SEANAD: AN ATTEMPT led by Fianna Fáil to introduce a motion calling on the Government to extend an official invitation to Pope Benedict to make an official visit here failed in the Seanad yesterday.
Two of the signatories to the motion, Independents Jillian van Turnhout and Fiach MacConghail, voted against the taking of it after reconsidering the issue.
Mr MacConghail took issue with various reasons put forward by Jim Walsh (FF) as to why the motion, in the names of Fianna Fáil and Sinn Féin members and other Independents Ronan Mullen, Feargal Quinn and Martin McAleese, was being put forward for discussion.
Mr Walsh said it was specifically about the Government sending out a signal that would probably be contrary to the negative signals that had been given out by, among other things, the non-retraction of unfounded comments by the Taoiseach about the frustration by the Vatican of inquiries in this country.
In addition, there was the issue of the closure of the resident embassy to the Vatican, and the disturbing failure of senior Labour Party people to disown blatant anti-Catholicism, such as attempts to discriminate against Catholics in the public service.
Colm Burke (FG) said the Taoiseach had been explicit that an invitation would be available once the appropriate indications had been given to the Government on that matter.
Mark Daly (FF) said he thought it was curious that we had extended an invitation to the head of the Church of England – the queen – to visit and yet we did not seem willing to extend an invitation to the pontiff.
Government Chief Whip Paul Coghlan (FG) said they should not be rushing their fences in relation to an invitation.
“We shouldn’t be trying to embarrass the Holy See or anybody else.”