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Closure of Vatican embassy comes under fire from Catholic groups

The move has been condemned as part of the government’s “attack on Catholic culture”.

Eamon Gilmore announced the closure yesterday
Eamon Gilmore announced the closure yesterday
Image: Sasko Lazarov/Photocall Ireland

THE GOVERNMENT’S DECISION to close Ireland’s embassy to the Vatican has been criticised by the leadership of the Catholic Church in Ireland.

Cardinal Seán Brady, Archbishop of Armagh and Primate of Ireland said the move shows “little regard for the important role played by the Holy See in international relations”.

Meanwhile Garry O’Sullivan, editor of the Irish Catholic newspaper, said the closure was part of a wider “attack on Catholic culture” by the government.

Cardinal Brady expressed “profound disappointment” at the closure, which was announced yesterday by Tánaiste Eamon Gilmore.

In a statement, Cardinal Brady said the opening of diplomatic relations with the Vatican had been a key moment in the early days of Irish independence and establishing “the identity and presence of the Irish Free State internationally”.

Announcing the move, Eamon Gilmore said that the embassy closure was part of a drive to make savings across the government. He stressed that again this morning, telling Newstalk: “We have to cut our cloth.”

However this explanation was rejected by O’Sullivan, who suggested the “ill-judged” move was a result of the government’s “spat with the Holy See” over the Cloyne Report.

“What we’re getting with this Labour government is an attack on Catholic schools, an attack on Catholic culture,” O’Sullivan told RTÉ’s Morning Ireland.

He also suggested that the closure showed Gilmore’s inexperience, saying that the Vatican embassy would be an opportunity for Ireland to have a voice in the changing Church. “Here is an opportunity for the Irish government to put pressure on the Vatican for reform, and we’re walking away from this opportunity,” he said.

Seán Ó Fearghaíl, Fianna Fáil’s spokesperson for foreign affairs, also criticised the closure, which he said was “more about headlines than the substance”. He said the Vatican was “a very important diplomatic centre in Europe”.

TheJournal.ie reported earlier this year that the embassy in the Holy See cost €455,820 to run in 2010. Embassies to Iran and East Timor will also be closed.

Read more: Ireland to close its embassy in the Vatican>

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Michael Freeman

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