Recent Parliamentary Questions

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Foreign Affairs, Oral Questions

Foreign Affairs

To ask the Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade the steps that were taken in relation to raising the Saudi Arabian regime’s human rights abuses, discrimination against women, and financing of jihadist and sectarian forces across the Middle East when the recent Irish trade mission to that country took place. Clare Daly.
For ORAL answer on Wednesday, 15th January, 2014.
Ref No: 1266/14 Lottery: 3 Proof: 3


I propose to take questions 21 and 27 together.  I was not on the recent Trade Mission to the Gulf which was led by the Taoiseach and the Minister for Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation, Richard Bruton.  Therefore, I cannot comment directly on what was said during their bilateral meetings.
However, I understand that during the course of his visit to Saudi Arabia from 4th to 6th January, the Taoiseach had detailed political discussions with Crown Prince Salman bin Abdulaziz and with the Deputy Foreign Minister, Prince Abdulaziz bin Abdullah.
During these discussions, the Taoiseach welcomed the election of Saudi Arabia to the UN Human Rights Council for the period 2014-2016 and offered to work with Saudi Arabia to ensure the promotion of human rights.  Of course, Ireland will work with any country which is willing to engage on human rights issues.
The Taoiseach also discussed the continuing tragic loss of life taking place as a result of the devastating conflict in Syria and the urgent need for greater international efforts and support for a political, not a military solution.  This is the most pressing human rights issue in the region at present.
Ireland has always been at the forefront internationally in raising human rights issues through bilateral contacts and through the European Union and the United Nations, and we have never shied away from addressing these issues.
Ireland made two recommendations to Saudi Arabia during its most recent review under the Human Rights Council Universal Periodic Review process in October 2013.  These recommendations focused on the right to freedom of association and on the improvement of women’s rights.
However, the primary focus of a trade mission is to encourage business to business links and encourage investment and employment opportunities.   If we want to be effective in addressing human rights issues with countries, we must do it in an appropriate way and at the right opportunity, so that our concerns are taken seriously and acted upon.

Question No. 29: To ask the Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade if he will condemn the recent aerial bombardment of Gaza by the Israeli authorities; if he will campaign within the EU for an ending of the favourable treatment of Israel by calling for the cessation of the EU-Israel Association Agreement and an ending of their involvement in Horizon 2020.
– Clare Daly.
For ORAL answer on Wednesday, 15th January, 2014.
Ref No: 1265/14 Lottery: 29 Proof: 29


In relation to the overall humanitarian situation in Gaza, the impact of the blockade, and the humanitarian assistance provided by Ireland in response, I would refer to my detailed reply to Question 28 (ref 53172/13) on 11 December last.
Ireland, both nationally and through the EU, will continue to draw attention to the unacceptable situation in Gaza, to call for an end to the blockade of Gaza, and to call upon all parties in the region to give greater consideration to the impact of their policies on the people of Gaza. This applies especially to Israel, but also to all other actors, including Hamas and other groups in Gaza, and to Egypt.
On 25 December Israeli warplanes dropped four bombs on Gaza, on sites claimed to be military targets, following the killing on 24 December by a sniper in Gaza of a civilian worker in Israel who was repairing the border fence. Three people in Gaza were reportedly killed, including a child.
Although on this occasion relatively brief, such mini cycles of violence are recurring, tragic, and futile. I have consistently condemned both Israeli strikes on Gaza which incur civilian casualties, but also repeated attacks into Israel which intentionally seek to kill Israeli civilians and are indifferent to subsequent retaliation by Israel into Gaza. I do not accept the view that one killing justifies another, but nor do I think it is helpful to focus on one side only, and simply ignore the fact that violence is being exchanged in both directions.
I repeat – again – my call on all parties to refrain from such actions.
I have dealt many times in the House with the question of the EU-Israel Association Agreement. Such agreements, which are in place with most of the EU’s Mediterranean neighbours, are not a reward for good behaviour, they are the means by which the EU itself has chosen to structure its relations with its neighbours. I do not propose to seek the suspension of the agreement, and I have made it clear that if I were to do so, there would be no prospect whatever of achieving this, and the only effect would be to lessen Ireland’s influence on this issue at EU level. The same applies to Israel’s participation in Horizon 2020, which covers cooperation in research and development, to the mutual benefit of both parties, and is confined to entities operating within the internationally recognised borders of Israel.