As the Minister has given the reasons why he is urging the House to vote this legislation through as a matter of priority, we on this side of the House are prepared to respond to that request. I would like to say at the same time that there may be aspects of the extension of the Bill which, having regard to the priority, we might not be able to consider to the extent we would like and with the limited time available to me it occurs to me that if we had a little more time we might have been able to make some suggestions, whether or not there were any grounds for some of the apprehensions we might have.
The Minister will appreciate that despite the courtesy from himself and his Department in letting me know generally this would be coming up and a copy of this Bill was delivered to my base in Dublin last night unfortunately I was not there and did not see it until about 3.30 this afternoon when I came from the country. It is important that where matters of this nature seem to be urgent and require priority to give effect to what the Minister has rightly said is the universal wish of this House and the nation we should have an opportunity of ensuring that it will be applied for that purpose and where possible to limit it to that purpose.
The Minister has indicated that we have to ratify this and to do so effectively we have to put through this legislation. Accordingly, in view of the principle behind the Lomé Convention, we are very anxious to see that our country is not seen to be impeding the implementation of the convention. If anything, we would be happier if we had known that we had ratified the provisions possibly earlier than the others. I appreciate that this delay cannot be attributed to the Minister but where the legal advisers of the Government have reason to ascertain that there may be matters they should deal with as a matter of urgency they should do so. In view of the concern which has been expressed and the part the Minister played in relation to the Lomé Convention it is rather inappropriate that we are at the tail end of the field in ratifying it. That is the first point I would like to make.
We are anxious to ensure, in so far as there is no organisation, as the Minister indicated in his opening address, which would be covered within the scope and the interpretation of the existing Diplomatic Relations and Immunities Act, 1967 in relation to the Lomé Convention, that the persons acting within the Lomé Convention, namely, from the committee of Ministers through the various agencies of the convention would be granted the same immunity, protection and status made available to other international organisations. We have had, because there is no such organisation, to couch this measure in very general terms. The proposal will enable the Government by order to make provision to enable international organisations, communities or bodies, their institutions or organs and their property and persons to have and enjoy in the State any inviolability and so forth. That is obviously very broad. It means that we have to rely on the Government for the time being to ensure that this protection and privilege will be accorded only to appropriate organisations within the Lomé Convention and indeed to appropriate persons.
When one looks at the original Act and sees the bodies that are included within the scope of that Act as organisations one finds a large number in section 16 such as the World Health Organisation, International Civil Aviation Organisation, International Labour Organisation and so on. Would it not have been possible to designate more specifically some structure or organisation under Lomé as they have been designated here? It would be in the interest of the ACP countries not in the European Community operating under the Lomé Convention to endeavour to set up a permanent structure. We became aware that there is not that institutional organisational structure in view of the necessity for this Bill. I was not aware of it at the time we were discussing the matter previously and I do not think the Minister was either although he may have been more aware of it than I was. He may have been a little more aware than I was. In my view it would have been better, for the purpose of the Lomé Convention, if there was some such organisation. It would be tidier, for the purpose of diplomatic immunity and privileges, if we could specify, as has been done in the original Diplomatic Relations and Immunities Act, 1967, the people and organisations to whom this applies and, secondly, could limit the application of that special privilege to specific organisations.
Even with the best intentions in the world and with the best supervision of the Government, there is the possibility that this could be extended, not in relation to Lomé but to any others who seek to get the benefit of this general provision, because of the likelihood that the European Community will be entering into relations with other states he thinks undesirable. I go along with the Minister in this.
This is a privilege, a protection, a special status which a state accords to the representatives of organisations or states. Every country must be assured as far as possible that this privilege will be clearly defined and tightly controlled. I would like to give some grounds for apprehension.
The schedule to the original Diplomatic Relations and Immunities Act 1967, incorporates the Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relations. This sets the guidelines for diplomatic privilege and protection. It reads:
The States Parties to the present Convention,
Recalling that peoples of all nations from ancient times have recognised the status of diplomatic agents,
Having in mind the purposes and principles of the Charter of the United Nations concerning the sovereign equality of States, the maintenance of international peace and security and the promotion of friendly relations among nations,
Believing that an international convention on diplomatic intercourse, privileges and immunities would contribute to the development of friendly relations among nations, irrespective of their differing constitutional and social systems,
That was one of the main underlying purposes of that Convention.
