THE CAMPAIGN by Sligo Fine Gael TD Tony McLoughlin to reverse the Government's decision to close the Irish Embassy in the Vatican City received a significant boost over the weekend.
The embassy was not on the list of options presented by the Department of Foreign Affairs when senior Ministers first considered the matter.
The shock revelation came from a front page story by The Sunday Business Post
, which added that Department considered a range of cutbacks across a range of its activities as part of the Government's "comprehensive spending review" ahead of the Budget.
The Department suggested that two missions 'which do not currently yield an economic return' could be closed. However, the paper revealed, neither of them was the Vatican Embassy. The embassies suggested are believed to be Iran and East Timor. Both were subsequently closed, yielding an estimated combined annual saving of half a million euro.
The Department of Foreign Affairs "would not comment," said the paper, "on why a second review took place so soon after the first." It did confirm, however that it as a result of this second review which identified the Vatican for closure. The Labour Party leader and Tanaiste, Mr Gilmore has said that closure would offer an annual saving of 800,000 euro.
The revelation is bound to add fuel to a bonfire which could burn for some time yet.
1. The campaign against the Vatican Embassy closure exploded centre stage in Irish politics a fortnight ago when 35 speakers -- reputedly including the Minister for Finance, Mr Noonan -- spoke in favour of revisiting the closure decision when supporting a Motion by backbench Sligo/Leitrim TD Tony McLoughlin at a Fine Gael Parliamentary Party meeting.
2. The Sunday Independent
then reported last weekend that Labour leader and Tanaiste, Mr Gilmore, is not for turning and insisted it was a Cabinet decision, despite warnings by un-named FG backbenchers in the same article that the difference of opinion could cause the eventual break-up of the Coalition partnership.
3. Finally, a survey by the Irish Independent
on Saturday last showed near unanimity among Labour TDs in supporting the stance of their party leader. It remains to be seen if Labour can continue to convince the electorate that the Vatican Embassy was closed for solely financial reasons and not for political reasons.
See more on McLoughlin's Vatican action HERE