There have been calls for the reopening of Ireland's embassy to the Vatican, to mark the election of a new pope.

Fianna Fáil leader Micheál Martin congratulated the new pontiff, and praised RTÉ's coverage of the election, saying it reflected a deep interest among Irish people.

He asked if the Government would now consider providing funds to reopen the embassy to the Holy See, which was closed on grounds of cost.

His call was backed by Independent TD Michael Healy Rae, who said it would be a gesture to the new pope.

Finance Minister Michael Noonan said links with the Holy See have not been "severed".

He said there are still full diplomatic relations, with the Secretary General of the Department of Foreign Affairs accredited to the Vatican - the only change was that the ambassador was no longer resident there.

Independent TD Shane Ross said that as a “black protestant” he did not want to be left out of the goodwill messages to the new pope.

Minister Noonan responded by saying that no doubt the pope would be happy and noted a certain Old Testament tinge to some of the Mr Ross’ contributions to the House.