Sunday 25 February 2018

Kenny 'to review' closure of Vatican embassy

Michael Brennan and Fionnan Sheahan

TAOISEACH Enda Kenny last night reassured Fine Gael backbenchers that the decision to close down Ireland's Vatican embassy would be reviewed.

It is a sign that the Government is preparing to row back on the controversial decision, which has ensured that the State has no embassy to the Vatican for the first time since 1929.

At a lengthy Fine Gael parliamentary party meeting last night, Mr Kenny spoke of his personal good relations with the Catholic Church.

He backed up the comments by Junior Minister for European Affairs Lucinda Creighton, who said that the closure of the embassy would be reviewed.

But this may raise tensions in the Coalition, given that Tanaiste Eamon Gilmore has so far insisted the decision stands.

Mr Kenny was praised by several backbenchers for his stinging criticism of the Vatican last year for failing to co-operate with state investigations into clerical sexual abuse.

He told the meeting he had spoken to Archbishop Diarmuid Martin and Cardinal Sean Brady to make it clear that Pope Benedict was welcome to visit here for the Eucharistic Congress in June.

The expectation among Fine Gael backbenchers is that the embassy to the Vatican could be re-opened as soon as 18 months' time -- as long as the public finances improve.

"It's on the way back. It will happen," said one.

One of the most significant interventions came from Finance Minister Michael Noonan, who called on backbenchers to give Mr Kenny time to deal with the controversy.

He said Mr Kenny was a religious person and said he believed he would resolve the issue.

According to backbenchers, there was no criticism of Tanaiste Eamon Gilmore, who announced the closure in his role as Minister for Foreign Affairs. He insisted that the decision to close the embassy to the Vatican was made purely to save €845,000 per year.

Transport Minister Leo Varadkar said that it had been a collective cabinet decision and that no blame should be attached to Labour.

More than 30 TDs and ministers spoke in favour of a motion by Sligo-North Leitrim TD Tony McLoughlin to review the closure and there were no dissenters.

Irish Independent

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