the Holy See, Costello said:
For what I understand are historical reasons, the Holy See does not accept accreditation from a resident Embassy that is also accredited to Italy. It will not accept the appointment of the same person as resident Ambassador to both States. Neither will it agree to a country operating its Embassy to the Holy See from the same address as its resident Embassy to Italy.
This issue of operating our Embassies to Italy and to the Holy See from the same premises has been raised with the Holy See and will be explored further.
However, he added that if the Holy See were “prepared to relax its current requirements so as to allow the state-owned Villa Spada to serve as a location for both our Embassy to Italy and our Embassy to the Holy See, that is something which could be taken into account in any future considerations.”
Earlier today, the Tuam branch of the Labour party asked delegates to consider pushing for the reopening of the Vatican embassy.