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Seanad Éireann debate -
Wednesday, 28 Mar 2007

Vol. 186 No. 17

Ethical Foreign Policy: Motion.

I move:

That Seanad Éireann calls on the Government to develop and implement an ethical foreign policy.

I find it interesting that the Government has amended this motion in a manner that goes right to the nub of the issue. It is clear that in bypassing any mention of ethics, the Government acknowledges its guilt in this area and it is notable that there is no Minister from the Department of Foreign Affairs to hear this motion. The reference to the values of the people is a calculated insult of the type delivered by the late Mr. Charles Haughey when he announced his equivocal half-measure on contraception, describing it as an Irish solution for an Irish people.

In requesting the Government to develop and implement an ethical foreign policy, I recognise that I am asking for a lot. Despite some gestures in this regard, notably by Mr. Robin Cook in Britain which fizzled out after the discovery of the export of Hawk aircraft to Indonesia for use in the military oppression of the people of East Timor and a few fitful outbreaks of conscience in our Department of Foreign Affairs under the leadership of Mr. Frank Aiken, Mr. Dick Spring and Mr. David Andrews, such a policy has nowhere been given a substantial trial. This is because, owing to the weakness of human motivation, perceived self-interest almost invariably conquers and it is frequently expressed in economic terms.

Finance plays a major role in this matter and I welcome the fact that the Minister of State at the Department of Foreign Affairs, Deputy Conor Lenihan, indicated at a meeting I arranged with the Darfur investment group that it is the Government's intention to direct agencies such as the National Pensions Reserve Fund to ensure investments on behalf of the State are ethical. This area will be addressed more fully by my colleague, Senator Brendan Ryan.

Genuine altruism is rare, even in individuals, and levels of cynicism seem to exist in direct relationship with political seniority and closeness to our possession of power. The higher one goes, the fewer the principles. The historian, Edward Gibbon, said the Emperor Marcus Aurelius was almost unique among rulers in that his overriding concern was not self-advancement but the welfare of his people. This ideal must, in the 21st century, be extended from a national or imperial base to a global one. I am asking that Ireland, as a country, follow the example of the noble Roman.

At this point in the discussion I am usually reminded by people on the other side of realpolitik and national self-interest, so let me repeat a story I have told on a number of occasions in this House. When the then Government proposed to sell beef to the army of Saddam Hussein, I was one of a limited number of people in political life who opposed the transaction. For my pains I was lectured from across the House by the Government spokesman on foreign affairs who said that, while what I was suggesting might be the moral thing to do, could Ireland afford it? Within a short space of time there was an outbreak of war in the region, financial arrangements collapsed, Saddam Hussein welshed on the deal and the Irish taxpayer was burdened not only with the £100 million owed by the Iraqi regime for the beef but was also awarded the privilege of paying hefty sums to that very pragmatic cattle dealer, Mr. Larry Goodman. We, therefore, did the immoral thing and paid through the nose for it. My point is that although there may appear to be economic inconvenience in the short to medium term, in the long term decency and moral standards pay off. As the Bible states: “Cast your bread upon the waters and it shall return to you an hundred fold.”

Let us stay with Iraq for a while and witness the unholy contortions of the Government in maintaining a morally bankrupt policy of subservience to the criminal Administration of George Bush, no matter whither it leads. When 100,000 people marched in the streets of Dublin against the war, the Taoiseach claimed they were agreeing with him. This may be open to doubt but it is surely incontrovertible that the overwhelming mass of Irish people wish to disassociate themselves from the way in which the Taoiseach, Minister for Foreign Affairs and Government have connived in the deliberate employment of torture as an instrument of policy by the US Administration. The two Aherns, Bertie and Dermot, claim that Condoleezza Rice gave them a clear assurance in the matter of torture. While this may be the case, she did not provide the assurance Bertie and Dermot passed on to the Irish people. She clearly indicated that the US Administration was committed to the use of torture and openly acknowledged that even at Guantanamo Bay, a place whose exact location and function we at least know, unlike the unspecified torture sites in eastern Europe, procedures include hooding, sleep deprivation and the use of white noise.

The Taoiseach's memory is selective but even he can hardly have forgotten that our Government successfully sued the United Kingdom Government when it engaged in these practices at Castlereagh police station in the North and won a judgment which made it perfectly clear that in the view of the European Court of Human Rights, a view our Government enthusiastically accepted at the time, these practices constituted torture. When Condoleezza Rice told our Government that hooding, white noise and sleep deprivation were employed in Guantanamo Bay, she was clearly admitting the use of torture. Moreover, the commitment to torture of Bush and his cronies was made perfectly explicit in the morally disgraceful and ethically unjustifiable attempts made to force a measure through Congress facilitating and legalising torture, including methods not seen since the Gestapo left the Avenue Foch.

