Statement - What are Embassies For?
Statement by Senator Katherine Zappone
Ireland has an ambassador to the Holy See and his name is David Cooney, Secretary General of the Department of Foreign Affairs. As a non-resident ambassador, whose credentials Pope Benedict XVI has accepted, Mr. Cooney is maintaining our diplomatic relations with the Holy See.
I am amazed, then, at how much space and time the issue of the closure of the Vatican embassy (the residence) is taking up at this time politically and within the media.
Shouldn’t we keep our focus on the very grave issues that our society faces in light of our debt-ridden public finances as well as the one in seven Irish homeowners who cannot meet their home loan payments each month?
As I listen to the debate, I do think this is an opportunity for people to stand back, and to do their own individual thinking on the matter, rather than getting caught into the vortex of partisan political rhetoric.
Questions that need to be asked and answered by Irish citizens include:
What is the nature and role of an embassy representing Ireland in another nation state? Some say that the Irish state has a special relationship with the Vatican state and Roman Catholicism – what is it? And does this, then, warrant a continuing residential presence in this time of enormous economic difficulties?
Is there any analysis available of the outcomes and achievements of Ireland having had an embassy in the Vatican state over the years? If there is, let’s see it.
Staying focused on the serious issue of Ireland’s economic crisis, it is important to remind ourselves that Ireland will save 845k per year by not having a residential embassy in the Vatican State, yet we will still have an Ambassador. The embassy to the Holy See yields no economic return. The Tanaiste has indicated that when Ireland’s economic situation improves, it will be an appropriate time to review this decision.
What could possibly justify the reversal of this decision when the circumstances underpinning the rationale for the closure of the embassy remain unchanged?