Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Vatican backing for first non-resident Irish ambassador to Holy See

The Government has selected the Secretary General of the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade to act as the first non-resident ambassador to the Holy See and the Vatican is reported to have given its backing to the appointee.

David Cooney (pictured), who is the country’s most senior diplomat, will present his Letters of Credence to Pope Benedict in January.  

Mr Cooney is to maintain his role as Secretary General of the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade while also holding the brief as envoy between Ireland and the Holy See.

He succeeds Ambassador Noel Fahey who retired in June.

The Government announced the closure of the Embassy to the Holy See in a November 3 statement, which said the move was part of a cost-saving exercise.  

The Embassy was one of the country’s oldest diplomatic missions, dating from 1929.

David Cooney previously served as Secretary at the Irish Embassy to the Holy See from 1981 to 1985.

According to Vatican Insider, a diplomatic source responded to unofficial news of the appointment saying, “It is the best that the Holy See could have hoped for in terms of a non-resident ambassador since he will be working from Iveagh House and not from a third country.”

Ambassador David Cooney was born in London in 1954.  He is married with four children and is a practising Catholic.  He was educated at the University of Keele, where he obtained a BA in History and Politics in 1976 and later that year he joined the civil service as an Executive Officer at the Department of Agriculture in Dublin.  

He later became an Administrative Officer at the Department of Public Service before joining the Department of Foreign Affairs as Third Secretary in 1979.

He has served at embassies at the Holy See, Vienna, Paris, and at Ireland’s Permanent Representation to the EU in Brussels.  Between 1995 and 1998, he participated in the negotiation of the Good Friday Agreement.  

From 2000 and 2001, he served as Ambassador, Deputy Permanent Representative to the United Nations and was responsible for Security Council matters; later from 2005 to 2007, he worked as Ireland’s Permanent Representative to the UN.

The fifty-eight-year-old became Secretary General at the Department of Foreign Affairs in January 2009, replacing Dermot Gallagher.  

He was awarded an honorary doctorate by the University of Keele in 2009 in recognition of his contribution to diplomacy and public service.

Meanwhile, the possibility of a papal visit to coincide with next year’s International 
Eucharistic Congress in Dublin in June remains unclear.

Tánaiste, Eamon Gilmore, told the Foreign Affairs Committee on 14 December that should the Vatican request such a visit he had no doubt the Government would respond positively and extend an invitation.  

He said such a request might arise “at a time of mutual convenience, for instance on the occasion of next year’s Eucharistic Congress.”

Pope Benedict has been invited by the Bishops to IEC2012, which will take place from June 10 to 17 in Dublin and will mark the 50th anniversary of the beginning of the Second Vatican Council and the 80th anniversary of the 1932 Eucharistic Congress in Ireland. 

In November, Pope Benedict appointed Monsignor Charles J. Brown as the new Papal Nuncio to Ireland.  

The Pontiff will consecrate him as an archbishop in early January, and the Irish American prelate will take up his post in Dublin by the end of January.