Ceisteanna Eile - Other Questions

Human Rights

Violet-Anne Wynne


96. Deputy Violet-Anne Wynne asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs the extent to which he will engage with Hungarian elected representatives in the wake of the legislation that was passed by the Hungarian Parliament on 15 June 2021 that is contrary to the LGBTQI+ policy advanced in the remainder of EU; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [33838/21]

Jennifer Carroll MacNeill


112. Deputy Jennifer Carroll MacNeill asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs the efforts of his Department to counter anti-LGBT laws such as those recently passed in Hungary and Poland; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [33875/21]

John Brady


141. Deputy John Brady asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs his views on and response to the recent passing of laws repressing LGBTQ rights in Hungary; the efforts he will take through the European Union as a consequence of this; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [33776/21]

Bríd Smith


155. Deputy Bríd Smith asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs the actions the State will take as a result of the recent actions by the Hungarian Government in relation to LGBT rights; if he will express the solidarity of the State with the LGBT community in Hungary; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [33807/21]

Mick Barry


160. Deputy Mick Barry asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs the contacts he has with the Government of Hungary in relation to its recent passing of homophobic laws in that state; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [33876/21]

Will the Minister outline the Government's response to the recent passing of laws that repress LGBTQ rights in Hungary? What efforts does the Government propose to take through the EU as a consequence of these measures?

I propose to take Questions Nos. 96, 112, 141, 155 and 160 together.

I hope the Acting Chairman will give a me a bit longer to answer this group of questions. I wish to address the five questions and I have quite a detailed answer, which I would like to put on the record, if that is okay.

Yes, we can give additional time.

Thank you. The rights of LGBTQI+ people are essential human rights and Ireland strongly advocates for their promotion and protection throughout the world, including in our relations with Hungary and Poland.

On 15 June, the Hungarian National Assembly passed a bill with the official title "Stricter measures against paedophile criminals and on amending legislation related to the protection of children". While ostensibly a child protection law, amendments added to the bill’s original text mean this proposed legislation provides for measures with disquieting and far-reaching negative implications for Hungary's LGBTQI+ community. The new law provides for restrictions on LGBTQI+ representation in media. There is also a de facto prohibition on talks on LGBTQI+ issues in schools and educational programmes. This means that only organisations approved by the minister of education will be able to provide such talks and school principals and teachers would need to secure special permission to undertake such lessons.

Such legislation has no place in the EU. It will lead to further marginalisation and stigmatisation of the LGBTQI+ community. Under Article 2 of the Treaty on European Union, the EU is founded on shared values, including human dignity, freedom, equality and respect for human rights, including the rights of persons belonging to minorities. This law is fundamentally at odds with these values and I urge the Hungarian Government to reconsider the decision to introduce this bill. At my meeting last month with the Hungarian foreign minister, I highlighted the importance of the EU demonstrating tolerance.

The Government has publicly expressed its deep concerns regarding the anti-LGBTQI+ aspects of this new law. At the most recent meeting of the General Affairs Council on 22 June, there was an Article 7 hearing on Hungary’s adherence to the EU values enshrined in Article 2 of the Treaty on European Union. Ireland actively participated in this hearing and the Minister of State, Deputy Byrne, firmly articulated Ireland's views on this issue as well as on issues related to the rule of law in Hungary. Ireland also supported a joint statement at the Council by the Benelux foreign ministers, which expressed grave concern at the law and its capacity to further stigmatise and endanger the safety of the LGBTQI+ community in Hungary.

The embassy of Ireland in Hungary has actively supported statements of concern made locally by like-minded partners and has registered deep concern about this law and its implications for equality and human rights. The embassy is also co-ordinating this year’s statement by embassies in Hungary supporting the Budapest Pride parade, which takes place on 24 July.

We also regularly raise our concerns on this issue with the Polish authorities. In particular, I have written to my Polish counterpart to set out the concerns that have been expressed by Irish people and by the large Polish community living in Ireland. I also underlined the shared commitments of Ireland and Poland to equality and non-discrimination as EU member states.