Realising that the purpose of such privileges and immunities is not to benefit individuals but to ensure the efficient performance of the functions of diplomatic missions as representing States...
The underlying principle is to encourage goodwill among nations and contribute to the development of that relationship.
We would be less than realistic if we did not recognise that since the convention was effected there have been some significant developments in international relations. I am not saying this is happening in Ireland but it is fair to say that it is a matter of judicial knowledge that many of the major powers have within their diplomatic representation people who are as much concerned with the undermining of the authority and influence of the other major powers in that country as they are with maintaining and creating good relations with the state to whom they are accredited. This poses particular problems for a small country such as ours if we have to cope with the secret service, whatever name it is called. It impedes the development of the relationship between states and imposes very significant costs on personnel and so on.
If we were in Valhalla these things would not happen, but the reality is that, unfortunately, they do. That makes it all the more appropriate when an extension of our Diplomatic Relations and Immunities Act is being discussed in this House. We should say clearly to any nations who have the courtesy of diplomatic representation here that if they want to achieve the purpose of the Vienna Convention the activities of the representatives who have diplomatic privileges and immunity should be directed towards the development of friendly relations among nations, "irrespective of their differing constitutional and social systems".
Allegations—and sometimes more than allegations—have been made in theNew York Times and The London Times, and even in some of our own newspapers, that there has been an unfortunate trend over the past number of years for diplomatic representatives to become involved in secret service activities. We want to have the best and most fruitful relations with all nations. It is the peoples of the emerging nations of the African, Caribbean and Pacific countries who, I am sure, were envisaged in the original Vienna Convention. I cannot imagine anything better calculated to contribute to the friendly relations among nations and to develop the international brotherhood to which we are committed.
This Bill is concerned about this. For that reason the Minister has our support. I am not trying to raise scares; I am trying to be analytical and say with conviction that we believe the privileges accorded to representatives should be in accordance with the spirit of the original Vienna Convention. A member of the Opposition does not have the resources available to him to undertake investigations to establish breaches but there is a common knowledge— I am not talking specifically of this country now—that it would be very unusual if there were not within the diplomatic representations of the major powers here people whose main concern was not to better relations between Ireland and the major powers, but rather to vindicate themselves by reference to special Secret Service activities in which they engage in these countries. That is regrettable but it is one of the reservations I have about persons and the extension under this.
I would be interested to hear from the Minister if there is any indication that there will emerge under the Lomé Convention a structure which would qualify under the organisation as set out originally in the Act and which would enable us in special circumstances to amend or delete this portion which has now been added and which is necessary for the purpose mentioned by the Minister.
A brief perusal of the original Diplomatic Relations and Immunities Act indicates that where possible, one does and should identify the organisations to whom this privilege is being accorded. It is no harm to give an indication of the nature of such organisations and to read them out as defined in section 16. These are the organisations to which Part IV of the Act applies: the World Health Organisation, the International Civil Aviation Organisation, the International Labour Organisation, the Food and Agriculture Organisation of the United Nations, the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation, the International Bank for Reconstruction and Development, the International Monetary Fund, the Universal Postal Union, the International Telecommunication Union, the World Meteorological Organisation, the Inter-Governmental Maritime Consultation Organisation, the International Finance Corporation, the International Development Association. There are other organisations of which we have been a member for some time and which are better known to us in international relations, such as the Council of Europe, and the special provisions for that are related here. Part VI of the Act deals with the European Council for Economic Co-operation and Development. Part VII of the Act deals with international councils. Therefore it seems that the ideal thing is to identify the organisations with which we are concerned, and I would be happy if it would be possible in future to do that.
There is no activity before this House which we more fully support than that which is promoted under the Lomé Convention. There are no persons or bodies to whom we would more readily accord the privileges of diplomatic immunity than those persons and bodies operating under that convention. While I may have used the occasion to make some other references, it is only because of the general extension and the nature of the extensions that have become necessary. I should like the Minister to indicate if some institution will come into being which will enable us to specify the particular organisation here, and in my view having had only a limited period to look at this legislation, enable us at some time in the future, to delete, by way of amendment, this particular amendment.