Neither was our collaboration merely verbal given that we actively collaborated with the use of Shannon Airport for the purpose of extraordinary rendition, a foul practice in which civilians are kidnapped, bundled into aeroplanes, drugged, shackled and delivered to countries such as Egypt, Jordan and Syria where torture is routinely practised in a manner that has occasionally led to hypocritical protests from both Britain and the United States. This practice is carried out secretly. However, in recent years, using information concerning aeroplane registration, flight patterns, etc., supplied to me by gallant people at Shannon Airport such as Ed Horgan and Tim Hourigan, I have sought to make these matters public through debate in the House and by other means.

All these matters were a by-product of George W. Bush's military adventure in the Middle East. The war in Iraq was fought clearly for logistical and economic advantage, especially in the interests of multinational corporations such as Bechtel and Halliburton with which the eminence grise of the American Administration, Dick Cheney, has close and very unhealthy ties. This has happened before.

What was novel, however, about the Bush Administration's ill-advised and barbarous attack was not only its hypocrisy but also that it came as part of a package which included the deliberate undermining of international humanitarian protection such as the Geneva Convention and the institution of the United Nations. Led by the extreme right, the United States Government deliberately corrupted every standard of decency and legality for which the West has stood. Habeas corpus flies out the window and instead of flinging back in their faces the lies propounded by the stumbling and inadequate Bush and his sidekick, the unspeakable automaton, Ms Condoleezza Rice, the Aherns, Bertie and Dermot, grovellingly accept every humiliating fiction they are fed with the alacrity one would expect of a flea-ridden poodle with piles accepting a rubber cushion from the hands of its master.

The Senator should refer to the Taoiseach and Minister for Foreign Affairs by their proper titles.

I will use their titles but all the other language I have used when referring to them stands.

Through all of this, the corruption of language is a significant and telling factor. In a revealing moment the Lady Macbeth of the Middle East, Condoleezza Rice, described the horrendous bloodbath that followed the Israeli assault upon Lebanon as "the birth pangs of a new democracy". As I indicated, under the Bush Administration the West has descended to values not seen since Adolf Hitler, but people are afraid to squeak. Even under Hitler, however, brave individuals were doing important work. I think, in particular, of the late Victor Klemperer, a cousin of the great and distinguished conductor, Otto Klemperer. He used his time in seclusion during the Nazi tyranny to compile an academic analysis of the linguistic system employed by the Third Reich.

Language is important and I invite Senators to examine for a moment some of the language employed. "Shock and awe", the description of the initial barrage of bombing against the civilian population of Baghdad, could easily be translated as "Blitzkrieg". "Shake and bake" is the euphemism used to conceal the illegal use of white phosphorus against personnel by the United States Army in Falluja. "Extraordinary rendition" is another euphemism employed to cover the nasty reality of kidnap and torture.

We need a Victor Klemperer in our universities to conduct an analysis of the way in which the Bush Administration has abused language to perpetuate tyranny. I hope this may be done and believe it will be, for although it has taken a long time, there are signs that a corrective is being applied, even within the American system. Seventy per cent of the American people are now against the war, making it clear that those of us who consistently opposed the war and were accused of anti-Americanism for our pains were the most pro-American of all.

In response to allegations about Ireland's involvement in extraordinary rendition, the Government has consistently obfuscated and lied. In the two reports produced and adopted on this issue, one by the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe, the second by the European Parliament, the Minister for Foreign Affairs did not answer clear questions which were put to him. Instead, as he had done in this House and consistently to the press, he insisted upon answering questions he had not been asked.

I defy any person to point to one instance where I or any of the others leading the charge in this matter claimed that torture victims were transported through Shannon Airport on their way to torture centres, yet this is what the Minister consistently denies. Why does he deny something which has not been said? The reason is that he cannot answer the charges made and the charge I and others have made, namely, that the fact this country collaborated with the United States by assisting aeroplanes on the return leg of their villainous and shameful journey is incontrovertibly true.

The torture circuit is an unbroken line in which Ireland has played a mean, cowardly and disgusting role. To give one example, on 17 February 2003, an Egyptian citizen who had been granted asylum in Italy, Abu Omar, was violently abducted in broad daylight in the Via Guerzoni in Milan. The incident was witnessed by various civilians, including a woman called Rezk Merfat who saw the terrified Abu Omar being jumped on, struggling and crying for help and being forced into a van. Abu Omar was then taken to the American airbase at Aviano where he was flown a short distance, put into another aeroplane with United States markings which delivered him to Cairo. This, according to legal documents, is what happened to him:

The first measure was to leave him in a room where incredibly loud and unbearable noise was made ... he has experienced damage to his hearing. The second kind of torture was to place him in a sauna at tremendous temperature and straight afterwards to put him in a cold store room . . . occasioning terrible pain to his bones . . . as if they were cracking. The third was to hang him upside down . . . and apply live wires to give electric shocks to sensitive parts of the body including his genitals. He has suffered damage to his motory and urinary systems . . . he became incontinent.

