On 3 November last, the Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade announced his decision to close the Irish Embassy in the Vatican to save approximately €450,000. For many reasons, that was a wrong decision. Ireland needs as extensive a diplomatic footprint as it can have across the globe. That has been always my position. When one has difficulties with particular states, a presence on the ground is crucial. For example, having eyes and ears on the ground, in my view, is the best way to ensure the Vatican's policies and position on child abuse and child protection is in line with Government policy.
Diplomacy is about far more than trade and economics, although trade and economics is extremely important in terms of our diplomatic outreach. To paraphrase Mr. Seán Donlon, the retired and respected diplomat, one must be where policy is formulated to have an influence on the formulation of that policy.
The decision to close the embassy has been interpreted in many different ways. It is fair to say that the Irish Embassy in the Vatican was never about economics, trade or money. Not every mission is specifically about trade and economics, as the House will be aware from that in Geneva and the embassy to the UN in New York.
The Taoiseach's party and Deputies in Fine Gael seem to be very much against the proposed closure and media reports state that the party had an extensive discussion at the parliamentary party meeting. The Minister of State, Deputy Creighton, who is in the Department, who must have acquiesced with the decision, now believes the decision should be overturned and has stated it will be reopened in the next two years.
The Holy See has diplomatic relations with 179 states and has 80 resident embassies. Cuba and Russia, for example, have a presence there. I do not think the decision was thought through properly.
This decision was of the Taoiseach's making. Can he bring clarity to where the Government now stands on it and will the decision be reversed?