The embassy of Ireland in Warsaw undertakes a number of initiatives to demonstrate support for the LGBTQI+ community in Poland, including participating in the Warsaw Pride parade and actively engaging with civil society groups in Poland supporting the community. The ambassador also signs an annual open letter of support for efforts to raise public awareness of the issues affecting the LGBTQI+ community in Poland.

As I said at the outset, the rights of LGBTQI+ people are human rights. It is imperative that all member states continue to respect the values to which we have all signed up. Ireland will continue to work with our EU partners and others to constructively engage with Hungary and Poland on these important issues.

The swing towards the right in eastern Europe is worrying and we can all agree on this. We are moving towards the unfortunate re-imposition of repressive regimes of the past. Recently, Amnesty International described the new laws as an attempt by the Hungarian Government to spread hatred and we can also agree on this. The organisation has also claimed the Orbán Government is putting the lives of innocent people at risk of cruel political campaigns. The Orbán regime, which has ruled Hungary since 2010, has enacted a socially conservative policy agenda, shaping the EU member state into what he calls a bastion against liberal ideologies.

This legislation should not be taken in isolation. Last December, the Hungarian Parliament adopted a package of measures enshrining what is seen as the traditional family, effectively banning adoption by same-sex couples. In May 2020, a ban on legally changing one's gender came into force, with rights groups warning this would expose transgender Hungarians to discrimination. In 2018, a Government decree effectively banned universities from teaching courses on gender studies. This legislation should not be taken in isolation. We need to stand up to it but we also need to take serious measures to stop the spread of far right hatred, particularly in eastern European countries.

I welcome the statement of the Minister. It was robust. People Before Profit express our solidarity with the LGBT community not only in Hungary but across the world and in Ireland. Given that it is Pride week, it is very relevant. At one stage, people not only in Ireland were hounded, marginalised and put in situations where it was extremely difficult for them. In our organisation we hold solidarity against these particularly draconian laws, which are the anti-gay laws, in Hungary.

Orbán has history in this. He has introduced laws against immigrants and against workers to cause division. This is not in isolation. The far right in this country have tried to do the same to malign people of different sexual orientation. This should never be accepted and we stand shoulder to shoulder with the LGBT community in Hungary at this time.

I add my voice to the condemnation of what has been happening in Hungary and Poland recently. I encourage the Minister to keep up his work on highlighting our outrage at what has been happening. Last night, as I arrived back in Leinster House from here, the Pride flag was being shone on our Parliament Buildings. This is the position we need to maintain. We need to be a beacon for the rest of Europe and the rest of the world, that we stand in solidarity with those people who feel so marginalised by what has happened in Hungary and Poland.

I call out UEFA on its actions this week. It bottled it when it could have stood up and made its voice heard. It was a terrible shame it did not do so when it had the eyes of the world upon it and had an opportunity to support the LGBTQI+ community and did not do so. It should be reminded of this.

I join others in condemning where Hungary has gone on this. It is archaic and totally out of date. It goes against the grain of where western democracy has gone. I was born in 1982 and went through primary and secondary school in the 1990s. The standard back pocket slagging in the schoolyard was to throw a homophobic jibe at someone. How far we have come now with marriage equality and the openness of our society, and this has been embraced in most other European nations. This is where people have gone and, rightly, where society, the body politic and everyone has gone. We should do everything we can diplomatically to condemn the decisions Hungary is taking. As the previous speaker said with regard to UEFA, we need to stand with other nations in condemning this. We are all about embracing inclusivity. It is wonderful to see the Pride flags flying high in Dublin and elsewhere throughout the country this week.

I am really pleased to hear a united front in the Parliament on this issue but this is not about left and right. It is not about conservative views versus liberal views. It is about human rights. That is what this is about. This is why I agree with Deputy Griffin that UEFA showed cowardice on this issue.

