THE VATICAN embassy is to be reopened by the Irish government as part of its plans to expand the embassy and consulate network.
Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade, Eamon Gilmore, T.D. today confirmed plans for the expansion of the Foreign Affairs and Trade diplomatic network abroad.
Embassies will also be established for the first time in the fast-growing economies of Thailand (Bangkok) and Indonesia (Jakarta), and also Croatia (Zagreb) and Kenya (Nairobi).
Consulates General are to be established in the financial and business hubs of Hong Kong (China) and Sao Paolo (Brazil), and in the booming technology hub of Austin, Texas (USA).
The Vatican embassy in Rome will be reopened - two years after it was closed for cost reasons – as a smaller one-person embassy focused on international development.
It will be housed in a separate building to the Irish embassy to Rome, housed in the Villa Spada, which housed the old Vatican embassy.
According to the Department of Foreign Affairs, Ireland will be able to engage directly with Pope Francis on the issues of poverty, hunger and human rights.
Mr Gilmore said: “Ireland has long been underrepresented abroad by comparison with other countries of a similar size and reputation to ours.
“While we have just 300 diplomats promoting our economic and strategic interests in 73 locations abroad, countries like Norway, Finland, Denmark and the Netherlands have a far greater global presence which leaves Ireland at a distinct disadvantage when trying to compete in both emerging and established markets.
“Our aim is to complement the work and global presence of our State agencies as we continue to win new business for Ireland.”
The proposed expansion of the embassy network is aimed at supporting Ireland's foreign trade and inward investment.
The expansion will cost €4.7 million annually and the size of the embassies and consulates will range from one to three diplomatic staff.
As part the same process, the existing embassy network will also undergo review and reorganisation.
Ireland’s embassy to Lesotho will be closed, with Ireland’s embassy in South Africa assuming responsibility for the Kingdom of Lesotho.
The Irish embassy in Vilnius, Lithuania, will also be downsized and its existing Irish Aid office in Freetown, Sierra Leone will be upgraded to embassy status.
Ireland’s diplomatic network currently consists of 56 Embassies, seven multilateral missions (including to the United Nations and the European Union) and 10 Consulates General and other offices.