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.