He was tortured for a further seven months and has never been charged with any offence. However, on the return journey to the United States from Cairo, as part of the torture circuit, on the following day, 18 February, the Gulfstream jet stopped off to be refuelled at Shannon Airport. No protest has ever been made at this gross violation of international and Irish law by a so-called friendly government. This has all been done because of the Irish Government's gutlessness in the face of American capital.

I have mentioned the late Frank Aiken. How horrified he would be at the queasy way in which we have attempted, without recourse to either the sovereign Parliament of Ireland or the Oireachtas Joint Committee on Foreign Affairs, to shift our firm position that Tibet was a separate and sovereign country. We have also said little about organ harvesting, an appalling practice about which my colleague, Senator O'Toole, will speak. Again, money is the reason for these developments.

Let us examine the situation in the Middle East. There has been a systematic violation by the Israeli Government of the most basic human rights of the Palestinian people. We know full well that in the external association agreement between the European Union and the state of Israel, there are attached to this treaty important human rights clauses. However, we have done nothing to assert these clauses and even my modest proposal that the Government should support the establishment of a monitoring group to oversee the human rights situation in the occupied territories has not been pursued by the Government. Once more, United States pressure, the influence of American money and the perceived threat to jobs financed here by US multinationals has, I suspect, played its role. In the past various Government's have taken up decent and moral positions on certain issues. However, sadly, on most occasions it has had to be shamed into this by the action of courageous individuals such as the Dunnes Stores strikers and Tom Hyland, whose heroic defence of the people of East Timor is well known to this House. I admired the staunchness of the late Mr. Haughey when he refused to support Margaret Thatcher in herFalklands War adventure.

What we need is an understanding of the position announced by the former Senator and President of Ireland, Mary Robinson, in her work on ethical globalisation. We need to understand that this small and fragile planet is threatened not just environmentally but politically by the pursuit of narrow selfish and sectional interest and the failure to date of any major state to attempt to establish an ethical foreign policy. Sadly, the Government has in its amendment made it clear it has no intention of supporting these standards.

I thank Senator Norris for asking me to second the motion. After his tour de force, I am not sure I can add much. I welcome the Minister of State, Deputy Killeen, to the House.

The point of the motion, in discussing it with Senator Norris some weeks back, was precisely to achieve what is outlined in the Government amendment, namely, to have "a foreign policy based on the values of the Irish people". That is our motivation. It is appalling the Government should choose to amend an acceptable motion which should have been an opportunity to find a consensual approach to foreign policy.

Why do I suggest we should have a foreign policy based on the values of the Irish people? I will begin my argument with regard to the situation in Guantanamo Bay. What do I think of when I consider the issue of people being imprisoned for four or five years without charge, trial or support? I think of the Guildford Four and the Birmingham Six and of the values of the Irish people, who were horrified by people being imprisoned unjustly. They spoke out, took a stand and said what they had to say. The opposition to Guantanamo is surely the same as the support for the Birmingham Six or the Guildford Four. It is an opposition to imprisonment without trial. It is the same view the Irish people took with regard to internment in the North. Guantanamo is internment in a different climate and place.

I welcome the Minister, Deputy Dermot Ahern, to the House and thank him for making time available to be present. I was making the point that the motion is closest to the values of the Irish people. As the Minister is a young man, I do not know if he will remember 1959, when the Irish people saw the images of the Dalai Lama being forced down a mountain in Tibet. It tugged at the heartstrings of a nation. The situation is still the same. These are the values of the Irish people. This is why people such as myself, Senator Norris and many others have over the years felt a sense of support for the people of Tibet, who were illegally colonised. Their culture, society and religion were overrun and their religious leader was taken prisoner by the Chinese people.

Hear, hear.

This is completely opposed to the values of the Irish people.

With regard to the Iraq invasion, we can discuss at length the views on whether there were weapons of mass destruction. What is certain is that none were ever found so the balance of evidence has to be that they never existed. We can consider the fact an invasion took place against the wishes of the United Nations and against its policy but where does this leave us in terms of the Government's motion with regard to the values of the Irish people? Some 100,000 Irish people marched in opposition to the invasion. In seeking to have an ethical foreign policy, surely those of us who questioned what happened at the time of the invasion are closer to the values of the Irish people referred to in the Government amendment. I hope the Minister will accept this point.

Every returned Irish aid worker shares a view with regard to Irish aid to foreign countries. Many have a horror of propping up illegitimate, illegal and degraded Governments in parts of Africa. When I say this, I am not necessarily implying the Government takes the opposite side in every one of the cases mentioned — it does not — but it has done so in some cases. I go along with the point made by Senator Norris with regard to the Falklands and the Middle East, where I would have been very much in tune with the Government position. This question goes back well beyond our time. The values of the Irish people were not represented when de Valera went to sign the book of condolences on the death of Hitler. What we are trying to achieve is a way to have an ethical foreign policy.

