Ireland's cowardly government closes Vatican embassy


Villa Spada in Rome
Ireland's Embassy to the Holy See since 1946
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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
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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.