Ireland Stand Up stands up for faith

Ireland Stand Up stands up for faith The Villa Spada in Rome, home to the Irish Embassy to the Holy See.


The View


Sometimes in politics, it is not the things you expect that cause a reaction. When the last Government proposed restrictions on the use of the medical card it was probably inevitable that it would cause a major backlash. When a hospital ward is closed a backlash will be absolutely inevitable.

But when Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs Eamon Gilmore decided to close the Irish embassy to the Holy See, he probably didn’t expect the negative reaction he has received.

He had two reasons for this. The first is that the public know there must be cutbacks and the embassy to the Holy See, which generates no trade income, costs the taxpayer €800,000 per year.

But the second and more important reason is that Gilmore took his decision only weeks after the furore that greeted the publication of the Cloyne Report and the seeming adulation which greeted the attack by Enda Kenny on the Vatican. So the time probably seemed right to close the embassy.

As it turns out, Mr Gilmore severely miscalculated. There was a backlash. Immediately, there was disquiet in Leinster House.

Fianna Fáil opposed the move, including the extremely cautious Micheál Martin.

Martin is not a man to make a move without calculating the possible public impact and he must have guessed that the Gilmore decision was going down badly with a section of the public.

However, the Government won’t have worried too much about opposition from the remnants of Fianna Fáil even if on this occasion they appeared to be reading the public mood correctly.

What will have worried the Government a little more was the opposition the decision provoked from within its own ranks.

It was obvious, for example, that the Minister for Europe, Lucinda Creighton, was deeply unhappy about what Gilmore did. (Let us remember also that our Tánaiste once belonged to the Workers Party which enjoyed a close relationship with the Soviet Union, a country that was no fan of religion, to put it very mildly).

Now, the backlash to Gilmore’s decision obviously isn’t on a par with the backlash against the aforementioned medical card decision.

If it was that strong he probably would have backed down by now.

On the other hand, as we learned from The Irish Examiner last week, the Government received over 100 letters following the decision to close the embassy — the overwhelming majority of which were opposed to the move.

That might not sound like a lot, but most Government decisions elicit little or no correspondence whatever.

More importantly, the decision provoked postcard campaigns to TDs, the Taoiseach and the Tánaiste and the setting up of a group called Ireland Stand Up, which is behind the main postcard campaign.


Last week, Ireland Stand Up organised a meeting in Buswell’s Hotel, opposite Leinster House, to voice their opposition to the closure of the embassy. They invited politicians to call across and meet them.

There were two dangers in this move. The first is that the event might be taken over by cranks and this would only alienate any politicians who might call across.

The second and more likely danger is that it would be a damp squib.

But neither of these things happened. Instead, the event was a resounding success. Members of the group remained at Leinster House all of Wednesday afternoon and over the course of the afternoon, 73 TDs and Senators called across including Lucinda Creighton, Fianna Fáil leader Micheál Martin and even Sinn Fe¨in’s Mary Lou McDonald and Fine Gael chairman Charlie Flanagan, who had previously called for the expulsion of the Papal Nuncio.

This was an incredible turn-out for people who have many demands on their time. What is the last occasion when so many politicians came to a meeting of this sort?

Of course, we can’t assume that every politician who was there wants the embassy reopened, but at the very least it showed that the issue of the closure has registered at Leinster House and the politicians believe it is important.


Every credit must go to Ireland Stand Up for organising this initiative as well as a campaign that has so far distributed 100,000 postcards nationwide protesting the decision.

The members of the group appear to be drawn mainly from prayer groups around the country who take their faith seriously.

They found the closure of the embassy insulting and a step too far. Following the Enda Kenny speech, it appeared to symbolise — rightly or wrongly — a deep antipathy on the part of this Government towards the Catholic Church.

The members of the group are mostly retired people, but as politicians know, older people vote.

And as politicians also know, most grassroots organisations campaign only on issues that directly affect them, for example, ward closures.

This group is concerned about something that does not affect its membership directly. There is no personal gain for any of the members if their campaign eventually succeeds. In other words, they are campaigning for purely altruistic reasons.

We need more of this type of initiative in this country, especially on issues of faith. There is, for example, the growing threat to the future of denominational schools to think about.

For what it has done, and is doing, Ireland Stands Up deserves our congratulations. It stood up.