It has done great work in terms of trying to stamp out racism in football, as indeed have many other sporting organisations. It is a natural extension of that to also be vocal around the need to protect and respect diversity and minorities in the context of sexual preferences and the LGBTQI+ community.

It was unfortunate. There was an opportunity for sport, while it was under the international spotlight, to make a clear statement on the need to protect minorities and express a concern about an EU country moving in a different direction. It decided not to do that because it regarded it as a political statement which should not be part of sport. Protecting people's human rights is not a political statement per se. It is what we are about in the European Union. It is the core of our value system. It is the foundation on which we have built this incredible peace, economic and environmental project, and all of the other things that the EU does together. It is what it is about.

There are certain core principles that we agree together to protect and enhance, not just within Europe but in other parts of the world. When one country is passing legislation that the rest of us feel is counter to that, we call it out. It does not mean that we do not have a good relationship with Hungary. It is part of a shared Union with us. We believe it is not acting in a way that is consistent with EU values on this issue, and we need to call it out.

As Members said, when we walk through Dublin during Pride month, we will see Pride flags everywhere. Buildings have promotional rainbow branding all over the place. Schools, businesses and Parliament buildings have flags because it is now part of who we are in terms of wanting to express nationally and internationally that we value minorities. We do not discriminate or isolate them in the way that they would have experienced in the past. We are public about that, and that is very much part of what the European Union should be about.

I welcome the comments. We will continue, in the appropriate way, to highlight our concerns and do what we can to try to force a rethink in the Hungarian Government in terms of its approach to this issue and from a Polish perspective also.

Do any of the Deputies want to come back in?

I welcome the Minister's strong comments in calling out UEFA and stating that it was cowardice on its behalf to fudge this issue and declare it as an issue of politics when, fundamentally, this is an issue of equality and human rights. I share the commentary with the Minister. It was cowardice. UEFA has missed an opportunity and has abdicated responsibility on this issue.

To get back to the issue in terms of Hungary and where we started with this conversation, there needs to be consequences for the draconian powers and legislation which the Hungarian Government has enacted. The European Commissioner for Equality, Ms Helena Dalli, said that the EU could impose funding restrictions on Hungary over this legislation. Can the Minister state whether that is something we would support? Could he expand on that? While the imposition of sanctions or financial restrictions on Hungary are important, that is only part of what needs to be done because the hate stoked up by politicians like Orbán needs to be tackled. We must do it by showing solidarity in this Parliament and standing together to face this down wherever it arises.

I commend Damien Duff and Richie Sadlier on their critique of UEFA's decision regarding the football match in Munich. We have all enjoyed football over the past seven days, but UEFA's decision was unforgivable and spineless in terms of standing up for human rights, as the Minister said. At this particular juncture, when people are coming together in football terms, it has shown a lack of solidarity for people who are trying to get basic human rights in Hungary.

Did Deputy Crowe want to come back in?

Alongside all of the rainbow flags we have seen over the past few weeks, there have also been some fabulous and inclusive slogans throughout Ireland. Two of them are "Love is Love" and "The Future is Equal". Imagine using the laws of a state to also hurt, criminalise and harangue who seek to love someone of the same sex. By any metric, that is wrong and everything that can be done diplomatically to call it out should be done.

While we are on the issue of equality, it is reprehensible that there is a party in the North that would to try to prevent the equality of language in Northern Ireland. It is wrong. The DUP also tried to subvert and stop marriage equality in its jurisdiction. It is wrong and archaic, and is the politics of the past. The whole world has moved on and I thank the Minister for all of his positive statements in this regard.

I welcome what the Minister said about universal agreement across the House, which we rarely get. On this issue it is very encouraging to see. I also wish to acknowledge the Houses of the Oireachtas authorities for their work at this time. Members of the LGBTQI+ community have seen the Pride flag flying in the Parliament, and it will be in place over the weekend. It means an awful lot to people. In the context of the current situation in some countries in Europe, for us to that do that in our Parliament is very important and its importance cannot be overstated. I want to acknowledge the authorities of the House for doing that and being so progressive.

