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Government to reopen Vatican embassy, 26 months after closing it

Eamon Gilmore said the scaled-back embassy will have a staff of just one person and will help Ireland to engage directly with the leadership of Pope Francis.

Image: AP Photo/Andrew Medichini

THE GOVERNMENT IS to reopen its embassy at the Vatican as part of a wide-scale reorganisation of Ireland’s diplomatic missions abroad.

The move comes just 26 months after the Government announced the closure of the embassy to save money, in a move which was criticised by Catholic groups at the time.

As recently as November, Eamon Gilmore had said that the Government was happy to continue without an Irish embassy in the Holy See. Enda Kenny had said in 2012 that the decision to close the embassy would be reviewed at a later stage.

In a statement today, Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs Eamon Gilmore said that the scaled back embassy, which will have a staff of just one person, will help Ireland to “engage directly with the leadership of Pope Francis on the issues of poverty eradication, hunger and human rights”.

The reopening was part of an announcement by the Tánaiste today of a raft of new embassies and consulates for Ireland around the world as part of a plan to support Ireland’s foreign trade and investment.

Ireland will get new embassies in Nairobi, Zagreb, Jakarta, and Bangkok as well as The Holy See. There will also be new consulates in Austin, Hong Kong and Sao Paulo. All of the new offices will have a staff of between one and three people.

The cost of establishing the new missions will be an estimated €4.7 million every year, which the Department of Foreign Affairs said will be covered from within the existing departmental budget.

Separately, Ireland’s embassy to Lesotho will be closed with the South African embassy taking over responsibility for the area, and the Irish embassy in Vilnius, Lithuania is to be downsized.

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Minister Gilmore said Ireland had “long been underrepresented abroad by comparison with other countries of a similar size and reputation to ours”.

“While we have just 300 diplomats promoting our economic and strategic interests in 73 locations abroad, countries like Norway, Finland, Denmark and the Netherlands have a far greater global presence which leaves Ireland at a distinct disadvantage when trying to compete in both emerging and established markets,” he said.

Read: Government “is satisfied” without Vatican embassy >

Read: Former diplomat says Ireland shouldn’t have closed Vatican embassy >

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Christine Bohan

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