The Irish government is under pressure to abandon plans to close its embassy at the Vatican – from within Prime Minister Enda Kenny’s own Fine Gael party.
Backbenchers John O’Mahony, the former Mayo football manager, and Tom Hayes have both called on Foreign Affairs Minister Eamon Gilmore to reverse the decision.
The government claimed cutbacks were behind the announcement late last year that the embassy at the Vatican would close.
At the time, relations between Church and State were at an all-time low after Kenny’s criticism of the Holy See’s attitude to child abuse cases as outlined in the Cloyne Report.
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Builders are currently renovating the Vatican embassy to allow the transfer of staff and operations from the current embassy in Rome.
But opposition is mounting to the decision as deputies fear the Pope will abandon plans to attend the Eucharistic Congress in Dublin next summer in protest at the closure.
“The official line is, it is a matter for the church authorities to issue the invite. The church would invite him but the Pope has to feel he is welcome in Ireland and the Government is welcoming,” a source told the paper.
One proposal being mooted, according to the Irish Independent, is to have a lightly staffed Vatican Embassy share the building, the Villa Spada, on the outskirts of Rome.
Fine Gael TD Tom Hayes said: “An accommodation needs to be made. We need to deal with it.”
Prime Minister Kenny’s Mayo constituency colleague told the Independent that he also wants to see some movement.
“I don’t accept the argument on cost put forward for closing the embassy,” said O’Mahony.
“It is important to keep lines of communication open. I won’t be happy until I see it re-opening.”
Foreign Affairs Minister Gilmore, the Labour Party leader and deputy Prime Minister, is set to reject the calls for a u-turn however.
“No, that decision has been made and I don’t intend to reverse that. As part of the expenditure review that has been conducted, my department, like every other department, have had to look at the services that we have provided,” he told the Independent.
“We have decided to reduce by three the number of resident embassies that we have abroad. When economic circumstances improve, we can look at all that again.”