We have a shared view on this issue. It is strong. Over the past decade, in particular, Ireland has in many ways opened up a debate and discussion that has been inclusive, generous and progressive. We have an obligation to try to ensure that kind of inclusive discussion also happens in other parts of the world and, if necessary, other parts of the European Union so that people's concerns, anxieties and perspectives can change and they can get the reassurance they need to change their approach on this issue.

We need to talk to other EU countries and institutions around how the EU responds to the legislation that has been passed in Hungary. We also have to work to try to build a conversation of tolerance in countries that feel the need to pass legislation like this. In many ways, through our history we have managed to move to a much more generous and modern, tolerant and inclusive space and the country is the better for it. We should be encouraging a similar pathway for other countries that have yet to make that journey.

Diplomatic Representation

Cathal Crowe


97. Deputy Cathal Crowe asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs if he has had any engagement with the Egyptian authorities in relation to the detention of Irish cargo following the recent blockage in the Suez Canal; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [33705/21]

On 23 March, the eyes of the world were on the Suez Canal in Egypt as the Ever Given cargo ship became stuck in the canal. It was stuck for six days and there was a backlog of 400 ships in the canal area. The ship was dislodged. A huge volume of cargo destined for Ireland is still detained on the ship. Is the Minister engaging with his counterparts in Egypt, via diplomatic channels, to ensure the cargo is released and brought back to Ireland?

I have a written reply but it is not much good to the Deputy, so I will talk off the cuff if that is okay. We have not had any representation on this issue, apart from Deputy Crowe. I am happy to be helpful on this issue, if we can, through our embassy in Cairo.

It is a good and active embassy. However, no company, stakeholder or interested party has reached out to us with a concern. A legal case is under way relating to cargo that was on the ship, the commercial interests around that and so on. We cannot interfere with that legal case and it needs to take its course, but if there are diplomatic issues that we can help with, I am open to doing so. Clearly, the Deputy probably knows more than I do about the specific frustrations and concerns of some Irish commercial interests linked to that cargo. If he wants to get in contact with the Department, we will see if we can be helpful. We cannot interfere with or influence a court decision in Egypt, but if there are appropriate diplomatic channels that we can use, we are certainly open to doing so.

I thank the Minister. He used the word "interfere". I would not ask him to interfere, but I would suggest that he make strong representations to his Egyptian counterpart. The dispute is with the vessel. In a lawsuit, the Suez Canal Authority is seeking $916 million in damages, including $300 million for loss of reputation. The obvious action is to decouple the authority's legal dispute with the vessel from the cargo. The cargo is destined for Rotterdam, Ireland and other places across Europe. It includes cargo of considerable value, although a great deal of that value has been lost. The ship should be decoupled from the cargo in the lawsuit, which is the point I would like the Minister to make to his counterpart in Egypt.

I have approached the Egyptian Embassy in Dublin and the Irish Embassy in Cairo. I do not want to bad-mouth them, but I have not heard much from either. I cannot get through to the embassy in Cairo. That does not bode well in itself, as there needs to be good phone answering on that end. I have not been able to deliver my message to date.

If there is a role for the embassy and diplomatic channels to be used, we will use them. I have a very good relationship with my Egyptian counterpart. Normally, we speak about Israel and Palestine and trying to take action on ceasefires, in which Egypt has significant involvement, particularly where they relate to Gaza.

The Deputy has raised this issue in the Chamber and sought a conversation with our embassy, but perhaps if he comes to my office, we will try to be as helpful as appropriate on the issues he has outlined.

Much of the cargo originated in Malaysia and elsewhere in south-east Asia. A considerable number of containers on board were destined for Ireland via transshipment through the Port of Rotterdam. I have spoken with many of the people who would have been receiving that cargo. They have cited problems with lost sales, raw materials that would have been used in component manufacturing in Ireland, and just-in-time products, whose value is lost if they are not on the sales shelf at the correct time. For example, there was half a container's worth of gloves, which are seasonal, valued at €250,000. The person who wanted to sell them had to procure a different shipment, increasing his costs to €500,000.

