Foreign Affairs PQs – Palestine, Saudi Arabia, and Mali

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Clare asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs a number of questions on issues including recognition of Palestinian statehood, EU imports of goods from illegal Israeli settlements, Saudi Arabia’s human rights record, and Irish neutrality. His responses can be found below.

Question No. 31
Parliamentary Question – Oireachtas

To ask the Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade the steps he is taking, diplomatic or otherwise, to advocate at the European Foreign Affairs Council level, for a ban on the import of goods to the European Union from illegal Israeli settlements; and if he will make a statement on the matter.
– Clare Daly.
For ORAL answer on Thursday, 17th December, 2015.
Ref No: 45468/15 Lottery: 30 Proof: 30

REPLY

The European Union has taken a number of steps to differentiate between its treatment of imports from Israel and goods coming from illegal Israeli settlements.  Settlement goods are not entitled to the lower tariffs that are the norm in the EU, and meat from settlements may not be certified by Israeli veterinary authorities.  EU research funding may not be spent in settlements. Most recently, the European Commission last month clarified that goods from settlements may not be misleadingly labelled as being produce of Israel. Ireland has supported all of these measures. 

This is part of a general approach, in line with the conclusions of the Council in December 2012, to differentiate the EU’s relationship with Israel from the relationship with the settlements.

There is no prospect whatever at present of obtaining agreement at EU level on a ban on the import of goods from the settlements.  And while that remains the case, it would be futile and counterproductive for Ireland to try to push such an approach. The reasons for this have been explained on a number of occasions in more detail with Oireachtas Committees.

Question No. 489
Parliamentary Question – Oireachtas

To ask the Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade if he has consulted with the Department of Defence regarding the implications of the deployment of Irish troops to Mali, given the potential impact of such a deployment at this time on the perception of Ireland’s neutrality abroad; and if he will make a statement on the matter.
– Clare Daly.
* For WRITTEN answer on Thursday, 17th December, 2015.
Ref No: 45531/15 Proof: 46

PQ Type changed from —> Substitute Priority; (White No – 2; on 17/12/2015)

REPLY

On 16 November, in the wake of the horrific attacks in Paris, President Hollande stated that France was invoking Article 42.7 of the Treaty on European Union.  The article states that “If a Member State is the victim of armed aggression on its territory, the other Member States shall have towards it an obligation of aid and assistance by all the means in their power, in accordance with Article 51 of the United Nations Charter.  This shall not prejudice the specific character of the security and defence policy of certain Member States.”

The French Ambassador to Ireland subsequently met with senior officials from my Department and senior officials from a number of other Departments, including the Department of Defence, for initial discussions as to how Ireland might provide practical assistance to France.  These Departments are considering how best Ireland can respond, taking account of France’s needs, and our resources and expertise.  No decision has been taken regarding the nature of our assistance and I do not wish to pre-judge the outcome of ongoing discussions.

The possibility of taking on UN-authorised peacekeeping duties to which France is currently committed, including in Mali, has been mentioned as one possible option.  The purpose of any such deployment would be to ensuring the continued effectiveness of UN-authorised peacekeeping missions in the event of a French withdrawal.

Assistance which we provide will be consistent with Irish law and with our longstanding policy of military neutrality.

Question No. 29
Parliamentary Question – Oireachtas

To ask the Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade his views, in terms of global security, stability, and peace, on the advisability of any European Union State engaging in a bombing campaign in Syria, in response to the attacks in Paris of 13 November 2015; if he has had engagements with other European Union Foreign Affairs Ministers on this issue; and if he will make a statement on the matter.
– Clare Daly.
For ORAL answer on Thursday, 17th December, 2015.
Ref No: 45470/15 Lottery: 28 Proof: 28

REPLY

Ending the devastating conflict in Syria, which has imposed enormous burdens on neighbouring States, is critical to the stability of the Middle East region, and the security and safety of the Syrian people and their neighbours.   This instability is also impacting on Europe in the form of both large scale migration and the recent terrorist attacks.

Airstrikes have been conducted against Da’esh in Iraq and Syria for a number of months.  It is for individual States to determine in what way they might best contribute to the concerted international effort underway to tackle the threat posed by Da’esh and other UN-designated terrorist groups.

