TANAISTE Eamon Gilmore last night raised the prospect of reopening Ireland's Embassy to the Vatican, which he controversially closed two years ago.
Mr Gilmore said the embassy to the Holy See, which was closed in 2011, could be re-opened as part of an expansion of Ireland's diplomatic presence abroad.
"The whole question of missions is something we are looking at. We, unfortunately, had to close some missions at the height of the recession, when finances were strapped," Mr Gilmore said.
He revealed he is currently examining a number of countries in which Ireland could open new embassies or re-open ones that were previously closed, including the Vatican.
"I am looking at missions, the Vatican among them, where we might be able to expand our missions again, and I will look at the Vatican in that context," he told RTE's 'The Week in Politics' show yesterday.
Mr Gilmore's comments were last night given a cautious welcome by some in Fine Gael, many of whom were outraged when he announced the closure of the mission to the Vatican.
Mr Gilmore's claims that the mission was closed down on financial grounds were repeatedly rejected by Fine Gael backbenchers, who saw it as part of a Labour secularist attack on traditional values.
Last week, it emerged US President Barack Obama's administration is to close its embassy to the Holy See, citing security concerns without naming a specific threat.
The US embassy, which has been in operation since 1984, will be swallowed up by the larger US embassy to Italy.