The Government has appointed a career diplomat as new resident ambassador to the Vatican less than three years after closing the embassy.
The Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) confirmed that Emma Madigan, currently a senior official in the protocol division, is the Government’s choice for the post and her name will be forwarded to the Holy See for the formal diplomatic agrément. Ms Madigan played a key role in the recent visit of President Michael D. Higgins to Britain.
Foreign Affairs Minister Eamon Gilmore came in for sharp criticism in November 2011 when he announced that the embassy would close and a diplomat based in Dublin would represent Ireland at the Vatican. At the time, the Government said the closure was a cost-saving move, a claim rejected by opposition politicians who accused Mr Gilmore of wanting to downgrade relations with the Vatican amid tensions about the Church’s handling of allegations of abuse against priests.
However, the Government announced earlier this year that Ireland would shortly re-open a scaled-back Embassy to the Holy See with a resident ambassador.
The appointment comes just weeks after Irish Taoiseach Enda Kenny invited Pope Francis to visit Ireland and expressed the view that there is now a “closer and healthier relationship between church and State” following tensions over the handling of abuse allegations against priests and religious.
“We’ve had all of the reports in Ireland. We have a situation now where the Church wants to deal with the scandals of the past in an upfront and open way,” Mr Kenny told reporters in Rome on April 27 while attending the double canonisations of Saints John XXIII and John Paul II.
Ms Madigan is expected to take up her post by the end of this year. The Government said the new mission would be “a scaled-back, one-person embassy with a focus on international development”.
It said the re-opened embassy will “enable Ireland to engage directly with the leadership of Pope Francis on the issues of poverty eradication, hunger and human rights”.
During her 14 years in the Irish diplomatic service Ms Madigan has served as Vice Consul in New York, Private Secretary to the Secretary General and Deputy Director of Europe & United Nations Coordination Section.
Ms Madigan also played a key role in organising the first ever State visit to Britain by an Irish Head of State last month when President Michael D. Higgins met Queen Elizabeth II.
It has not yet been announced where the new embassy will be housed since the former Embassy to the Holy See on Rome’s Janiculum Hill is now serving as Ireland’s Embassy to Italy.