Echoes of the past from the Archives
The interaction of the Department of Foreign Affairs with the papal nuncio is not often easy to illustrate. One file, however, presents an example.
In March 1981, the apostolic nuncio Monsignor Gaetano Alibrandi, who was, after all, accredited to the Irish Government rather than to the Irish Church, wrote to the Department of Foreign Affairs about the concern of the Holy See that the World Health Organisation might continue to support research into natural family planning methods.
“The Holy See noticed with much interest that in the World Health Assembly, in 1980, the representative of the Irish government requested the continuation of the studies of natural methods,” the nuncio wrote.
He continued: “The same Holy See would be very grateful, should the Irish government be so kind as to acquaint those responsible in the Irish Department of the Health with the great importance that she attaches to seeing these studies on natural methods continued, and to insist that the Directors of the WHO don’t put any obstacles to the studies in the field of the above mentioned natural methods.”
Foreign Affairs sought the advice of the Chief Medical Officer at the Department of Health, and in April a carefully-worded letter, which said inter alia, that “Ireland has an ongoing interest in this research and understands that this work is continuing without hindrance. Ireland will continue to do everything possible to increase WHO interest in this field of research”.
In fact, the exchanges with the Department of Health suggest that the real problem in this field, was budgetary constraints, “which have not been greater here than in other areas”.