This issue requires engagement. The obvious approach is for the authority to decouple its legal argument with the ship from its argument with the cargo. Indeed, there is no dispute over the cargo. Release it. Give it to its rightful owners.

I do not want to speculate on the legal case or on whether decoupling is possible. There is a large amount of money involved and this is a high-profile legal case on the back of major disruptions that happened as a consequence of a ship going aground and blocking the Suez Canal for a sustained period.

There is an offer to work with the Deputy on this issue as appropriate, but I do not want to start making commitments that I cannot deliver on until we examine the detail. We can certainly raise the matter in the appropriate way. We cannot influence the outcome of a court case, but if there are appropriate conversations to be had with the Egyptian authorities, we can work on those.

EU Meetings

Cathal Crowe


98. Deputy Cathal Crowe asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs if he will report on the recent meeting of the EU Foreign Affairs Council; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [33704/21]

John Lahart


142. Deputy John Lahart asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs the agenda at the meeting of the EU Foreign Affairs Council on 21 June 2021; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [33708/21]

Will the Minister report on his recent meeting with the EU Foreign Affairs Council and make a statement on the matter? In particular, I am interested in knowing how the Belarusian situation is evolving.

I propose to take Questions Nos. 98 and 142 together.

I attended the meeting of the Foreign Affairs Council, which took place in Luxembourg on Monday, 21 June. The Council held a discussion on the situation in Belarus and we met the opposition leader, Ms Sviatlana Tsikhanouskaya. As I said in response to an earlier question on Belarus, we decided to impose restrictive measures on 78 Belarusian individuals and eight entities. These measures will sanction those behind the brutal repression we have been witnessing in Belarus, those responsible for the forced and unlawful landing of a Ryanair flight at Minsk, and several prominent business figures who support and benefit from the Lukashenko regime. The Council agreed on sectors to be targeted by economic sanctions. We also discussed ways for the EU to maintain people-to-people contacts with ordinary Belarusians.

EU foreign ministers met the Iraqi foreign minister and discussed how the EU could support upcoming parliamentary elections there. Ministers decided to deploy an EU election observation mission, subject to security considerations. We also discussed how the EU could support the implementation of urgently needed economic and security sector reforms in Iraq.

In a strategic discussion on the relationship between the EU and the Latin American and Caribbean region, we had an exchange on how to strengthen and increase dialogue and co-operation. We focused on how the EU could help the region overcome the effects of the Covid-19 pandemic.

I raised the need for the EU to address in a more robust manner the root causes of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, including settlement expansion, demolitions and evictions, matters that the Dáil just discussed. I encouraged the EU to step up its engagement with both parties in the context of a new Government in Israel and with a view to encouraging the rescheduling of elections across Palestine.

I also raised my deep concern regarding the conflict in Tigray and the continuing deterioration of the humanitarian situation there. The Council will hold a full discussion on the situation in Ethiopia in July and I plan to visit Ethiopia next month.

Additional information not given on the floor of the House

The Council heard updates from the High Representative on the talks in Vienna on the joint comprehensive plan of action regarding Iran, and on his recent visit to Lebanon. The Council also exchanged views on Mali, the Belgrade-Pristina dialogue and the EU-Turkey and EU-Russia relationship.

We are all still shocked and appalled by what happened on 23 May, that being, the unlawful forced landing of a Ryanair flight at Minsk. It was a terror-like attack, risking the lives of more than 170 people, including EU citizens. It was an international crime and a continuation of the repression of the Belarusian people. It was an act of piracy against an Irish-registered plane with the tricolour on its fuselage. Since then, the EU has strengthened its pre-existing restrictive measures over the situation in Belarus by introducing a ban on the overflight of EU airspace and access to EU airports by Belarusian carriers of all kinds. EU member states are required to deny permission to land in, take off from and overfly their territories to any aircraft operated by the Belarusian carriers, including as marketing carriers.

