Tuesday 24 April 2018

U-turn on embassy is embarrassing for Mr Gilmore but let's not be churlish about it

Pope Francis looks up as he talks during a pastoral visit at the Sacro Cuore Basilica in downtown Rome January 19, 2014. REUTERS/Tony Gentile
Pope Francis looks up as he talks during a pastoral visit at the Sacro Cuore Basilica in downtown Rome January 19, 2014. REUTERS/Tony Gentile
Pope Francis (C) is greeted during a pastoral visit at the Sacro Cuore Basilica in downtown Rome January 19, 2014. REUTERS/Osservatore Romano
Pope Francis waves as he leaves at the end of a pastoral visit at the Sacro Cuore Basilica in downtown Rome. REUTERS/Tony Gentile
Observers have noted the so-called ‘Francis effect’. Photo: Alessandro Bianchi

Michael Kelly

Despite the spin, the Government's decision to re-open an embassy at the Vatican is a U-turn and an embarrassing climb-down for the leader of the Labour Party, Eamon Gilmore. Nonetheless, it would be wrong for critics of the closure to be churlish about the reversal.

When the Tanaiste announced in November 2011 that he was closing the diplomatic mission to the Holy See, he claimed it was a cost-saving measure. Few people took this at face-value, coming as it did just months after Enda Kenny's Dail speech in which he attacked the Vatican. It was a move that Mr Gilmore's political advisers evidently thought would be met with widespread approval. It was a miscalculation: what ensued was a political storm as 83 TDs and Senators - including some from Labour - attended a meeting called to voice criticism of the move.

While there was widespread public support for the Taoiseach's criticism of the Vatican's failure to pressure Irish bishops to handle abuse, Mr Gilmore's move to close the embassy seemed like a petty addendum.

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