Seanad debates

Thursday, 16 February 2012

Photo of David NorrisDavid Norris (Independent)

I revert to a matter ventilated in the House yesterday, the review of embassies and, in particular, representation at the Vatican. I strongly support the work of the diplomatic corps. Ireland is extremely well served by it, although it is small when compared with that of other states such as the Netherlands. It does very good work and we get good value from it. As for the Vatican, I understand the new papal nuncio will present his credentials to President Higgins today. I welcome him and hope he will have a successful tour of duty here. I understand he is a close confidant and associate of Pope Benedict XVI, which shows the seriousness with which the Vatican is taking its relations with Ireland. However, charges were made on this side of this House yesterday against the Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade, Deputy Eamon Gilmore, to the effect that there was a personal vendetta that was ideologically driven against the Vatican and he personally had selected the embasssy for closure. However, in the Dáil yesterday Deputy Micheál Martin blew the whistle on that suggestion when he indicated that precisely the same three targets had been presented to him but that he had turned them down. While he may have turned them down, this indicates clearly that the list pre-existed the formation of the current Administration and the remarks made should be withdrawn. They were obviously factually wrong and perhaps ideologically driven.

This morning the former Fianna Fáil Minister for Foreign Affairs, Mr. David Andrews, appeared on Newstalk. He is a man who has appeared in this House and showed great independence of mind and courage on the situation in Timor Leste. He also spoke about the strength of the diplomatic corps but stated that, on practical grounds, he considered having one embassy in Rome was correct. His is a voice that also should be listened to. Moreover, he started from a philosophical view that I also have brought forward in the House on the question of whether a church should also be a state. I will quote from the gospel according to Mark, chapter 12, which is echoed in the gospel according to Luke, chapter 20, “Render unto Caesar the things which are Caesar’s and unto God the things that are God’s”. I believe in the separation of church and state and this presents a great moral difficulty for the Roman Catholic Church.

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