I am sorry I will not be present to listen to the Minister explain why he objects to a motion which asks us to implement an ethical foreign policy. It is as if he is taking a position that he is not in favour of an ethical foreign policy.

He is not.

I know from my discussions with the Minister over the years that this does not reflect his viewpoint and that he would certainly be in favour of an ethical foreign policy. Why, therefore, could he not go the whole way and support the motion?

The Irish people, in their reaction to what they saw, heard and read about East Timor, made their views effectively known at all levels. Senators Ryan and Norris and I raised the issue on many occasions. What we are trying to achieve now is what we were trying to achieve then in raising those issues.

I wrote to the Minister recently with regard to the major trips to China and all the brouhaha that goes with them. I asked whether what happens in China should matter and whether we should raise issues there. I am a pragmatist but there are times when one must raise issues.

I asked to meet the Chinese Vice Premier when he visited Ireland recently on the issue of the Falun Gong, or Falun Dafa, although he found himself too busy to meet. The Falun Gong is a harmless group which is not revolutionary and is not trying to undermine the authority. Its members are harmless. They have a set of beliefs on good living to which nobody could object. However, as they dared to question the totalitarian regime of the Chinese Communist Party they have been imprisoned, brutalised repeatedly and forcibly made the victims of live organ harvesting. I have seen and heard the evidence of situations where it was possible to telephone to order a kidney, heart or liver and it would be delivered on the day as required. This is happening in China today.

These are the questions I would like us to raise. We recognise that China is a big market, and a future market for Ireland, but we should also recognise that we must take a stand against these practices. It is countries like ours — small countries without vested interests — which can make the difference on these issues. This is why I take great pleasure in seconding the motion. I ask the Minister to withdraw the amendment and accede to the motion as proposed by Senator Norris and seconded by myself.

I move amendment No. 1:

To delete all words after "That" and substitute the following:

"Seanad Éireann recognises the success of the Government in maintaining and developing a foreign policy based on the values of the Irish people which also protects and promotes Irish national interests."

I thank Senator Mooney for moving the amendment and for allowing me to intervene at this point. I apologise because I have an engagement later and must leave the debate early.

I welcome the opportunity to set out the principles that underlie our foreign policy. I have no grave objection to the motion as set out, but when I discussed the issue with my officials I and they felt that, as set down, the motion was somewhat bland and bald. I felt that including the words "a foreign policy based on the values of the Irish people which also protects and promotes Irish national interests" better reflected what our foreign policy is about. I believe any objective judge of our policy would affirm that in its conception and execution our policy is an ethical one, based firmly on the values of the Irish people and serving their interests.

Ethics is a system of moral principles which deals with judgments as to what constitutes good and bad conduct. However, one must also distinguish between intentions and outcomes. I make this point because having good intentions is not enough. We live in the real world and must, to the best of our ability, try to anticipate the outcome of our actions. Are we likely to make things better or worse or how do we maximise the chances of our good intentions having the desired effect?

Posing such questions does not mean surrendering to what is called the realist school of foreign policy, where simple, narrow self-interest dictates a state's actions. Far from it. However, it is to say that an ethical foreign policy is best advanced by an awareness of the environment in which we operate.

I believe Ireland has been successful in utilising its knowledge of the international system and has the ability to operate in the multilateral context to advance our principles and values. What are those principles and values? Foreign policy, like all our national policies, is based on the foundation laid out in Bunreacht na hÉireann. Article 5 defines what Ireland is, namely, a sovereign, independent, democratic state. Article 29, on Ireland's international relations, sets out the principles guiding our relations with other states. There we affirm our devotion to the ideal of peace and friendly co-operation among nations founded on international justice and morality. We affirm our adherence to the resolution of disputes by international arbitration or judicial determination and accept the principles of international law in the conduct of relations between states. Aside from its articulation of the principles underlying relations between states, Bunreacht na hÉireann affirms in Article 40 a series of rights that pertain to the individual, which it terms personal rights. Today, we would call them human rights.

Since 1937, a body of international law on human rights has developed here and Ireland has striven to ensure its universal application. Alongside support for the United Nations and international law, successive Governments have pursued a policy of military neutrality. The State has chosen not to enter into military alliances or a mutual defence pact with other countries. The amendment of the Constitution in 2002 to allow for the ratification of the Nice treaty precludes Ireland joining any EU common defence unless the people decide otherwise.

Every dispatch of a contingent of the Defence Forces abroad — whether UN, EU or NATO-led — is a sovereign decision of the Government and is subject to the requirements of the so-called triple-lock of Government decision, Dáil approval and UN authorisation.

The origins of our policy of military neutrality lie in our history as a State and in the particular circumstances of partition and have evolved as a key feature of our foreign relations. This policy has acquired particular value for the people as an expression of our ethical views on the use of military forces — that the deployment of military forces should be undertaken only within the framework of the UN Charter and with the approval of the United Nations.

