Wednesday, May 7, 2014

Ireland appoints a woman as its new resident ambassador to the Holy See


The Irish Government has appointed Ms. Emma Madigan, a career diplomat as its new resident ambassador to the Holy See. 

The decision was taken today at the Cabinet meeting in Dublin, May 6, and confirmed by the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA), which said the new Ambassador will have a particular mandate to ‘follow the activities of the Holy See on the development and human rights front’.  The DFA, in a statement, said that Pope Francis, since his election in March 2013, has “become a leading global advocate for action to address hunger and poverty and for the respect of human rights”.

Ms. Madigan, at the time of her appointment was assistant-chief of protocol at the Department of Foreign Affairs. She has served in the Irish diplomatic service for the past 14 years, including as Vice Consul in New York, Private Secretary to the Secretary General and Deputy Director of Europe and United Nations Coordination Section. Recently she played a key role in organizing the first ever State visit to Britain by an Irish Head of State when President Michael D. Higgins met Queen Elizabeth II.

She has a degree in History and Italian as well as a Masters in European Studies from UCD, all of which will serve her well in her new mission.  It is her first appointment as Head of Mission, and she will be the first resident Irish ambassador since November 2011 when the Government closed the Irish Embassy to the Holy See. The last resident ambassador was Noel Fahey, who retired from the post and the diplomatic service in the summer of 2011.

Ms. Madigan takes over from David Cooney, who served as non-resident ambassador in these past years, while also acting as Secretary General at the Department for Foreign Affairs.  Cooney played an important role in the reopening of the Embassy and the restoration of a resident ambassador. 

The new Ambassador’s appointment comes just over a week after the Irish Taoiseach (Prime Minister) Enda Kenny came to the Vatican for the canonization of John XXIII and John Paul II.  At the end of that ceremony on April 27, the Taoiseach met Pope Francis and invited him to visit Ireland.  

Kenny’s visit opened a new chapter in Ireland’s relations with the Holy See because as head of the Irish Government, he had harshly attacked the Vatican in the Irish parliament, July 2011, for its handling of numerous cases of abuse of children by priests and religious in the country, and for not cooperating with State investigations into these.  In November of that same year the Government closed its embassy to the Holy See as a cost-saving move, it said.

 In January of this year, however, the Government reversed that decision and announced that the Embassy would be reopened, though downsized, with a resident ambassador.  The DFA then 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”.

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 now serves as Ireland’s Embassy to Italy. The Department for Foreign Affairs said the new Embassy will be a “modest”, one-person operation, and will re-open this summer.

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