Tuesday, January 21, 2014

Government to re-open Vatican embassy on 'scaled-down' basis

http://cdn4.independent.ie/incoming/article29923808.ece/ALTERNATES/h342/Gilmore.jpgTHE Government is reopening its embassy in the Holy See, it has been announced. 

The decision was made at Cabinet this morning. 

The Department of Foreign Affairs has said it will be a scaled down mission with just one diplomat. 

New embassies will also be opened in Bangkok, Jakarta, Zagreb in Croatia and Nairobi. 

New consulates will be opened in Hong Kong, Sao Paulo and Austin, in Texas.

The Department said the reopening of the embassy in the Holy See will allow Ireland to engage directly with the leadership of Pope Francis on the issues of poverty eradication, hunger and human rights.

“Over the past five years our diplomats have been tasked with the frontline role in restoring Ireland’s once-tattered reputation abroad, and in championing our economic cause. And they have been hugely successful in doing that – both in European capitals, influencing key decisions at European Council level, and in major cities, organisations and political capitals around the world,” Mr Gilmore said. 

“This expansion of the embassy network will help to bolster that effort, and, crucially, to drive Ireland’s economic recovery which has been export-led. It will equip Ireland to take advantage of emerging opportunities and will provide certainty for business that resources will be in place to support them in key markets and regions. In short, it is an investment in the future of our country.”

Ireland controversially closed the embassy to the Holy See in late 2011, along with its embassy in Iran and its office in Timor Leste.

The Government said at the time that Ireland could be represented by way of a non-resident ambassador to the Holy See. 

Mr Gilmore said this morning that Ireland had long been underrepresented abroad in comparison with other countries of a similar size. 

“While we have just 300 diplomats promoting our economic and strategic interests in 73 locations abroad, countries like Norway, Finland, Denmark and the Netherlands have a far greater global presence which leaves Ireland at a distinct disadvantage when trying to compete in both emerging and established markets,” Mr Gilmore said in a statement.

“In doing this, we are closing some of the obvious gaps where Ireland currently has little or no footprint. Our aim is to complement the work and global presence of our State agencies as we continue to win new business for Ireland.”

The cost of establishing the new missions is expected to come to a net €4.7 million annually, and will be covered from within the existing Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade budget. 
The new embassies and consulates will be small in size, ranging from one to three diplomatic staff.
Ireland’s embassy to Lesotho will be closed, with Ireland’s embassy in South Africa assuming responsibility for the Kingdom of Lesotho. 

The Irish embassy in Vilnius, Lithuania, will also be downsized.
Ireland’s existing Irish Aid office in Freetown, Sierra Leone will be upgraded to embassy status. 

The Department said there will be no additional cost to the state.

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