1 Mr. J. Bruton asked the Taoiseach if he will make a statement on his address to the millennium summit at the United Nations in New York in September 2000. [19182/00]
Vol. 524 No. 5
1 Mr. J. Bruton asked the Taoiseach if he will make a statement on his address to the millennium summit at the United Nations in New York in September 2000. [19182/00]
2 Mr. J. Bruton asked the Taoiseach the official engagements he undertook on his visit to the USA in September 2000; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [19184/00]
3 Mr. J. Bruton asked the Taoiseach if he will report on his meeting with the Secretary General of the United Nations, Mr. Kofi Annan, when he visited the UN Headquarters in September 2000; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [19185/00]
4 Mr. J. Bruton asked the Taoiseach if he will report on his recent meeting with the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Mrs. Mary Robinson; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [19186/00]
5 Mr. J. O'Keeffe asked the Taoiseach if he will report on his recent address in New York to the Foreign Policy Association of America; the subject matters he raised; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [19441/00]
6 Mr. J. O'Keeffe asked the Taoiseach the bilateral meetings he had with other Heads of Government or State when he visited New York in September 2000; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [19442/00]
7 Mr. Quinn asked the Taoiseach if he will make a statement on his visit to the United States; and if he will list the organisations, groups or individuals with whom he had formal meetings. [19827/00]
8 Mr. Quinn asked the Taoiseach if he will make a statement on his address in New York on 6 September 2000 to the UN millennium summit. [19828/00]
9 Mr. Quinn asked the Taoiseach if he will make a statement on his meetings in New York on 7 September 2000 with the UN Commissioner for Human Rights, Mrs. Mary Robinson. [19829/00]
10 Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin asked the Taoiseach if he has raised, at international, EU and US administration levels, the situation in Colombia, including the plight of a person (details supplied) and his community. [19975/00]
11 Mr. Higgins (Dublin West) asked the Taoiseach if he will report on his address to the United Nations millennium summit in New York. [20404/00]
12 Mr. Sargent asked the Taoiseach if he will make a statement on his address to the United Nations millennium summit in New York. [21173/00]
13 Mr. Sargent asked the Taoiseach the meeting he had during his recent visit to New York to further Ireland's campaign for a seat at the UN Security Council. [21174/00]
14 Mr. J. Bruton asked the Taoiseach if he will report on his recent meeting in Dublin with Her Imperial Highness Princess Sayako of Japan; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [22863/00]
15 Mr. J. Bruton asked the Taoiseach if he will report on his recent meeting in Dublin with the President of Uganda, Mr. Museveni; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [22866/00]
I propose to take Questions Nos. 1 to 15, inclusive, together.
I attended the UN millennium summit in New York on 6-8 September 2000. The overall theme of the summit, which was attended by more than 160 world leaders, was "The Role of the United Nations in the 21st Century". I was accompanied to the summit by the Minister of State at the Department of Foreign Affairs, Deputy O'Donnell.
In my address during the opening session of the summit, a copy of which I have laid before the House, I took the opportunity to restate Ireland's traditional commitment to the values and ideals of the United Nations and to highlight the need for action if the UN is to achieve its fundamental task of dealing with war and want throughout the world. I placed particular emphasis on the responsibilities of the more affluent societies among the international community to assist in achieving these objectives. I was proud, therefore, to announce to the summit the Government's decision to commit to attaining the UN target of 0.7% of GNP for development aid. We have adopted an interim target of 0.45% by the end of 2002, and we will reach the UN target by the end of 2007. In the course of my address, I was also pleased to have the opportunity to publicly signal Ireland's support for Secretary General Annan's proposals for reform and renewal of the UN and its institutions. I was proud, therefore, to announce to the summit the Government's decision to commit to attaining the UN target of 0.7% of GNP for development aid. We have adopted an interim target of 0.45% by the end of 2002 and we will reach the UN target by the end of 2007. In the course of my address I was pleased to signal Ireland's support for Secretary General Annan's proposals for reform and renewal of the UN and its institutions.
