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Ireland's cowardly government closes Vatican embassy

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Villa Spada in Rome
Ireland's Embassy to the Holy See since 1946
{picture from DFA.ie}

Last week the Irish government announced that it is going to close its embassy to the Holy See. Despite what everyone believes, the government claims that the embassy's closure has nothing to do with the souring of relations between the Vatican and the Irish government over scandals in the Catholic Church in Ireland. In fact, Taoiseach (Prime Minister) Enda Kenny "reacted angrily" to the suggestion that the closure was due to anything other than budgetary constraints.

That Kenny and Tánaiste (Deputy PM) Eamonn Gilmore are willing to claim that the closing of Ireland's embassy to the Holy See is due to the need for the state to make savings says more about their cowardice than it does about the state of Ireland's finances. This decision is transparently NOT about saving money.

The Irish government will save €1.2m ($1.65m) with the closing of the embassy. While that's a lot of money to the average Joe, that's not a whole lot of money for a state, even a bankrupt state like Ireland.

Sure the government has to cut back and, yes, Gilmore's Department of Foreign Affairs has to do its share, but it doesn't take long to realize that there are inconsistencies in this tale of budget cuts that make a nonsense of the government's tale.

Start with the building itself.

Ireland's embassy to Italy
{picture from Google.com}

The Irish embassy to the Holy See is in a beautiful building, the Villa Spada {see photo above}, in a beautiful setting on the top of the Gianicolo. Selling that would probably net the government a fair amount, but they're not selling it. No, they're moving Ireland's embassy to Italy from its cheap, rented accommodation {see photo left} into the Villa Spada. If they were serious about saving money they would not give up those cars-parked-in-the-doorway, paint-peeling-off-the-walls offices for a perfectly maintained hilltop Roman villa.

Then there is the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) budget.

This same government department that decided it cannot afford the $1.65m for the embassy at the Vatican is still spending over €400m ($550m) on "Official Development Assistance" or foreign aid. Okay, yes, of course we can't simply cut all foreign aid to poorer countries simply because, well, we're bankrupt. We may be bankrupt, but the people in those poor countries who are dependent on our aid still need to be helped, even if it adds a dollar or two or half a billion to our debt mountain.

Fair enough because those countries are really poor. Right?

Well, if they're really poor and need our aid how come countries like Ethiopia, Malawi, Mozambique, South Africa, Tanzania, Uganda, Zambia and Zimbabwe are all able to afford an embassy to the Holy See in Rome when we cannot afford the same? After all, those countries are receiving aid from us, yet somehow they can afford that which we can no longer afford.

Will the DFA cut off aid to countries rich enough to afford a Vatican embassy? Of course they won't because the cost of a Vatican embassy is not worth worrying about. If it was only about the money we could probably share office space and administration costs with the Malawians.{Here's a great map of the world showing which countries have diplomatic relations with the Vatican and a resident mission, which is what Ireland is closing.}
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Read More:

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Shock closure of Irish Embassy in Vatican Announced -- Further evidence of deep problems between Ireland and Holy See

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No, it was never about the money. That is a fib they're peddling because they're worried about alienating the still fairly sizable minority here who take their Catholicism seriously. At the same time they want the kudos for taking a populist stand, for confronting the Catholic Church over its mishandling of its many scandals.

How gutless. How wimpy. If they want to make a statement on the Catholic Church in Ireland then make the statement and stand over it. They should take the flak.

They didn't. They used prevarication and obfuscation in an attempt to hide the truth from those 'knuckle-dragging' voters who still go to Mass on a Sunday. It didn't work. Now those same voters feel that the government insulted their faith and their intelligence.

This is what angered Kenny. Everyone saw through the official twaddle to the essence of what was happening. Even those Kenny and Gilmore probably assumed would support them conceded that cost was only a smokescreen. The Irish Times admitted it in the first sentence of its editorial. The Irish Examiner said that by its decision the government "has essentially thumbed its nose at the Vatican."

The Examiner then went even further noting that the Catholic Church's tremendous influence across the globe. This is why the United States has full diplomatic relations with the Holy See. "The U.S.-Holy See relationship is best characterized as an active global partnership on a wide range of global issues."

Mary Kenny in the Irish Independent noted that the list of countries with full representation at the Vatican includes many non-Catholic, even non-Christian countries. Thanks to this decision Ireland will now be "a less important link in the globalized network connected to the Holy See."

This is what diplomatic relations are all about. Even when you are in dispute with another state you try to maintain diplomatic relations. Closing the embassy in a fit of pique is short-sighted. Lying about it is stupid.

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