That Ireland should articulate these principles and rights in our Constitution and legislation is no surprise given our history. As a small nation that fought against a larger one for its freedom, we value the principles of democracy, the rule of international law, collective security and the universal application of human rights. We also recognise that a world which as far as possible is organised on these lines is in the interests of small countries in particular.

The expression of these principles and values, or ethics, can take place only within a multilateral framework. That framework is provided by the United Nations. Ireland fully and profoundly supports the principles and values set out in the United Nations Charter. While I was honoured to act as one of the Secretary General's envoys in support of the UN reform process, I fully appreciate that being asked to undertake this role reflected the high standing of Ireland at the UN over many years and under many Governments. Acting within the parameters set out in the charter assures us of the ethical intent of the military actions undertaken on behalf of the international community by the United Nations. Ireland's long-standing support for UN peacekeeping is one of the most tangible expressions of our principles and values in foreign relations.

Since our first UN peacekeeping mission in 1958, our troops have performed more than 55,000 tours of duty on some 60 UN peace support operations worldwide. Defence Forces personnel have served throughout the world, notably in the Middle East, Africa, the former Yugoslavia and East Timor. Irish lives, unfortunately, have been lost in this service. To date, 85 members of the Defence Forces have given their lives in the cause of world peace.

The United Nations is not the only multilateral framework available as a means for Ireland to give expression to its principles and ideals. As a founder member of the Council of Europe, Ireland has consistently supported and encouraged its activities to promote democracy, human rights and the rule of law. We attach particular importance to the promotion of human rights. The European Convention for the Protection of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms remains the essential reference point for the protection of human rights in Ireland and Europe as a whole. Ireland was also a founder member of the Organisation for Security and Co-operation in Europe and is a keen supporter of its programmes on arms control, preventive diplomacy, human rights and election monitoring.

The European Union has also provided us with a platform to shape the international environment through the Common Foreign and Security Policy. The essential objectives of the CFSP very much reflect Ireland's values. Europe has learned from its own history the bitter lessons of conflict and mutual aggression and in its approach to the wider world seeks to use its weight in a constructive and peaceful way. While, naturally, decision-making in the CFSP involves compromise, I am absolutely satisfied that we have a much greater capacity to influence events within the Union than outside it and that our influence serves to mould an honourable and essentially ethical policy.

A key example of how we have utilised the multilateral framework in pursuit of the common good is our engagement with the issue of nuclear weapons. Ireland has sought to address this global challenge since we first joined the United Nations in the 1950s. Frank Aiken, the then Minister for Foreign Affairs, introduced a resolution in the UN General Assembly that eventually led to the nuclear non-proliferation treaty, NPT, a decade later. It has become the most universal of all international instruments in the disarmament and non-proliferation area and remains the framework for further progress on this issue. Article 6 of the treaty contains the only multilateral legally binding commitment to nuclear disarmament from the nuclear weapon states. Ireland is in the vanguard of efforts to reinvigorate the NPT. I was gratified that the new Secretary General of the United Nations, Ban Ki-Moon, has also highlighted the importance of addressing the issue of weapons of mass destruction as a continuing threat to world peace and security.

We have taken a similarly vigorous approach to the codification and implementation of human rights norms. We believe profoundly in their universality and they are central to our foreign policy. Ireland has ratified the six core United Nations human rights conventions and regularly submits reports to the United Nations human rights mechanisms on the measures undertaken to implement these conventions. Later this week, in New York, Ireland will sign up to the two most recently adopted United Nations instruments, the UN Convention on the Protection of all Persons from Enforced Disappearances and the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities. Ireland played an active role in the negotiations leading to these conventions and fully supported their adoption, which represents a further strengthening of the international human rights framework.

Active participation in multilateral organisations such as the EU, UN and the Council of Europe provides an opportunity for Ireland to voice its concerns regarding human rights abuses. Through these organisations, international pressure can be brought to bear on those responsible for human rights violations. Some have suggested that the Government has not met its own standards of human rights in respect of allegations of extraordinary rendition through Ireland. These allegations have no basis in fact.

The Minister never answered any of them.

The Senator knows that.

The Minister never answered one of them.

The Senator was the very person who went to gardaí and when they asked him to produce evidence, he did not produce a scintilla.

The gardaí told the Minister a different story from what he said so one party was not telling the truth.

They went back to the Senator who still could not produce a scintilla of evidence.

Nobody ever alleged that people were taken through in shackles but the Minister assisted them by allowing the refuelling of named planes.

Despite all the exhortations, the Senator has not been able to produce one scintilla of evidence.

Yes I have and the Minister knows it perfectly well.

The Senator should allow the Minister to speak without interruption.

He should not be so provocative.

I am as good at shouting as the Senator is.

At least what I shout is the truth.

The Senator has not produced any evidence of that allegation other than television programmes.

