The decision of the Government to close the embassy to the Holy See is, I believe, a mistake. It is a wrong choice diplomatically, politically and economically and it certainly will not add to Ireland's position in the world. The saving involved could have been found quite easily by making other adjustments within the €150 million overhead Vote of the Tánaiste's Department.
The Tánaiste himself said that this decision was taken because the Vatican or the Holy See has no economic importance. When has Ireland decided that issues such as human rights, Third World aid, freedom of religion, the environment, disarmament or democracy, are no longer important and that everything is just a matter of economic gain? It is interesting to note that in taking this decision, the Tánaiste is going against what is happening in other countries. Britain, Australia and Russia, have all chosen to upgrade their diplomatic missions to the Holy See while we are deciding to take away the resident ambassador.
The Vatican is a major player in world diplomacy. The Tánaiste said last July that the Holy See has one of the largest diplomatic corps in the world, making the Vatican an important listening post and crossroads on a range of global, social, political and international issues of interest to Ireland. What has changed in the meantime to change the Tánaiste's opinion? It adds nothing to our international reputation to be closing down missions when what we could be doing, as did the Tánaiste's predecessors, is ensuring that efficiencies are made in other ways.
Is it the Government's intention to reverse the decision regarding the Vatican and the other two missions involved and to find savings within the Department's Vote in other ways?