ROME, November 8, 2011 ( – In a move that came as a shock to Vatican observers last week, the Irish government abruptly announced the closure of its embassy to the Holy See. While the official word from both the Vatican and the Irish coalition government is that the move was not meant as a diplomatic slight, there is wide agreement among pro-life leaders that the move is a deliberate diplomatic insult and an attempt to move Ireland away from its traditional Catholic roots, which undergird the country’s strong pro-life laws.

The government claimed that the decision was made for financial reasons, but has since confirmed that the closure would save less than €700,000 a year, a drop in the bucket for a government that that has sent €30 million to UNFPA, the UN body linked to coercive abortion, sterilization and population control programs in China. Under the new arrangements, Ireland will maintain a nonresident ambassador to the Holy See and keep its Italian embassy in Rome open. Also to be closed are the Irish embassies in Iran and Timor Leste.

Monsignore Ignacio Barreiro, head of the Rome office of Human Life International and a career diplomat, told that “most objective observers will not be convinced that the reasons for the decision were budgetary constraints.”

Niamh Ui Bhriain, the head of the Life Institute, a leading Irish pro-life educational organization, told LSN that whatever the official line, the closure will only be seen by the Irish as “an extraordinary snub” against the Church by an already unpopular government.

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The move serves the agenda of the minority party in the coalition, the Labour Party, who, she said, are “banging a particularly aggressive drum, which often amounted to naked anti-Catholicism.”

“The Labour Party, in particular, have an aggressive approach to secularising Ireland and, of course, lost up to a third of their support in the polls when they said they would legalize abortion before the parliamentary election earlier this years,” Ui Bhriain added.

“But they have been given a role in government by Fine Gael, who, despite pitching themselves as a conservative party, are allowing Labour to push through decisions like this without consulting the people.”

Anthony Ozimic, head of media relations for the UK’s Society for the Protection of Unborn Children, told LSN that the Irish government was playing games, but with frighteningly high stakes.

“The Holy See is one of the worlds foremost upholders of fundamental human rights, especially the right to life, family rights and children’s rights,” Ozimic said.

“The new Irish government’s ‘Platform for government’ seeks to undermine those rights. The closing of the Irish embassy to the Holy See is consistent with that platform.”

“This is a dark time in which pro-lifers internationally, Catholic or not, must have solidarity with ordinary Irish citizens in their fight against the culture of death,” he added.

The Irish government’s “Platform for Government” has been roundly denounced as a manifesto for the destruction of traditional moral and social values in Ireland. Writing on his blog yesterday, John Smeaton, Director of SPUC, said the Irish government is following the lead of many western nations in pushing an anti-life and anti-family philosophy favored by a tiny minority of “liberal” elites in direct contradiction to the express will of the Irish people.

He told LSN, “Dublin is just slavishly doing the bidding of London and Washington and Brussels. Contrary to the express position of the Irish people in the abortion referendum.”

“What we’re seeing here is force majeure against the Vatican.”

“Potentially,” Smeaton said, “the Vatican is the only force in the world that is able to stand up to the abortion and population control agenda being promoted by the US, the European institutions, Britain and slavishly followed by the Irish government. A government that likes to boast about its membership of the board of the UNFPA.”

Smeaton continued, “Really they are trying to bully the Holy See into at least silence on issues related to the sanctity of life and of the transmission of human life.”

The pro-life leader related a conversation he had with a former Secretary of State for Overseas Development, in which the official had boasted of the fact that a “family planning” clinic had opened opposite the main Catholic Church in the capital of a developing country. “I think they know exactly what they’re doing, these governments,” he said.

Smeaton said it is “terribly important” that the Church respond robustly in the face of such attacks and continue to “uphold clearly and unequivocally the church’s teaching relating both to the sanctity of life and the trans of human life, (according to the encyclicals) Evangelium Vitae and Humanae Vitae.