That is not true. Will the Minister withdraw that comment because he should at least do the House the courtesy of telling the truth for a while? Occasionally, it would be very refreshing if he would do that.

Senator Norris should withdraw the fact that he called the Minister a liar.

I will not.

There is no question of prisoners having been transferred through Irish airports as part of an extraordinary rendition operation.

Nobody ever said that.

Did we ever say there were?

What about Abu Omar? What about the cases I have put on record?

The Government has received explicit assurances in this regard from the US authorities, which they have declined to provide to other European governments. Even the recent European Parliament report on extraordinary rendition is clear on this fact. Nowhere does it allege that prisoners might have transited through Ireland.

Nowhere did I allege it. Why does the Minister not answer the allegations I did make?

The Government has taken a lead in actively raising the issue of extraordinary rendition with the US authorities and at EU level and we continue to do so.

Hear, hear.

Moreover, as friends, we have never been in any way unwilling or hesitant to convey very clear views to the United States on, for instance, the treatment of prisoners, be it at Guantanamo, Abu Ghraib, or elsewhere.

What did the Minister say when Condoleezza Rice told him she was torturing them in Abu Ghraib?

Ireland was the first EU country to call for the closure of Guantanamo but Senator Norris does not give us any credit for that.

I am Tweedledee, not Tweedledum.

There can be no clearer example of our belief in the essential value and necessity of human rights and in our willingness to advocate them than in our support for action on the crisis in Darfur. The UN Human Rights Council held a special session in December 2006 to consider the urgent human rights situation there. Ireland, along with our EU partners, was instrumental in calling for this special session. Sudan subsequently refused admission to the council's high level mission and this refusal is being considered at the current session of the council. Most recently, the Minister of State at the Department of Foreign Affairs, Deputy Conor Lenihan, highlighted the situation in Darfur in his speech to the 4th session of the council.

Ireland has also been to the fore in responding to the deeply worrying events in Zimbabwe. The arrest again today of opposition leader, Morgan Tsvangirai, is a cause for alarm. Given his treatment at the hands of the authorities earlier this month, we must be concerned about his human rights and his physical safety. I join my EU colleagues in holding the Government of Zimbabwe responsible for his safety. On behalf of the Irish Government, I call for his immediate and unconditional release and that of his colleagues.

Our concerns about his arrest, however, do not stop there. His arrest and the actions of the authorities raise fundamental questions about President Mugabe's respect for basic democratic norms, fundamental freedoms and the rule of law.

Like locking up 40 members of the Palestinian Parliament.

A policy of suppression and intimidation of lawful opposition can only make the situation there more unstable. The deteriorating economic, social and political situation needs to be addressed urgently through dialogue between government and society, not presidential dictate. I call on the Zimbabwean Government to change course, respect the rule of law and respond to the clear suffering of its people.

The meeting of the Southern African Development Community this week is a timely opportunity to address the situation. I urge the regional leaders to use their influence to halt the descent toward a political and humanitarian disaster. Our approach to Darfur, Zimbabwe or Burma is not motivated by any strategic economic or political interests.

That is easy because the Government does not have any over there. That is a laugh.

It is driven by our belief that the international community must respond to humanitarian crises and political oppression and that in doing so, we must invoke the universal standards of human rights. We must point to their grievous absence and measure progress by their application and enforcement.

Aside from peacekeeping, perhaps the most tangible example of the ethical basis of our approach to foreign relations is our commitment to overseas development aid, ODA. Irish Aid, with its focus on Africa and poverty reduction, is an expression of the values and interest of the Irish people in helping the world's poor. By 2009, our aid is likely to reach €1 billion. In 2012, Ireland will reach the UN ODA target of 0.7% of gross national income, GNI. This year, spending will exceed 0.5% of GNI, putting us in the vanguard of donors.

We spend this money because, as the Taoiseach writes in the foreword to the White Paper on Irish Aid:

Ireland can rightly claim to empathise with those who are suffering from disease, poverty and hunger every day around the globe. But empathy is not enough. Our actions must speak louder than our words ... Our aid programme is a practical expression of the values that help define what it means to be Irish at the beginning of the 21st Century.

As our aid programme illustrates, the values that inform and motivate our foreign policy are not static. Although based on firm foundations, they are dynamic and evolving, responding to the changing circumstances of our world. The establishment of the rapid response initiative is another example of this dynamism. The initiative aims to improve and enhance Ireland's ability to respond to humanitarian disasters. Similarly, the creation of the conflict resolution unit will allow Ireland to play a more active role in international conflict prevention and resolution, building on and utilising the very substantial success of the Northern Ireland peace process.

In the context of our expanding aid programme, both initiatives will improve our capacity to become a model United Nations member. In conception and operation then, as I have outlined in this House, I believe that Ireland's foreign policy is ethical by the high standards and ideals we have set ourselves and by the engagements and actions we have undertaken within the multilateral framework of the United Nations and Europe.

