Diplomatic Relations and Immunities Bill, 1967 [Seanad]: Second Stage.

I move that the Bill be now read a Second Time.

This Bill, as Deputies know, has already passed through the Seanad. The purpose of the Bill is to implement the provisions of a number of international conventions dealing with the immunities and privileges of diplomatic and consular personnel and the immunities and privileges of international organisations.

Ireland, in accordance with the provisions of our Constitution, accepts the generally recognised principles of international law as our rule of conduct in our relations with other States. We must, therefore, take the necessary steps to implement in our domestic law the same rules of diplomatic law and procedure as are applied in other States.

Intergovernmental conferences at Vienna in 1961 and 1963 prepared the Convention on Diplomatic Relations and the Convention on Consular Relations, to which this Bill seeks to give the force of law. These important Conferences were convened by Resolutions of the General Assembly of the United Nations and were part of the general movement in recent years towards the progressive codification and development of international law.

The Conventions reflect the general agreement reached in Vienna as to the appropriate immunities and privileges which are essential for the effective functioning of diplomatic missions and consular offices and they were signed, subject to ratification, on behalf of the Government.

The immunities which we make available to foreign diplomats and consuls in Ireland are the same as our own diplomats and consuls receive in other countries when representing Ireland abroad. They are generally recognised to be indispensable to enable diplomatic representatives to exercise their functions in the State in which they are accredited.

The Diplomatic and Consular Conventions stress that the purpose of the immunities which they set out is not to benefit individuals but to ensure the efficient performance of the functions of diplomatic missions and consular offices. Article 41 of the Diplomatic Convention and Article 55 of the Consular Convention provide that, without prejudice to their privileges and immunities, it is the duty of persons enjoying those privileges and immunities to respect the law and regulations of the receiving state.

The First and Second Schedules of the Bill contain the texts of the Vienna Conventions. These Conventions constitute, in effect, a world code of diplomatic and consular relations. Deputies will realise that there is great convenience in having available such complete statements or codes of international law with regard to both diplomatic and consular relations. Where hitherto we had to deal with these questions in the light of international practice as it appeared to us at any particular time, now, when the full texts of these agreements are placed in the Irish statute book, all concerned or interested in any particular matter in this field will know precisely where to find the relevant material.

Parts III and IV of the Bill are concerned with the United Nations and its Specialised Agencies. It is desirable that the Government should be in a position to make available, in accordance with its international commitments, to the relevant international organisations and to the persons representing or acting for them in Ireland, the immunities and privileges which they may require in connection with their functions. Articles 104 and 105 of the Charter of the United Nations, in fact, require that member Governments shall apply these provisions in their domestic law. As its name indicates, the General Convention on the Privileges and Immunities of the United Nations refers to the United Nations Organisation itself. On the other hand, the Convention on the Privileges and Immunities of the Specialised Agencies of the United Nations refers to the International Labour Organisation, the Food and Agriculture Organisation and all the other Specialised Agencies of the United Nations. The provisions of this Convention are varied slightly in their application to each Specialised Agency by means of an Annex and consequently it is necessary that these Annexes should also be incorporated with the Convention in giving effect to the latter in the Fourth Schedule to the Bill.

The International Court of Justice is also dealt with in Part III of the Bill and the provisions in sections 10 to 15 are taken from a resolution of the General Assembly of the United Nations setting out the immunities which the Assembly considered should be made available to the Court, its judges, etc., etc.

Parts V, VI and VII of the Bill are principally concerned with the Council of Europe, the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development and the Customs Co-operation Council. In giving effect to the immunities of the latter two organisations, we have based ourselves upon the General Agreement of the Council of Europe since the provisions of the Agreement and the protocols on immunities and privileges of the other two organisations are substantially the same. The provisions of the Bill relating to the Council of Europe cover, moreover, the immunities of Irish members of the Consultative Assembly of the Council and their substitutes. The relevant Articles of the General Agreement, set out in the Fifth Schedule, are Articles 13, 14 and 15, as well as Article 3 of the First Protocol to the Agreement, also in the Fifth Schedule.

Part VIII contains general provisions which are described briefly in the explanatory memorandum circulated with the Bill. I also introduced an amendment in the Seanad to add an additional section 49 to the Bill so as to put the Government in the same position vis-á-vis persons acting for international organisations as in regard to diplomatic agents under Article 8.2 of the Diplomatic Convention and in regard to consular officers under Article 22.2 of the Consular Convention.

Briefly, therefore, the purpose of this Bill is to implement by way of legislation our obligations in the field of diplomatic and consular relations and with regard to the international organisations covered by the Bill. As was indicated in the explanatory memorandum circulated to Deputies, the Bill in most respects confirms the present practice in Ireland concerning these matters.

I ask the Dáil to give its approval to the provisions of this Bill.

It is recognised as desirable that the law in relation to diplomatic immunities should be clear and more readily available than it has been up to the present. Up to now it was necessary, in order to find out what the position was on diplomatic immunities in respect of particular matters, to conduct a good deal of research and inquiries. Over the years there have not been very many cases in Britain, and so far as we are concerned there have been very few cases; in fact, case law was the only source of determining the extent of diplomatic immunities. Certain recognised principles operate either through the common law itself or through general acceptance. However, it has not been a very satisfactory situation, and to the extent that this measure will contain in a single statute the extent and scope of diplomatic immunities, it will undoubtedly be of help to those who are interested in or who may be affected by diplomatic immunities.

