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Gilmore opens door for Vatican to relax embassy requirements

Eamon Gilmore tells the Dáil that the Holy See embassy closure could be revisited if the Vatican relaxes rules on dual embassies.

Vatican moves to relax rules on 'doubling up' of embassies would be
Vatican moves to relax rules on 'doubling up' of embassies would be "taken into account", Eamon Gilmore has said.

TÁNAISTE EAMON GILMORE has said the government may reconsider the closure of Ireland’s embassy to the Holy See if the Vatican relaxes its rules on the ‘doubling up’ of embassies.

Gilmore told the Dáil that while the embassy closure “will not be reversed in the immediate term”, citing budget and staffing shortages, the government would still take a shift in Vatican policy into account.

“If the Vatican is prepared to relaxes its current requirements to allow the Villa Spada [the previous Holy See embassy, now used as the Italian embassy] to serve for both, that’s something that will be taken into account,” he said.

The closure of the embassy had saved €845,000 for the State, with €445,000 through alternative deployment of staff and €400,000 by being able to give up the lease of the Italian embassy which was previously based on the Piazza di Campitelli, just over a mile away.

The Vatican has always declined to accredit embassies or ambassadors if they already served as that country’s mission to Rome – but may be invited to relax this rule given the financial pressures the Irish government currently faces.

“I made it clear at the time that the closure was announced that when financial circustmances improved we could revisit the issue again,” the Tánaiste added.

Gilmore added that previous newspaper reports which suggested that the Vatican embassy was not on the original list of proposed closures were incorrect, and that the Holy See mission was one of the two embassies earmarked for closure after a spending review.

Rendition

Elsewhere in the Dáil, Gilmore insisted Ireland had no reason to suspect the United States of routing rendition flights through Shannon Airport – telling Mick Wallace that the US had provided assurances “at the highest level” this was not the case.

Wallace reminded the Tánaiste that he himself, when in opposition, was unhappy merely to accept diplomatic assurances, noting: “The chances of the Americans asking permission… are pretty slim”.

He also quoted now-president Michael D Higgins, who said in December 2010 that WikiLeaks disclosures about the potential use of Shannon for rendition flights “reinforces the case for a change in the law to make sure that Irish airports are not used in this way.”

Gilmore insisted, in response, that the presence of rendition flights was “not possible, full stop. They are illegal.”

He said no permission had been sought, and none granted – and that Ireland was not likely to grant permission if it was ever sought.

Tánaiste: We’re not going to reverse Vatican embassy decision

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Gavan Reilly

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