The Government’s reopening of the Vatican Embassy was a U-turn and, at best, deserved a qualified welcome, Ronan Mullen (Ind) told the Seanad.
“It is an acknowledgement that what it did was very wrong from a diplomatic point of view and was petty politics,” he added. “Many senior and eminent diplomats criticised that decision at the time.”
Mr Mullen said the Government had now come back, “with its tail between its legs”, in the run-up to the local and European elections.
“The Government knows that it annoyed a considerable section of the community, who realised just how petty it was being, and is now expecting some type of political reward for its decision to reopen the Embassy when all it is doing is finally coming around to serving the national interest, given the vital listening post that that particular Embassy is,” he added.
Paul Coghlan (FG) said he greatly welcomed the Government’s decision, adding that the Embassy was one of Ireland’s oldest diplomatic missions, having been established at the foundation of the State.
“In fairness, many of us made representations to the Tánaiste in respect of this matter since a number of our Embassies abroad were closed,” he added.
Ivana Bacik (Labour) said she welcomed the extension of the diplomatic network abroad to include five new Embassies and three new consulates.
As part of the review, the Tánaiste had announced “a scaled back one-person Embassy” in the Vatican “to enable Ireland to engage directly with the leadership of Pope Francis on the issues of poverty eradication, hunger and human rights”.
Ms Bacik said it was part of the ongoing review the Tánaiste said he would conduct of the Embassy network.
Terry Leyden (FF) said the decision to close the embassy had been a “major error” but at least it was being reversed.