Sunday 19 November 2017

Embassy closure is bigotry

Sir -- The proposed closure of the Irish Embassy to the Holy See, supposedly on the grounds the Embassy, to quote the Tanaiste, "yields no economic return", is a short-sighted and petty decision. When the Pope made his highly successful visit to the UK last year, he highlighted many of the areas the UK and Holy See work together on: the international arms trade treaty; human rights; the spread of democracy, especially in the last 65 years; debt relief, fair trade and financing for development, particularly through the International Finance Facility, and the International Immunisation Bond. The Queen highlighted those same international issues, and she also cited the Holy See's contribution to the peace process in Northern Ireland and the transition in Central and Eastern Europe. Is Mr Gilmore really saying that these issues are not of importance to the Republic of Ireland?

High-ranking members of the UK Foreign Office, such as the former Ambassador to the Holy See, Francis Campbell, noted the importance of the relationship between the UK and the Holy See. In a speech in October 2010, Mr Campbell stated that: "The Papacy's global weight is of importance to the UK. The Holy See is one of the world's oldest, largest, and what some might say one of the few truly global organisations. As such, they know what is going on in the world and it is a very valuable listening post for the UK."

It is difficult not to draw the conclusion that Mr Gilmore's decision rests more on "optics" rather than a rational calculation of what is in the best interests of the Irish people.

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