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Dáil Éireann debate -
Tuesday, 13 May 1969

Vol. 240 No. 7

Ceisteanna—Questions. Oral Answers. - Nigeria-Biafra Conflict.


asked the Minister for External Affairs if, in view of the continuing conflict within the Nigerian territory between the Biafran and Federal forces with all the suffering imposed on this unhappy country, he will even at this late stage consider intervention at political level by an Irish delegation to endeavour to secure peace.

We have never been asked by either side to act as mediators in the Nigerian conflict and as I have repeatedly stated since my first reply to the Deputy on the matter in April last year, I do not think our offering to mediate would serve any useful purpose. Greatly as we all deplore the continuation of the civil war, we must face the fact that a stable solution cannot be imposed from outside and that futile attempts to do so may well prolong or intensity the conflict with all the suffering and destruction entailed for all sections of the Nigerian people. Indeed we are more than ever convinced that a peaceful and lasting solution can only be found through direct contact and agreement between the representatives of the Federal Government and the secessionist leaders.

As I have often told the Deputy we did everything open to us to prevent the war and since it started to urge both sides towards conciliation and negotiation. Only a few weeks ago I saw in my Department Mr. Ignatius Kogbara, a representative of Lieutenant Colonel Ojukwu, and I strongly urged him to make an all out effort at the meeting of the OAU Committee, which was then due to take place in Monrovia, to reach an agreement to end the war in the interests of all the people of Nigeria. On the same day this plea was repeated to the Federal Government through our Embassy in Lagos.

As Deputies are aware, the meeting in Monrovia unfortunately failed to reach agreement upon the commencement of negotiations and hostilities have since intensified. In all the circumstances, I feel that all friends of the Nigerian people should concentrate their efforts on urging the parties concerned to establish direct contact with a view to the resumption of negotiations for a stable peace.

Has the Minister ever made a direct attempt to bring the two sides together or to act himself as a possible negotiator at any time? Or to appoint somebody else?

I have seen the Ambassador here from Lagos and Ministers of the Federal Government on numberous occasions. Our Ambassador in Lagos has seen members of the Federal Government. On a number of occasions also I have seen representatives of Colonel Ojukwu. On all these occasions we have pressed as strongly as possible the idea that direct contact should be established between the two sides in order to lay down the principles upon which negotiations could begin with a view to agreeing finally on a stable peace settlement acceptable to both sides.

May I ask a simple question? Is the position, therefore, that the Great United Nations can do nothing to prevent the deaths of tens of thousands of people through bombing or famine?

The United Nations is the organisation it is. I do not have to spell out the United Nations Charter for the Deputy. The only organ of the United Nations that is entitled, according to the Charter, to use force to stop war is the Security Council.

That is a very legalistic approach to what is a very human problem.

Is there any similarity between this and the Cyprus situation?

It is the legalistic approach. Human beings are being killed——

While the nations of the world can do nothing.

That is the sort of world in which we live.

I am not blaming the Minister as a representative but I am blaming all of them.

Does the Minister appreciate that if we could cut off the arms supply or get them to cease supplying arms from Britain and the Soviet Union to the Nigerian Federal Army it might be helpful? Has the Minister read the article by Conor Cruise O'Brien over the weekend in which he champions the cause of the Biafrans? The Minister would profit by reading it.

He could enjoy his weekend without reading that.

There are more countries than those mentioned by the Deputy supplying arms to that area.

Would the Minister make a démarche to London to stop the supply of arms?