A few days ago my friend Simon asked me to jump in and give him a hand admining a Facebook group he first set up in 2009 in response to some of the reports that had been published into clerical sexual abuse in Ireland. These reports highlighted a catalogue of blocking, interference, and general institutionalised non-cooperation with investigations by the State authorities.
The recent publication of the Cloyne Report highlighted still further that there was a clear policy of non-cooperation and basic lip service being paid to child protection standards within many areas of the Irish Roman Catholic church, at the initiation of, with the support of, and with the backing of the Vatican State’s senior diplomat to Ireland, the Papal Nuncio. That this culture has spanned the tenure of multiple holders of the post over the past number of years (Guiseppe Lazzarotto [Nuncio from 2000 to 2007] blocked cooperation with inquiries on the grounds that ‘diplomatic channels had not been used’, Luciano Storero [Nuncio from 1995 to 2000] warned Bishops against implementing measures requiring mandatory reporting of child abuse) speaks to an institutional failure on the part of the diplomatic representatives of a foreign state to respect the laws of the Irish State and co-operate with enquiries into horrific cases of systemic and systematic abuse.
And that is why I was only too happy to help Simon out. It’s not that I am anti-religion, anti-church, anti-priest, or anti-catholic. Those who know me well know my personal beliefs. I don’t feel it is relevant to share them here, because in parallel with my personal religious and philosophical beliefs I have a very strong belief that international relations between States must be grounded on trust, or at least respect. I do not believe it is acceptable for a diplomatic representative to place themselves above or outside the law of this State without there being clear consequences for the office holder and the office itself.
Had the Danish Ambassador conspired systemically to block investigations into the alleged criminal activities of Danish citizens I’d be calling for him to be expelled as well.
The fact that the Papal Nuncio holds a special senior position in the Diplomatic Corps in Ireland is doubly troubling to me. The Nuncio is the Dean of the Diplomatic Corps, effectively feted as the most senior diplomat on the Ferro Rocher circuit. And all while the office of the Nuncio has, for over two decades, facilitated the breaking of Irish laws and conspired to block and frustrate investigations of those alleged offences.
So. What I’m asking the Irish Government to do is to take action to remove the special standing of the Papal Nuncio immediately. They should then take the necessary steps to expel the Ambassador from the Vatican City State (the legal entity not the religious body).
Finally, the Irish Government should also withdraw the invitation to the Pope to visit. Bluntly, we can’t afford it as the return on investment compared to other State visits from countries with diplomatic representation here simply isn’t there. When the Pope visited the UK it cost over GBP12 million (EURO14 million) before the policing costs were factored in. The combined visits of Obama and the Queen came to around â‚¬30 million in total.
The United States as a population of over 300 million people. Fair enough only around 15% of them have passports, but that’s still a potential pool of 45 million travellers who might stop off in Ireland on their vacations. The UK has around 62 million people sitting a 1hr Ryanair flight away from us. So, the potential pool of possible tourists who can come from the UK and US as a result of the State visits in May is around 100 million people. So, it would have cost us â‚¬0.30 per head to target that population.
The Vatican has a population of 826 people (source: CIA Factbook). Spending â‚¬12million on securing the Pope’s visit would cost us â‚¬14528 per capita to sell Ireland as a tourist destination to the population of the Vatican. Even if it cost us a quarter of what was spent on the UK visit, we’d still be spending over â‚¬3,000 per potential traveller to sell into a market that I’m sure Failte Ireland are already reaching through their advertising spend in Italy.