Security Council resolution 2249 calls upon UN Member States to take all necessary measure to prevent and suppress terrorist acts by Da’esh and Al-Nusra Front (an Al-Qaeda affiliate) in territory under Da’esh control within Syria and Iraq and to eradicate the safe haven they have established inside Syria and Iraq.  Any action undertaken under this resolution must be in compliance with international law, in particular the UN Charter, as well as international human rights, refugee, and humanitarian law.

Ireland is not and will not be participating in any international military action to combat Da’esh and is not holding discussions with other States on their military actions in Syria.

While the crisis in Syria features in almost every discussion at the Foreign Affairs Council, there has been no discussion on the question of military action against Da’esh at EU level on this issue, as it is exclusively the competence of national governments.  However, at my recent meeting with the UK’s Foreign Secretary, Philip Hammond there was some discussion of the then impending parliamentary vote on UK airstrikes in Syria.

Question No. 3
Parliamentary Question – Oireachtas

To ask the Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade if he has had discussions with the Northern Ireland Justice Minister, Mr David Forde, or the British Secretary of State for Northern Ireland, Ms Theresa Villiers, in relation to the International Red Cross process in Maghaberry and the public announcement of a new regime for political prisoners, and the implications of same; and if he will make a statement on the matter.
– Clare Daly.
For PRIORITY answer on Thursday, 17th December, 2015.
Ref No: 45530/15

REPLY
I met last Friday with the Northern Ireland Minister of Justice, David Ford MLA.  We discussed in detail the situation in Maghaberry prison, including the regime for separated prisoners.

My last meeting with Secretary of State Theresa Villiers was on 17 November, as we concluded the negotiation of the ‘Fresh Start’ Agreement.  We will meet before the end of the month, when I will again raise non-devolved matters relating to Maghaberry with her.

It is my understanding that there are no proposals to change the current regime for separated prisoners in Maghaberry Prison.

Implementation of the Independent Assessment Team recommendations remains the responsibility of the Northern Ireland Prison Service.

In our discussion last week, Minister Ford noted that, while there had been some progress, full implementation had been affected by trust issues arising, in part, from the sense of threat to staff.  This echoed a statement from the Northern Ireland Prison Service qualifying its commitment to the recommendations, by making them conditional on an “an environment where staff are free from threat and intimidation”.

The naming of individuals by prisoners in public statements may not have been intended by them to be seen as threatening.  However, having read their statements, I can understand if those named were to consider them intimidatory.  It is my strong view that the full implementation of the recommendations of the Independent Assessment Team is dependent on the establishment of a reasonable level of trust between the relevant prisoners and prison staff.

Among the challenges I discussed with Minister Ford were the obstacles to the operation of the Prison Forum which, since July 2015, was chaired by a representative of the International Committee of the Red Cross.  A functioning forum would make an important contribution to reducing tensions in Maghaberry.  My officials maintain regular contact with the Chair of the Prison Forum and also with the members of the Independent Assessment Team.

Minister Ford also updated me on progress in implementing the recommendations of the recent report by Criminal Justice Inspector, Brendan McGuigan, into conditions in the prison.  I expressed my concerns at the deficiencies identified within the prison, which affect the entire prison population and prison staff, not just those in the separated regime.  It is of concern to me that the Inspectors found that the demands of the separated unit are undermining the work of the whole prison, to the detriment of the majority of the prison population.  One of my officials met yesterday with the Criminal Justice Inspector to discuss the findings of the report and they have agreed to remain in contact.

The Criminal Justice Inspector will return to Maghaberry in January to monitor progress. I hope that he will be able to report that significant progress has been made in terms of improving outcomes for all prisoners.

Question No. 18
Parliamentary Question – Oireachtas

To ask the Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade in view of the fact that it has been over a year since both Dáil and Seanad Éireann adopted Motions calling on the Government to recognise the State of Palestine, when formal recognition of the State of Palestine by Ireland will take place; his views on the delay to date, of such formal recognition; and if he will make a statement on the matter.
– Clare Daly.
For ORAL answer on Thursday, 17th December, 2015.
Ref No: 45467/15 Lottery: 15 Proof: 15

REPLY

The Government works consistently to achieve a sovereign Palestinian state not just in theory but in fact, and all of our actions on the Israeli/Palestinian issue are directed to that end.  It is central to our objective of a two state solution that will ensure the security and prosperity of both peoples.

