Fianna Fáil Foreign Affairs Spokesperson Seán Ó Fearghaíl has questioned the level of thought that has gone into the series of Embassy closures announced by Tánaiste Eamon Gilmore.
He commented, “I am not sure how well thought out this has been. While there is a nominal saving attached to closing embassies there is also a cost. Is closing down diplomatic offices in Asia and the Middle East really the best course of action when we are trying to develop trading relationships in these regions and we are trying to grow our way out of recession? The last Government, with Micheál Martin as Minister for Foreign Affairs embarked on an effective cost saving exercise within the diplomatic service, reducing many missions to a very basic and core service.
“But we almost always worked to maintain a presence, as having a presence on the ground means that if opportunities emerge Ireland is best placed to seize them. In Fianna Fáil, our strong view is that Ireland should be working to extend our international footprint, not reduce it. Last year, in difficult circumstances we still managed to open a new embassy in Abu Dhabi and a consulate in Atlanta. We were also seeking to establish a presence in Indonesia.
“In terms of the Vatican, there has been a focus on the Catholic Church angle, but the fact is that the Vatican is actually a very important diplomatic centre in Europe and somewhere where we have developed important relationships with key people all across Europe over many years.
“Like so much with this Government, this announcement seems to be more about headlines than the substance of the issue.”