I participated in a round table discussion on the role of the UN in the 21st century. This was the first time such an interactive forum was held at a UN summit and a report on the proceedings is being prepared for Secretary General Annan.
My attendance at the summit afforded a unique opportunity to meet leaders from a number of countries with whom we have long-standing and friendly relations. In addition to meetings with President Clinton and Prime Minister Blair, I also met formally with the Presidents of Albania, Colombia, Georgia, Hungary, Micronesia, Nigeria, Romania, Slovakia, Tunisia, Costa Rica and Kiribati and the Prime Ministers of Ethiopia, New Zealand, Saint Kitts and Nevis, Tuvalu and Vanuatu and Crown Prince Moulay Rashid of Morocco. In these meetings I discussed matters of mutual economic and political interest as well as the Secretary General's proposals for UN reform and, of course, Ireland's SECCO campaign. I was particularly pleased to exchange letters establishing diplomatic relations with the leaders of Tuvalu and Kiribati in the course of our meetings.
I sent a message to President Clinton in advance of his visit to Colombia in August indicating our concerns at the situation in the area of La Union. During my meeting in New York with President Pastrana of Colombia, I emphasised our deep concern about the situation in his country and the absolute need to ensure that everything possible is being done to ensure the safety of Fr. Brendan Forde and the villagers of La Union. I am aware that the Minister for Foreign Affairs dealt with this topic comprehensively in the House at Question Time last week.
During the millennium summit I also met the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Mrs. Mary Robinson, and was pleased to sign the Declaration on Racism, A Vision for the 21st Century. This declaration, which was prepared by the Commissioner, will significantly assist in generating a positive approach by countries to the world conference against racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia and related intolerance, which will take place in South Africa next year.
Prior to the summit, Secretary General Annan had requested member states to use the occasion to sign and ratify a number of UN conventions. I was pleased to avail of the opportunity of my attendance to sign and ratify the optional protocol to the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women and to sign the two optional protocols to the Convention on the Rights of the Child – the first concerns the involvement of children in armed conflicts and the second concerns the sale of children, child prostitution and child pornography.
In addition to my formal meetings, I attended a reception hosted jointly by the Presidents of the General Assembly, Mr. Holkeri and Mr. Ben-Gurirab, as well as a reception for visiting leaders hosted by President Clinton. I was pleased to accept an invitation to address the World Leadership Forum organised by the Foreign Policy Association of New York. My speech to the forum on the subject of Ireland in the wider world has been laid before the House. In my address to the forum, which was attended by senior figures from the business and academic community, I outlined the development of Irish foreign policy, our continuing commitment to the UN ideals of peaceful resolution of conflict and co-operation among nations. I also highlighted our readiness to assume an increasingly active role in international affairs as exemplified by our campaign for election to the UN Security Council.
I am delighted, therefore, that our campaign has had such a successful conclusion. To be elected by such a margin, and on the first count, illustrates the high regard in which our contribution to the work of the UN is held throughout the world. Our success is a significant achievement and is a credit to the dedication and professionalism of our political and diplomatic efforts throughout the world. To have succeeded against such formidable opponents with substantial campaign resources is a major achievement especially given our relatively modest campaign budget of little more than £1 million. Of course, the long history of work overseas by Irish religious and NGOs, the outstanding record of our peacekeepers and the principled positions adopted down through the years by successive administrations on international issues, especially as regards human rights, provided the basis upon which our campaign was built.
I record my congratulations to the other successful candidate from our group, Norway, and the three other new members also elected from the African, Latin American and Asian groups – Mauritius, Colombia and Singapore, respectively. I have written to the relevant Prime Ministers of each of the successful countries and the President of Colombia.
I pay particular tribute to the hard work and commitment of the Minister for Foreign Affairs, Deputy Cowen, the former Minister for Foreign Affairs, Deputy Andrews, the Minister of State, Deputy O'Donnell, the co-ordinators of our campaign team, Ambassador Mary Whelan in Dublin and Ambassador Richard Ryan in New York, and all the officials of the Department of Foreign Affairs who devoted such energy to the campaign over the past two years. I thank all my ministerial colleagues and other Members who took the opportunity of political contacts and parliamentary visits to campaign for election.
