An Taoiseach Enda kenny's rubberstamping of the decision to close the Irish Embassy in the Vatican has caused political ripples in his own countyAN unholy political row is ensuing in Mayo over Taoiseach Enda Kenny giving his approval to the closure of the Irish embassy in the Vatican.
Independent Councillor Frank Durcan has provoked Fine Gael anger by claiming he is ‘ashamed’ to be from the same town as the head of government who had the final say on the controversial matter.
The Castlebar-based representative made his remarks when supporting Councillor Richard Finn’s condemnation of the move.
“It is small-minded, badly thought-out and the country will live to regret it,” argued Councillor Finn.
He said at a time when other countries like England were trying to enhance their connections with the Vatican, Ireland is moving in the opposite direction.
“It’s a retrograde step in view of the fact there are 12 billion Catholics around the world. I am calling on the cabinet to reconsider the decision. I have my suspicions in regard to the angle of where all of this is coming from.”
Deputy Kenny has been at loggerheads with the Vatican since his outspoken comments in regard to the Holy See’s handling of cases of child abuse in Ireland.
The Vatican responding by claiming his statement, read into the records of Dáil Éireann, contained inaccuracies.
However, the subsequent announcement by Tánaiste Eamon Gilmore regarding the shutting down of the embassy was perceived in many quarters as an act of political retribution rather than a cost-saving one.
Councillor Durcan said it is shameful to see a government led by a Castlebar TD acting in such fashion.
“It is the most important embassy in the world because of the special connections to be maintained there. They are second to none in diplomatic terms. The closure will leave a huge void.”
Councillor Johnny O’Malley (FG) made the point when the Government sought assistance in dealing with the problem of child abuse, it did not get much help from the Vatican.
“We would have been better off as this country if we had been spared the kind of Catholic priests that inflicted sexual abuse on our people. I know of a lot of cases in my own area where priests would have been hauled before the courts today if they were still alive because those who were abused are no longer afraid to speak out.”
Fine Gael Councillor Gerry Coyle said the decision to close the embassy had nothing to do with religion.
“I am proud of Enda Kenny and the way he is dealing with our economic issues. I am certainly not ashamed of him. Long may he have the health to continue what he is doing.”
On the issue of child sex abuse, he stated all the priests he knew over the years were hardworking people and never abused anybody.”
Councillor Eddie Staunton (FG) said Councillor Durcan should withdraw his remarks about Deputy Kenny.
“To say you are ashamed of him is pushing the boat out. He is a good family man who is trying to clean up the system.”
Councillor Cyril Burke (FG) said the reality is that the Vatican and the Church is out of touch with people. “The numbers attending their services have dwindled away,” he added.
Councillor Jarlath Munnelly (FG) stated the country is in ‘fierce financial circumstances’ and tough decisions have to be made to achieve savings. He reminded Councillor Finn and Councillor Durcan the Irish embassy in Rome is being retained.
In response, Councillor Finn said Ireland expounded itself as ‘the centre of Catholicism’ and he could not understand why the Government is now running down the religion.
Councillor Durcan called on Councillor O’Malley to withdrawn his comments about priests.
“It’s a fact that 96 per cent of sexual abuse cases are traced back to relatives or near neighbours of the victims. It’s also a fact 98 per cent of the clergy of this country are innocent and should not be associated with such crimes.
“I grew up in a street of Castlebar were 14 members of religious orders, including six priests, resided and not one incident of this nature was every recorded. Neither was there a complaint made against one of them. It’s wrong for Councillor O’Malley to tar all priests with the one brush.”
Councillor O’Malley said he did not blame all clergy. “What I did say is that one case of child sexual abuse perpetrated by a member of the clergy was one case too many.”
Councillor Michael Kilcoyne said he could not understand why the Government is cutting off diplomatic links with the Vatican at a time when it was maintaining them with countries which consistently trampled on people’s right.
“I accept cuts have to be made but I think we are going the wrong way about it. We continue to have an embassy in China, for example, despite the fact people there are trodden into the ground.
“I can’t understand how our head of state can concur with such short-sightedness which effectively insults those running the Irish colleges in Rome,” added the non-party members.
Ballina Independent Councillor Gerry Ginty said he was neither a craw thumper nor a great admirer of the Catholic Church, but he felt the closure of the Irish embassy in the Vatican was on the agenda of Tánaiste Eamon Gilmore for a long time.
He elaborated: “This is a senior minister who started out in politics as a member of Democratic Left, a party that went cap in hand to the Soviet Union for funding and was extreme Marxist in its views. It took over the Labour Party and many of its members were indoctrinated into the newsrooms of RTÉ and the national newspapers.
“It’s from the Democratic Left that the anti-Vatican stand emerged. I don’t mind somebody like Eamon Gilmore stamping on the feelings of Irish Catholics. But I don’t agree with people like Enda Kenny kicking the church when it is down.”
On the issue of child sexual abuse, Councillor Ginty claimed ‘everybody turned a blind eye’ in former times.
“Don’t tell me politicians did not know about such cases, yet they chose to say nothing.”
Councillor Gerry Murray (SF) said children are still being abused in this country. “There are children in the care of the state who are dying and being abused due to neglect and a lack of resources.”
Fianna Fáil Councillor Micheál McNamara stated the McCarthy Report identified 20 Irish embassies for closure.
“We should be looking at downsizing rather than shutting them down. I know there are issues between the Government and the Vatican, but keeping the lines of communication open would be the best way of dealing with those issues.”
His proposal that Mayo County Council write to the Minister for Foreign Affairs seeking a reversal of the decision to close the Irish embassy in the Vatican was accepted without opposition from Fine Gael.
Councillor Joe Mellett, Fine Gael whip, explained his party did not want to be drawn into a ballot on the Fianna Fáil motion to send a letter to the Minister for Foreign Affairs opposing the closure of the Irish embassy in the Vatican.
“I am sure the true story behind the closure will come out in time,” he added.