It is presumed that the Diplomatic Convention contained in the First Schedule is the document of real significance in the Bill and that section 5 is the important section. The number of cases in which the other conventions which are dealt with in the Bill will be utilised would probably be very small. It is of interest that it is now over 20 years since the United Nations Convention and the Specialised Agencies Convention, which were adopted, one in 1946 and the other in 1947, are only now being incorporated in legislation.

In Part VIII of the Bill, power is taken to deal with further international organisations, and while there is no specific reference to the European Economic Community, EFTA or other organisations, I assume that the privileges and immunities which it might be necessary to give in the future in the event of this country becoming a member of the EEC or becoming associated in some way or other with either of them, can be done by order without specific legislation, though in other respects, if we do become a Member of the EEC, it would require legislation.

Many people may wonder why this legislation is necessary. Quite recently cases occurred in another country in which diplomats were literally besieged in their embassy. If international relations are to be conducted on a satisfactory basis, it is essential that the law should be clear and that power be available to deal with extreme situations such as the one which occurred recently, and the diplomatic immunities contained in this Bill are designed for that purpose.

It is one of the features of international politics in modern times that diplomats are often subjected to attack in the performance of their duties, and while it is outside the scope of our responsibilities here, nevertheless I think it is right that this country, which is so devoted to upholding the generally recognised principles of international law, should ensure beyond doubt that we recognise the inviolability of the immunities traditionally associated with the office and position of diplomats.

At the same time, it is right that we should look at the safeguards against any possible abuse of their privileges by diplomats. Indeed emphasis is laid in the Preamble to the Diplomatic Convention, page 13, line 43, on the fact that the immunities are not to benefit individuals but to ensure the efficient performance of the functions of diplomatic missions in representing states. There is this emphasis also in the Preamble to the Consular Convention and in the various provisions of other Conventions, sections 29 and 30 of the United Nations Convention, Third Schedule; sections 22 and 23 of the Specialised Agencies Convention, Fourth Schedule; and article 2, page 75, and article 19, page 79, of the Council of Europe Agreement, Fifth Schedule.

The waiver of immunities is specifically covered in Article 32 of the Diplomatic Convention. This is probably a solution to the problems which arise in relation to immunity from the jurisdiction of our courts. This, of course, is one of these matters to which reference has been made in a number of cases. Many years ago there was a case decided in Britain in which it was laid down "that diplomatic agents are not in virtue of their privileges as such immune from local liability for any wrongful acts. Diplomatic privilege does not import immunity from local liability but only exemption from legal jurisdiction." That judgment was subsequently cited with approval in a case in the Court of Appeal in Britain as recently as 1945; the Lord Justice pronounced that "it is elementary law that diplomatic immunity is not immunity from legal liability but immunity from suit". Clearly, this problem does not arise in connection with immunity in criminal matters but, rather, in civil matters.

There is one particular aspect to which no reference was made and to which I should like to direct the attention of both the Minister and the House. I refer to the position of cars owned by diplomats or for which diplomats are responsible. In most cases the owners, or those responsible for the vehicles, insure them, but there is no legal obligation on them to do so. Insurance is a precaution taken by the government or the individual concerned. It might be worth considering whether a legal obligation should be placed on diplomats to insure the car they use here. There have been one or two cases in which accidents occurred involving cars owned by diplomats and it is important to ensure that no citizen of this country will be without redress. That aspect might be adverted to and, in fact, the spirit of the Convention suggests that this should be done.

There is one other matter in connection with the Consular Convention. I should like to know what is the tax position in relation to honorary consuls in this country. I refer here to Irish citizens who are honorary consuls. Are they liable to tax here? What precisely is the tax position? If they are not liable, is that only in respect of functions or assignments undertaken in the discharge of their honorary positions? Subject to these queries and comments, this measure seems to be in accord with the Conventions in the Bill, which is designed to cover the particular international agencies and organisations concerned as well as including in one statute the law dealing with diplomatic relations and immunities.

The Leader of the Opposition referred to the prospect of our joining the European Community. He referred, I think, to the correct section which would empower the Government to extend, by order, diplomatic privileges and immunities to the Community. The relevant portion is Part VIII, section 40.

Deputy Cosgrave also referred to the insurance of diplomatic cars and suggested we might make it the law that these cars should be insured. Even if we did, we would not have the power to enforce the law in the courts. I do not know of any case in which a diplomat here claimed privilege to avoid meeting in a reasonable way a claim made against him as a result of an accident. It is very necessary, as we know, in these modern days to ensure that people using the roads should be in a position to get compensation if they are injured or their cars are damaged. When we issue diplomatic discs, we have the opportunity of checking if the cars are insured. If a diplomat did not insure, we would have the right to declare him persona non grata. Even if we did not go that far, we would have the right to declare him persona non grata if he had an accident and did not meet his liabilities.

The fact is that diplomatic cars are insured. We insure the cars of our diplomats abroad and I do not know of any diplomat here who has not his car insured. I do not want to follow Deputy Cosgrave into this legal point. While diplomats cannot be tried in court for offences they may commit, great pressure can be brought to bear upon them to face court proceedings unless that would do damage to their mission. Any Government would very quickly withdraw or dismiss a diplomat who did not realise that diplomatic immunity was not accorded to him in order that he might abuse it but in order to protect him in carrying out his legitimate functions for his country.

Would the Minister deal with my question about whether Irish citizens who are honorary consuls are subject to Irish tax law?

Yes, they are.

Question put and agreed to.

Next week.

I should like to have it out of the way before the Budget. I am sure the Deputy would like to say something about the Budget. Could we have it tomorrow, unless by tomorrow the Deputy wants to put in an amendment?

Tomorrow, provisionally.

Committee Stage ordered for Thursday, 6th April, 1967.