Our election will, of course, necessitate the allocation of additional staff and resources to meet the demands of our membership. The Minister for Foreign Affairs is currently finalising proposals on the revised staffing and resources requirements to meet these demands. I will be fully supporting these proposals when they are brought to Government.
It is clear from the significant result that the majority of member states have put their faith in our ability to make progress towards achieving the United Nation's fundamental aims of preventing war, promoting human rights and justice and creating a better standard of living around the globe. We will endeavour to further these aims during our time on the council. We will also work towards making the council a more effective and representative instrument of the UN in the modern world by taking an active role in the process of renewal and reform, especially regarding the structure and operation of the council.
I was pleased to have the opportunity to welcome Her Imperial Highness, Princess Sayako, to Government Buildings on 17 October last during her visit to Ireland. We discussed the positive development of Irish-Japanese relations over the past decade and I informed her of my intention to lead a trade delegation to Japan next year.
I met President Museveni of Uganda yesterday and today. The President and I discussed a range of matters, including the promotion of economic relations between Ireland and Uganda and the need for better access to world markets for developing countries. The President briefed me on the various conflicts which are under way in his region and the efforts that are being made to resolve them in the context of the Lusaka, in the case of the Democratic Republic of the Congo, and Arusha, in the case of Burundi, accords. The President expressed his appreciation of Ireland's development aid programme in Uganda and I assured him of our intention to continue to expand these programmes in partnership with his Government. I was pleased to accept his congratulations on Ireland's election to the UN Security Council.
Is the Taoiseach aware that children in Iraq are dying at a rate of 4,000 per month? Is he also aware that Iraq, which had a reasonable health service ten years ago, has virtually no health service now? Is he further aware that people who contract potentially fatal illnesses in Iraq are likely to die because of the lack of medical facilities? Does he realise this is the result of continuing United Nations approved sanctions against Iraq? Why did the Taoiseach not raise the issue of these sanctions, which were requested and are supported by the US, in his speech to the Foreign Policy Association of New York, during which he made liberal references to other world conflicts? Did he raise the ongoing brutal sanctions against the people of Iraq during his visit to the United Nations and, if not, why?
I did not raise that matter in my speech because I was allocated only five minutes to speak at the UN meeting. However, the Minister for Foreign Affairs has raised it both in the House and at various meetings around the world during the past two years.
Will the Taoiseach be instructing the Irish representative on the Security Council to, in all instances, cast Ireland's vote against the continuance of sanctions against Iraq? What will the Irish Government, during its membership of the UN Security Council, be able to do about the illicit trade in arms, particularly in view of the fact that Kalashnikov assault rifles can be bought in Croatia for as little as $30 and that this is being done by so-called Irish republicans who are intent on using such weapons to kill Irish people? It is obvious that the facility to which I refer is also being used by individuals in other countries. What practical measures does the Taoiseach intend to take during Ireland's membership of the UN Security Council to staunch this trade in arms?
With regard to the first matter to which the Deputy referred, we will be obliged to set out our position in respect of all the major issues before the Security Council. Our position on most of these issues has been well aired in the past but we now have an opportunity to reiterate them at a different forum. As stated on previous occasions, it is arguable whether, in many cases, the embargoes brought to bear on countries such as Iraq have any effect other than to cause suffering on the part of those people who they are in some way meant to protect.
There is widespread concern about the easy availability of arms by different devices and at low prices throughout the world. I have expressed this concern in speeches at the United Nations and elsewhere. Agents and groups are involved in the supply of these arms. I raised this matter again last week. It will be part of our campaign at the Security Council to highlight the sources for the small arms industry. There appears to be a reluctance to trace the source of this trade. The matter was discussed at the ASSEM 111 summit at the weekend but questions about the source of small arms are generally met with a stony silence. The small arms industry presents a major difficulty in several countries. We can use our voice in the Security Council to deal with it.