Speaking as my party's spokesperson on aviation, it is important that this restriction be enforced. Is it being enforced across the EU? Is there any pushback from the awkward squad of the EU, specifically Hungary and Poland?

It is being enforced and all EU states are, as far as I am aware, complying with it fully. There is a challenge, though, which I raised, as did a number of others. While it is the appropriate action and the EU and EU leaders needed to respond robustly to an outrageous act of aviation piracy, which is how it has been described, cutting off Belarusian airlines and not allowing them into EU airspace or EU airlines into Belarusian airspace has created a consequence of isolation for Belarus, in that any international travel will now have to go east rather than west to get to the EU.

People may well have to fly to Moscow to be able to fly to the EU now. It is still the appropriate decision to take that position from an aviation perspective, to respond to what happened, but it has a consequence we need to think about in the medium term. The other very strong and robust sanctions are not only appropriate but will also be effective. The EU is likely to add further to those sanctions in the months ahead.

The Lukashenko regime is undemocratic, despotic and incongruent with the rest of Europe. A fourth package of EU sanctions over enduring repression and the forced landing of the Ryanair flight was announced on Monday. The goal of these sanctions is to put pressure on the Belarusian political leadership to initiate a genuine and inclusive national dialogue with broader society and to avoid further repression. Is there any sign these measures will have any real impact so far as Belarus is concerned?

It is too early to make that assessment because we only made the decision at the start of this week. It will take time for those decisions to take effect. The debate within the EU around sanctions is always a delicate one because if sanctions are applied in the wrong way they can be counterproductive. In the case of Belarus, the EU is very united on the need to target its sanctions at people who are responsible for anti-democratic practices and repression, and those who benefit from the Lukashenko regime remaining intact, so they are appropriate. A fifth sanctions measure is currently under consideration, around looking at other economic sectors we may be able to put pressure on to force a change of approach in Belarus and a move towards allowing the Belarusian people to have the power to elect their own leadership democratically and transparently. Time will tell how effective those sanctions will be.

Middle East

Catherine Connolly


99. Deputy Catherine Connolly asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs the engagement he has had to date with the new coalition government in Israel and in particular with regard to Israel’s ongoing de facto annexation of Palestinian land; his plans to highlight a recent report (details supplied) with the new Israeli Government which states that Israel’s treatment of Palestinians amounts to the crimes against humanity, of apartheid and persecution; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [33903/21]

My question relates to the new coalition Government in Israel and what engagement the Minister has had, or intends to have, with it, particularly in view of Israel's ongoing de facto annexation of Palestinian lands and the Human Rights Watch report, which has just come out.

We have already debated these issues but this is also a very useful question to respond to. Israel’s new coalition Government took office on 13 June. I have written to the new Minister of Foreign Affairs, Yair Lapid, and I look forward to having a chance to speak with him in due course on a range of issues. The EU High Representative has spoken to Mr. Lapid. I participated in a discussion on the Middle East at the Foreign Affairs Council on Monday. The relationship between Israel and the EU is important and we hope to have an opportunity to meet with Minister Lapid at the Foreign Affairs Council in the coming months.

Civil society organisations play a valuable role in protecting human rights. My Department considers the analysis of civil society on the situation in Israel and the occupied Palestinian territories, including the report to which the Deputy referred. Ireland also provides financial support to Israeli and Palestinian non-governmental organisations, NGOs, working on human rights, particularly in occupied Palestinian territory. The human rights situation in the occupied Palestinian territory is very concerning. Ireland raises concerns about human rights and unlawful and discriminatory practices against Palestinians, both directly with the Government of Israel, and in multilateral forums. Many of the Deputies will have heard me doing that, including at the UN Security Council and the Human Rights Council.

