Written Answers. - Invitation to Dalai Lama.

John Gormley

Question:

77 Mr. Gormley asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs the plans, if any, there are to invite the Dalai Lama to make an official State visit to Ireland in view of his status as both a spiritual and recognised leader of the Tibetan people and in view of the fact he recently urged the Chinese authorities to meet him in that capacity; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [21156/98]

During my visit to the People's Republic of China last February, I urged the then Chinese Foreign Minister, Mr Qian Qichen, to enter into negotiations with the Dalai Lama without preconditions as the best means of protecting the human rights of the Tibetan people and of achieving a peaceful settlement to the issue of Tibet.

The Taoiseach made the same request when he had a lengthy discussion with the Chinese Premier, Mr Zhu Rongji, in Beijing on 14 September. The Taoiseach's address to the Foreign Affairs College in Beijing later in his official visit provided an opportunity to put his views on the public record.

The Government holds both the person and office of the Dalai Lama in the highest regard and considers him to be a significant force for moderation given the present circumstances which exist in Tibet. His Holiness is always welcome to visit Ireland whenever he might wish to come here.