Through our commitments and actions we have successfully sought to give expression to the values and interests of the Irish people. This Government has built on the endeavours of previous Governments and earlier generations to ensure Ireland can not only maintain its place with pride among the nations of the world but also shape that world in the name of universal values and the common good.

Now we know. In terms of philosophical reflection, one would not disagree with a word the Minister has said. He, however, said that one does not determine what is ethical on the basis of philosophical reflection but on outcomes. I am entitled to ask for evidence of outcomes. He continues to obfuscate on the question of extraordinary rendition. I did not suggest, nor have I ever heard Senator Norris suggest, that we had any evidence these unfortunate prisoners passed through Shannon Airport. We said that the deliberate policy of the Government was to facilitate the aircraft used to do this.

That is balderdash and the Senators know that.

That is exactly like Switzerland refuelling empty trains that brought people to the death camps.

That is nonsense.

If the Minister had been present, he would have heard the case that I put on the record.

That is nonsense.

Why did the European Parliament accept it?

The Minister is extraordinarily touchy. I tried to restrain myself and I will continue to do so.

The Senator should not do that.

The Minister is right. It is nonsense to suggest that facilitating the refuelling of planes that were used to transport people to regimes where they would be tortured is part of an ethical foreign policy. The Minister blinked because he did not want to say something. The Government says the lady gave it an assurance. The lady has told lies about US policy on extraordinary rendition. She said it did not do it. Apparently she tells yarns and fibs in public but when she meets our Minister for Foreign Affairs and Taoiseach, she discovers a new self and tells the truth and the Government says it believes her. The evidence is that she does not tell the truth. On the question of whether we tolerated airplanes that were involved in this disgusting practice going through one of our airports , the answer is, "Yes, we did."

We spent years trying to obtain information from the Department of Transport on what the airplanes were doing and it refused to provide it. Every single concession was extracted slowly and painfully from the Government. Finally, when the Government had to accept the airplanes had done what we had said they were doing, and that they had been assisted on their way to and from the locations of their awful activities by Ireland, it said there were no prisoners on board. We never said there were; we said we are complicit through our tolerance of their presence——

No, we have not been in any shape or form.

We have.

Senator Ryan without interruption.

Absolutely not.

It is as plain as the nose on the Minister's face.

It is not.

Senator Ryan, please, without interruption.

The Deputy's view was challenged.

The record——

Senator Ryan without interruption.

Speaking of the nose on the Minister's face, if he were Pinnochio he would have serious problems by now. His nose would have extended considerably.

Let us leave the issue of rendition aside. The only person who does not know the reality is the Minister. Everybody else does, including ourselves and the European Parliament.

The European Parliament does not know either.

It adopted the report.

The European Parliament knows——

Senator Ryan without interruption.

A certain Member of the European Parliament believed he knew.

The Member tabled amendments which were voted——

A majority of Members of the European Parliament adopted the report.

I, for one, will not take any lectures from "stickys" about human rights, and the Senator knows what I am talking about.

A majority of Members of the European Parliament adopted the report.

Senator Ryan has the floor.

Maurice Manning admitted it was politically motivated.

Will the Minister allow Senator Ryan to contribute without interruption?

I had only started, a Leas-Chathaoirligh, before I was interrupted. All I said was that I did not say there were prisoners being transported but that the Government took the word of a person who is proven to tell untruths. The Minister said her word was reason was believe the US Government. We know it is not true and should not be trusted. Ireland is now in an isolated minority in that 70% of the people of the United States disapprove of what its Government is doing, and both Houses of Congress have voted on a timetable for withdrawal. We have walked ourselves into this matter.

I must go. It is an awful pity——

It is, really.

——because I am enjoying this.

At least I will be able to finish now.

Some day the Senator might produce some evidence.

I have done so tonight. If the Minister were here on time, he would have heard it.

Senator Ryan without interruption.

It is a great pity that the current Minister for Foreign Affairs is unwilling or unable to deal with the issues put before him——

Hear, hear.

——and finds it necessary to resort to interruptions and abuse.

I remember very heated debates in this House about US foreign policy in Central America, in which I did not agree with the then Government. However, the Government adopted a position that was defensible, albeit different from mine, and did not deny there was a problem. When a US President visited this country, the Government, led by Garret Fitzgerald and including Peter Barry, the then Minister for Foreign Affairs, publicly made known what it felt was wrong with US policy on Central America.

The present Government, however, backed off, chickened out and is now compromised irreparably by the deaths of 650,000 people. According to information presented on the BBC website in recent days, the British Government's advisers now accept that The Lancet estimate of the number of deaths in Iraq was based on sound methodology, even though they will not say it is true. Some 650,000 innocent civilians are dead and our Government said it would blink while this occurred. By God, did it blink in a big way. It is suffering the consequences of this ever since.

