Saturday 24 March 2018

Shambolic Labour hitches a ride on the Pope's back

Forming policy in response to papal PR tells us a lot about a party that has failed in government, writes Eilis O'Hanlon

Labour leader Eamon Gilmore
Labour leader Eamon Gilmore

Eilis O'Hanlon

What made Eamon Gilmore change his mind? He was so certain that shutting the Irish embassy at the Vatican was the right thing to do. He defended it doughtily against all criticism and insisted, when announcing the closure in November 2011, that it would "not be reopened in the immediate term". Suddenly, the decision is reversed and the Vatican is included on a list of new embassies to be opened by Ireland in the coming months – albeit that, in this instance, "new" means "old".

It's as if Irish diplomatic relations have become the political version of the Hokey Cokey. You put your ambassador in. Your ambassador out. In, out, in, out, shake it all about. You do the "OK, Pontiff" then you turn around. That's what it's all about.

By next summer, normal service will have been resumed; and that, needless to say, is as it should be. Ireland does happen to be a solidly Catholic country, whether Labour likes it or not, and the historic link mattered to many hundreds of thousands of Irish people who took solace from having an Irish representative in the heart of the Vatican. It just looked churlish and petty to get rid of the post.

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