People here have been raising the issue of the small arms industry for 25 years but the question of the location of the industry continues to be met with silence. Many arms are sourced in eastern Europe. The problem does not lie in the United States.
Does the Taoiseach not agree that certain sections of the United States political establishment have a fixation with economic sanctions? Does he agree that the experience of economic sanctions against Cuba has proved that the only effect of economic sanctions on a country is to solidify the ruling regime while impoverishing and in some cases killing the people over whom it is exercising tyranny? Does he consider it time to make it clear that Ireland is opposed to US sanctions against Cuba and UN sanctions against Iraq and believes economic sanctions are not an appropriate means of achieving a political resolution to most issues?
In many cases sanctions work against the majority of the population and do not resolve the issue. However the matter is not confined to the United States. The imposition of sanctions is one of the nine principal objectives and functions of the United Nations Security Council. It has always been a main theme through the standing committees and ad hoc committees. There is a standing sanctions committee for almost all of the areas mentioned by Deputy Bruton. Down through the years the UN has established standing committees to deal with these issues. I do not disagree with Deputy Bruton. In most cases sanctions continue for many years but the regimes against which they are imposed do not change while the sanctions damage the resident population.
As Deputy Bruton has said, in many cases sanctions solidify dictatorial leaders in power.
The Taoiseach mentioned to the Foreign Policy Association that he is in favour of the extension of the Security Council to 25 members and the elimination of the veto. How realistic are these objectives? Is it a primary objective during Ireland's term of membership to achieve those two objectives?
The realistic assessment is that we should support Kofi Annan. In his document of last April he set out clearly the deficiencies of the Security Council and how he believes it can be made a more credible and efficient organisation. If I was asked which blueprint I would follow, I would support his initiatives, one of which I have picked. This is more realistic. There are countries which are of the view that they should be permanent members. This is not realistic and they will not receive support for this position. Our proposal is more likely to gain acceptability. While I am not tied to it, I am tied to the view that Kofi Annan should receive support. Based on his presentation to the United Nations Security Council and his blueprint presented last Easter, it is essential that there is reform to ensure the problems of the world can be dealt with more effectively by the organisation. We could support any of the five systems recommended by him.
While I would be supportive of Kofi Annan's approach, that is not the specific question I put to the Taoiseach. How realistic are these proposals? More importantly, is it to be a principal objective of our two year term on the Security Council to have a reform programme implemented?
While it should not dominate our agenda, given the effort Kofi Annan has put in in the past two years to achieve reform, if it is rejected, it is unlikely the position will change. Our priority should be to address the main functions and powers laid down under the charter of maintaining international peace and security in accordance with the principles and purposes of the United Nations, to investigate any disputes or situations which may result in international friction, to recommend methods of adjudicating in such disputes in terms of settlement, to formulate plans for the establishment of a threat to peace or aggression and recommend what action should be taken. Given the effort put in to the reform package by Kofi Annan, each Commissioner and unit of the United Nations, it will be very disappointing if it is ignored. While many countries have adopted a hard position, the considered position of the Secretary General should not be ignored. We are supportive of his efforts.
Given that in his address to the United Nations on 6 September he made such a major point of the rededication of Ireland to meet the United Nations ODA target of 0.7% by 2007 and the interim target of half this figure by the end of 2002, will the Taoiseach reconsider whether this target should be revisited in the light of our success in winning a seat on the United Nations Security Council and the substantially increased revenue generated for the State? Will he be prepared to increase substantially overseas development assistance in the Estimates for the coming year and, in particular, if part of the reluctance to increase it is due to administrative bottlenecks in his Department and recipient Government agencies, to increase dramatically the allocations to NGOs such as GOAL, Concern and others?