Ireland’s position will continue to be based on international law, Israel’s obligations as an occupying power under the Fourth Geneva Convention and the relevant resolutions of the UN Security Council. Later today, Ireland will participate in the monthly UN Security Council meeting on the situation on the Middle East. Today’s session, which includes Israeli and Palestinian permanent representatives to the UN, focuses on the implementation of Security Council Resolution 2334, which relates to settlements. Ireland will set out our clear position on the illegality of Israeli actions on settlements, evictions and unnecessary demolitions and our concerns at the scale and nature of their expansion, which negatively impact both the human rights of Palestinians in the occupied territory and prospects for a future, viable two-State solution.

I was struck by the forcefulness of the Minister's language in reply to other questions, especially on Hungary and Belarus. He talked about human rights and core principles. Quite clearly, the policy of Israel has gone beyond all core principles. The Human Rights Watch report, A Threshold Crossed: Israeli Authorities and the Crimes of Apartheid and Persecution, published in April, details in the strongest language possible the crimes against humanity, persecution and apartheid, that Israeli authorities are committing against millions of Palestinians.

The Minister referred to the new Israeli Government taking power on 12 June. After it took power, significantly, on 15 June, there was a second round of air strikes against Gaza. I specifically ask the Minister what forceful action he is taking. I appreciate his bona fides and hard work on this matter, but as we talk and use words people are dying on the streets of Gaza. I have the details, as does the Minister. The ambassador from Palestine has filled all of us in on this. What action is the Minister taking, in view of the trade between Europe and Israel?

To respond to the accusation that as we talk people are dying on the streets of Gaza, that is not fully accurate. I am glad to say we have a ceasefire. Obviously, there was real concern about air strikes in recent days in Gaza. Thank goodness, nobody was fatally injured in those air strikes. There is no country in the EU more vocal on this issue than Ireland and no foreign minister more vocal on it than me. I again used the opportunity, under the current affairs section of the discussions at the Foreign Affairs Council on Monday, to raise my concern about these issues and to ask yet again for the European Commission to produce a toolbox so we can really understand the leverage we have and the tools we can use to make sure we get real engagement on some of these issues. There was an indication the new Israeli Minister of Foreign Affairs would be invited to meet us in the Foreign Affairs Council. I would welcome that and the opportunity for that discussion. We will continue to focus on ensuring Ireland uses its influence as best we can to move towards a discussion and negotiation for a permanent peace settlement, which is ultimately what this is about.

I do not wish to argue over numbers of deaths, but the ambassador tells us that five Palestinians have been killed since the beginning of June, including one 15-year-old boy, the third child to be killed in the village of Beita. We know the International Criminal Court, its staff and the civil organisations that support it are under extreme pressure, because of increasing public criticism of it by England, the leader in England and by Israel itself, among other countries. We know that because former politicians in Ireland signed a letter in relation to the matter.

The EU trades with Israel. The Minister used such strong words regarding gay rights in other countries, which is perfectly correct, but we do not use the same strong language when it comes to what is happening because of the Israeli occupation, illegal by any standard, in its taking over and killing people. I am an absolute supporter of the Jewish nation, and I do not like to have to say that, but what is happening is against all human rights standards. We have got to stand up and say that, while still supporting Israel. We have to stand up and say what it is doing is utterly wrong.

I agree with virtually everything the Deputy has just said. We need a relationship with Israel but we have also got to call out breaches of international law. I can be accused of some things in this House, but I am not sure it is fair to accuse me of not speaking directly and in a strident manner about the Israel-Palestinian conflict. I have been very direct in calling out breaches of international law and the disproportionate use of force and my concern that not enough has happened to protect civilians and children.

We have also backed that with significant increases in financial support for UN organisations working in Gaza. I do not shy away from using strident language when it is appropriate to do that. However, I also believe there is an opportunity now to reach out to the new Israeli Government and to try to ensure there is a change of direction over time in its policy direction towards Palestinians, which I and this Parliament call out all the time.

Written Answers are published on the Oireachtas website.