Representatives of the Taoiseach and the Tanaiste along with TDs and Senators have met members of a lay Catholic group that wants to retain the Irish embassy to the Vatican.

Labour backbencher Colm Keaveney said he believed Ireland could afford the embassy despite claims by the Government last November that it could not.

The "Ireland Stand Up" organisation wants Taoiseach Enda Kenny to invite Pope Benedict XVI to Ireland for the Eucharistic Congress in Dublin in June.

The group was formed following November's decision by the government to close its mission to the Vatican to save €750m annually.

The Minister for Foreign Affairs Eamon Gilmore said the decision to close a total of three foreign missions was dictated by the EU/ECB/IMF troika.

He denied that the move to appoint a Dublin-based ambassador to the Vatican was connected with the Taoiseach's sharp criticism of the Holy See following July's publication of the Cloyne Report on clerical child abuse.