We have in recent years increased ODA enormously. This is recognised and appreciated all over the world. Its focus is understood and accepted far better outside the country than within. It is a well organised programme, which does an excellent job. To reach the interim target of 0.45% by the end of 2002, the figure has to be increased substantially this year, and it will. On the question of administrative bottlenecks, because the figures have been rising rapidly we have to extend and expand the programmes in place. A complete review is taking place, as reported here last week by the Minister for Foreign Affairs, Deputy Cowen, and the Minister of State at the Department of Foreign Affairs, Deputy O'Donnell, who stated what they will do over the next few weeks to complete the review. That must happen given the additional resources if we are to continue our excellent aid programmes, both directly through the UN, through NGOs and in the context of priority countries such as Uganda, Lesotho and others. I do not think it is bottlenecked. We have driven forward very quickly and our figures have increased, not only because the proportion has increased but because of economic growth, and I hope Ireland Aid can maintain its reputation. It must expand its development work and we hope to have the blueprint completed before Christmas as the Ministers outlined here last week.
Does the Taoiseach agree that in the interim, assuming the report will recommend additional staff allocations, the shortage of staff throughout the Civil Service will prevent effective delivery of the additional resources? Will he consider an increased allocation to organisations on the ground which do not have the administrative constraints to which the Taoiseach has admitted, enabling them to deliver tangible aid to those who desperately need it, such as the citizens of the Republic of Uganda?
An enormous proportion of aid is being channelled through those organisations, and they are very pleased.
They are looking for more and can spend more.
Clearly they will get more. I do not want to spell out what is another Minister's responsibility. In my speech at lunch time I said our aid programme in Uganda over the next three years is likely to increase by between 24% and 33%. This will go, by and large, to NGOs.
I agree with the Deputy that we should not try to bring in other staff where we have very good NGOs working in the field.
The Taoiseach does not have the staff.
We have excellent staff working with ODA.
There are no extra staff, there are vacancies throughout the public service.
We do not have staff, but my experience from some countries I visited over the past few years is that NGOs have their own difficulties. As the Deputy is aware, it is becoming increasingly difficult to get Irish staff for programmes, even for Irish programmes. This does not take one iota from the fact that the staff are excellent and that they commit themselves to give a number of years in such work. We commend the staff regardless of from where they come. I have talked to NGOs and am certainly supportive of their work. They do an excellent job in the field.
In view of the success the country has achieved in getting a seat on the Security Council and having regard to the fact that outside Luxembourg we have the smallest foreign service, with representation in only 51 separate diplomatic posts, will the Taoiseach indicate whether part and parcel of gearing up to service the needs of our seat on the Security Council includes a significant extension of our diplomatic service abroad? If so, what increase in posts will there be in the next two years?
There certainly must be an increased number of staff both at the Security Council and here consequent on us getting a seat. An assessment of that need is being carried out by the Minister for Foreign Affairs and that will be brought to Government in the next week or two.
Regarding embassies, we will continue to increase resources in the diplomatic service, as we have done over recent years. Under the Asian strategy we have opened a number of offices. There are still a few priorities with which we must contend.
I do not see us opening an enormous number of offices linked to the Security Council. We should continue to open strategic offices linked to the fact that we are a trading country and given the more global nature of trade.
How many are planned for the next year?
(Dublin West): In his address to the UN summit, the Taoiseach referred to horrifying levels of poverty, affecting billions of people, and to disarmament. Why did he not spell out the link between the two and the fact that the massive amounts of money spent on armaments annually is directly responsible for the poverty and hunger of billions of people? Why did he not also point out that in 1997, world expenditure on arms amounted to $156 billion of which the US, Britain and France alone expended a massive $129 billion, and that many of the armaments were sold to shady regimes around the world? Why did he not openly challenge these states, who pride themselves on being models of democracy, to change that policy, to beat swords into ploughshares and to turn high-tech weapons, produced with billions of US dollars, to high-tech devices that could help to feed the hungry and the poor he spoke about, thereby eliminating the disease and horror that afflicts them?