I continue to consider carefully whether the recognition by Ireland now of a state of Palestine, prior to its real achievement on the ground, could be a helpful step towards that goal.

The motions passed in the Seanad on 22 October and the Dáil on 10 December are very important factors in that consideration, but ultimately it remains a matter for assessment and decision by the Government.  Other factors are its symbolic importance for the Palestinian people, its likely impact on the prospects for advancing the peace process, and its effect on Ireland’s own influence on the issue, which is very important to us.

I have made clear that I will recommend early recognition by Ireland if I conclude that it can be helpful.

Question No. 20
Parliamentary Question – Oireachtas

To ask the Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade if he has made representations to the Embassy of the United States of America, with regard to the connection between that nation’s military use of Shannon Airport and Ireland being described as part of a coalition of evil in a purported ISIS video; if he has expressed concerns to the Ambassador, regarding continued United States military use of Shannon Airport for Ireland’s security; and if he will re-consider such military use of Shannon Airport, in view of both its deleterious effect on Irish neutrality and the security of its citizens.
– Clare Daly.
For ORAL answer on Thursday, 17th December, 2015.
Ref No: 45469/15 Lottery: 18 Proof: 18

REPLY

I have not made representations to the US Embassy on this subject.

Permission must be sought in advance for landings by all foreign military aircraft, including US aircraft, at Irish airports and if granted, is subject to strict conditions which I have outlined many times in this House.  Successive Governments have made landing facilities at Shannon available to the US for well over 50 years.  These arrangements do not amount to any form of military alliance with the US and the application of conditions ensures compatibility with our neutrality.

Issues relating to national security are a matter for the Minister for Justice and Equality.  The Minister has stated that while a terrorist attack on Ireland is possible, it is not likely, and that there is no specific information in relation to any threat to Ireland.

The Irish flag is one of 60 flags that appear in the video to which the Deputy refers.  The basis on which flags appear, including those of Ireland and other neutral states, is not explained by the makers of the video and it is not possible to draw conclusions in this regard.

Question No. 22
Parliamentary Question – Oireachtas

To ask the Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade if he has had any consultations with his European Union colleagues, with regard to Saudi Arabia’s human rights record, in particular recent reports of multiple beheadings, and the advisability of maintaining close diplomatic and economic relations with that State, in view of that human rights record; and if he will make a statement on the matter.
– Clare Daly.
For ORAL answer on Thursday, 17th December, 2015.
Ref No: 45471/15 Lottery: 20 Proof: 20

REPLY

Human rights issues form a continuous part of EU discussions on third party countries, be it at EU Ministerial level or among EU representatives in the countries concerned.  Ireland has the greatest impact on matters of foreign policy, including human rights, when we speak with one voice with all of our EU partners.  As such, we regularly raise human rights matters in conjunction with our EU partners through the EU Representation in Riyadh, as well as bilaterally through the Irish Mission using the complementary channel provided by our diplomatic relations with the Kingdom.

Ireland also makes full use of mechanisms such as the UN Human Rights Council to raise human rights issues; we made recommendations during Saudi Arabia’s 2013 Universal Periodic Review, and made a statement voicing serious concern at the Council on 21 September 2015 in relation to a particular death penalty issue.

Ireland’s stance on the death penalty is clear:  we oppose it in all circumstances, and have expressed concerns about its increased use of late in a number of countries, including Saudi Arabia.

Saudi Arabia is a designated priority market for Ireland, and we have a strong, and growing, trade relationship with Saudi Arabia and its neighbours.  Saudi Arabia represents a significant market: total bilateral trade in 2013 was worth over €1.36 billion.  Most of this trade is in Ireland’s favour; the economic relationship therefore has considerable benefits for the Irish economy.

The economic partnership that we have with Saudi Arabia, however, does not prevent us from raising human rights issues in the appropriate channels.  We will continue to maintain relations with Saudi Arabia: economic, for the benefit of our economy and trade; and diplomatic, to facilitate our continued engagement with the Kingdom on human rights and also on other matters as they arise.