When he met President Clinton, President Chirac and Mr. Blair at the glittering galas and various diplomatic occasions did the Taoiseach look them in the eye and tell them they were responsible for peddling the weapons of mass destruction on a world-wide basis, weapons that finish up on both sides of the same conflict?
The Deputy should confine himself to questions; he is making statements.
(Dublin West): I am asking a relevant question, especially as the State has a representative in the UN Security Council. Will the Taoiseach indicate if Ireland's line is to support the general demands of peace, love and disarmament while making no attempt to address the concrete issues and attack the people responsible, the ones he seems reluctant to offend?
How does the Taoiseach's commitment to disarmament, mentioned in his speech, square with the fact that the Department of Enterprise, Trade and Employment—
The Deputy continues to make statements. This is Question Time, not time for statements.
(Dublin West): The Taoiseach has made a commitment to disarmament. How does this equate with the fact that, up to this September, the Department of Enterprise, Trade and Employment has given 400 licences for military related equipment to be exported, compared to 81 licences in 1996?
The Deputy is making statements.
(Dublin West): It is a relevant question in view of what the Taoiseach said at the UN.
The Deputy read my speech and it would be fair of him to acknowledge, as would any reading of the speech, that in a short time I made a case about how poverty can be assisted. I did not make it in the US. I met representatives from many countries whose budgets have been used against rather than for the poor on expenditure in wars. Today I heard the President of Uganda speak about the 800,000 people who had been killed in the period before he had taken over to try to establish democracy. The same themes run through all of these countries. Resources are spent on weaponry rather than the ordinary people. The World Bank and the IMF continually point this out. Former Ministers for Finance will have heard the case made against these countries at the World Bank.
I argued for the policies of peace keeping, disarmament and development for the less well off. A huge proportion of people live on under $1 per day. I have also spelt out that this country stands for human rights and humanitarian action. An enormous number of people live on less than a dollar a day. This country stands for human rights and humanitarian action. This small country gets so much support because that is recognised throughout the world. We are in the new agenda under which the former Minister, Deputy Andrews, made efforts to deal with the issues of disarmament and his campaign is being followed on now in non-proliferation policies. Our democratic system follows the fundamental rules of human rights, the dignity of the person and disarmament and is against the proliferation of weapons. These are issues for which we have stood since the foundation of the State, and for which we will continue to stand.
(Dublin West): What about military licences?
The Deputy had ample time—
(Dublin West): I asked a specific question about military equipment—
If there is time I will allow the Deputy in.
Is the Taoiseach aware that two years ago the international criminal court convention was agreed to establish a court to try war criminals? Is he aware that this convention has not come into force because not enough countries have been able to ratify it and that Ireland is one of the countries which is holding up the establishment of this court by its failure to ratify? If one is promoting human rights internationally, what does the Taoiseach intend to do about that in view of the importance of having sanctions against those who breach them? In the same regard, has the Taoiseach had any conversations with United States representatives to establish the reason that country has refused to support the establishment of an international criminal court and why a country which is looking to try war criminals in other countries refuses to sign up to the jurisdiction of this court and to put its own military under the jurisdiction of the court? Why is the United States applying double standards in the matter of war crimes?
On the second matter, I did not have any discussions with the Americans on that matter. Perhaps the Deputy would want to pursue it with the Minister for Foreign Affairs but I certainly had no discussions. As far as the Rome statute of the international criminal court is concerned, we signed it on 7 October 1998 and the signing by the President on 15 June of the Criminal Justice (United Nations Convention Against Terror) Act enables us to proceed with the ratification. The Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform will address the remaining implementation details over the coming months.
Over the next few months.
Will the Taoiseach agree that it is a matter of urgency that we be included in the 60 countries that have ratified and that the reference to "over the next few months" displays a complete lack of urgency on the part of the Mini ster for Foreign Affairs in the matter? Will the Taoiseach tell the House that he will ask the Minister for Foreign Affairs to ensure that whatever formalities remain preventing Ireland from ratifying this convention are cleared before Christmas and that this convention will be ratified by Ireland before the end of this calendar year?
The Minister for Foreign Affairs has completed all his work on this matter. It is for the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform. My note says that the remaining implementation details will be solved in the coming months.
We will wait for it then.
These questions have been down for the past four weeks so I suppose that is one month gone, but I will try to ensure it happens before Christmas.
The answers are not updated.
The Taoiseach has given the same answer that he would have given if this question had been answered a month ago. He has not updated the file.
In terms of "over the next few months", I have updated it.
That is not very good staff—
A few months will do.
Is it not the case that a constitutional referendum is necessary to enable us to ratify the Rome statute? That was the last answer I got from the Taoiseach.
Not on that one. There is another one on which a constitutional referendum is required.
To ratify the Rome statute to set up the international criminal court? Is the Taoiseach now saying that a constitutional referendum is not required? The Taoiseach told me a few weeks ago that it was.
The Deputy is mixing up two different statutes. There is another one which requires a constitutional referendum—
The Rome statute.
No. The Rome statute required legislation. The Rome statute of the international criminal court was signed by Ireland in October two years ago. Legislation was required which was passed in the House in June and signed by the President on 15 June. Only implementation details remain to be dealt with. I cannot recall it, but it is not the one on which I replied to the Deputy.
The one signed in July 1998 requires 60 countries, as Deputy John Bruton said, to ratify it to enable the international criminal court to be set up.
That was not what I answered the Deputy a few weeks ago that required a constitutional referendum.
There is an element of confusion.
I will check it. I recall answering the Deputy.
The Taoiseach told me it required a constitutional referendum.
I do not think it is the same one.
(Dublin West): Did the Taoiseach indicate to the President of Columbia when he made representations to him that the main threat to Fr. Brendan Forde, to human rights activists and to people working for the betterment of the poor and the peasant people in Columbia comes from paramilitaries who are widely believed to be sponsored by the Colombian state and, therefore, indirectly by the United States? What assurances did he seek about this? Did he raise with the President the tragic and brutal murder of a young Irish man, Tristan James, a few months ago in Columbia? Did he receive any explanation or assurances in that regard?
Will the Taoiseach respond to my question about how his commitment to disarmament gels with the export of military equipment from this State at a higher rate than previously?
Is the Taoiseach aware of the widespread concern among many supporters of the work of Fr. Brendan Forde? Can he assure the House that he will be enabled to continue to do his work without fear of losing his life?
The Deputy should table a question to the Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment regarding his point about the Department of Enterprise, Trade and Employment.
When I spoke to President Pastrana I raised all the cases. We had a long discussion about Fr. Brendan Forde. His family had briefed me as they had direct contact with my Department. He had also sent briefing material back to me which I used for my meeting with President Pastrana. Since my meeting with President Pastrana our ambassador based in Mexico city visited Bogota to present his credentials. At that stage President Pastrana confirmed to Ambassador Agnew that there was an investigation into the events of La Union and what happened on 8 July by the offices of the Attorney General and the state prosecutor. The ambassador was advised that additional security measures requested by the peace community in La Union were also in hand.
Nobody said to me and it was not my information that those involved were state soldiers. This is the first time anyone has said to me what Deputy Joe Higgins has just said. I hope it is not true because the response we got was that the president would discharge 400 of his army personnel to the region to try to improve the situation there. I know he has done that. The Deputy stated that he believes the paramilitary group involved was aligned with the state forces. That does not fit in with what I was told.
As regards Deputy Quinn's point about Fr. Brendan Forde, we will continue to follow that matter. It is his wish to stay there and complete his work. It is not a question that he wants to move away. I made that clear to President Pastrana. He left and went back to show his dedication and commitment to the people of La Union.
I was saddened to hear of the brutal abduction and killing of Tristan James and Javier Nova. When I met President Pastrana he emphasised his determination to do his utmost to bring an end to the violence and restore the rule of law in his country. I raised the cases of Tristan James and Tristan Garcia, both of whom were killed during the summer, as I was asked to do by their families. I also raised the events in La Union.