Let me return to the Minister's fine philosophical phrases, with which I said I agree. We are very concerned about the arms race, for instance. Other countries, including Norway, are also concerned. Norway has a large investment reserve, assembled on foot of its having North Sea oil. Being the wise, social-democratic country that it is, it decided not to splurge the reserve on crazy projects but to establish a fund for the long-term future of its economy. This is the petroleum fund and amounts to €75 billion, give or take €10 billion. The fund must be invested according to ethical principles acceptable to the people of Norway. The fund administrators have divested themselves from Wal-Mart, for instance, because they felt its labour practices were wrong, and they refused to invest in Honeywell because they believed it had a direct connection with the nuclear weapons industry, as opposed to the nuclear power industry. They have done this consistently and successfully and are becoming a force.

We have the National Pensions Reserve Fund, which is perhaps close to €10 billion in value. We have tried over and again to get the managers of that fund to accept similar ethical principles to the Norwegians but they have refused over and again. The Norwegian fund is growing and profitable but we will not follow suit because, when it comes to a choice between ethics and money, we will always choose money. The silly joke that the present Government believes "ethics" is a county in England is probably a bit too harsh but it has a certain amount of truth.

The rhetoric is wonderful but if one scratches one level below the surface, one will note that the Government will do nothing about ethical investments. It took us years to introduce the Control of Exports Bill, which will only have an inhibitory effect. The European Union has a stated objective of becoming a major player in the world armaments industry. This industry is responsible for the death of far more innocent civilians than the drugs industry. This is a fact and there is no arguing with it.

The Senator has one minute.

How much of my speech was taken up by me and how much by interruptions?

I have made an allowance for that already.

I appreciate that.

The arms industry kills more than the drugs industry, yet we refuse to take the necessary steps to address this. There are at least 100 million small arms floating around the Great Lakes area, most of which were made either in the United States or Europe. The arms industry is the core determinant of what is ethical. Making money out of other people's conflicts is probably the most unethical thing one can do. Now that we are rich and in a position to take on board ethical considerations, we have backed away from doing so.

I could elaborate on other ethical issues. Europe is in the disgraceful position of being softer on Burma than the United State because France and Britain do not want to upset their precious investments in Burma. We could refer to Zimbabwe, regarding which the Minister was correctly concerned about the locking up of the Opposition leader in Zimbabwe. We could refer to Palestine also. There are between 20 and 40 Members of the Palestinian Parliament in jail in Israel but nobody talks about this.

We could talk about Guantanamo Bay and the fact that the civilian lawyer of the first prisoner who pleaded guilty, who has now gone to Australia, refused to serve in the show trial in Guantanamo because he was asked to agree in advance to be bound by rules that had not yet been written. We have tied ourselves to a country that believes in brutal warfare, which has suppressed human rights at home and which is now determined to go through a series of show trials in Guantanamo that will be even less public and accountable than the sorts of practices carried out in the Soviet Union at the height of Stalinism.

I welcome the Minister of State, Deputy Haughey, to the House. I congratulate him belatedly on his recent promotion and the good job he is doing in his brief.

Questions on foreign policy agendas and how Governments should react in international relations have become increasingly significant in recent decades, particularly the last decade, as international relations have become more complex and in the wake of the creation of new states, particularly following the collapse of the Soviet Union and the development of the African nations. These questions concern the promotion of human rights, the punishment of crimes against humanity, the prohibition of arms sales to unstable regions or states that abuse human rights, and the use of force, particularly for the purpose of humanitarian intervention. These are all important issues.

As a small country with a history of colonial domination, Ireland has carved out an important niche for itself as a country which not only subscribes to the values outlined by the Minister in his speech, but has achieved an enviable international reputation especially among former colonial countries and throughout the Third World. Our election to the United Nations Security Council in this millennium is but one example of this phenomenon. It is a testament to our image as a country which is a champion of human rights and one that is automatically called upon to provide peacekeeping forces in some of the most complex conflicts in the world going back as far as the Congo.

Ireland was particularly keen to become a member of the United Nations from its inception but, historically, due to the somewhat elitist nature of the founding countries and those that joined in San Francisco in 1945. Ireland, along with many other small countries, had to wait ten years before it was given an opportunity to sit as a sovereign, independent State in the United Nations. When we did, we hit the ground running. We lost no time in making it clear we were bringing to the United Nations an approach to world issues that was determined, not by alliances, but by our own values and historical experiences.

Prior to our membership of the United Nations, we had also become a founding member of the Council of Europe. To this day, we remain active participants in that internationally recognised and esteemed human rights parliamentary assembly. I pay tribute to my colleague, Senator Ormonde who, like myself, has the honour of representing, not only this House — with Senator Bradford who has long been a member of the Council of Europe — and other distinguished Members of this House and the other House, but this country in this important human rights body. Sadly, sometimes it is confused with the European Parliament, primarily because we both sit in Strasbourg. I am not sure about my colleagues but I constantly have to clarify to people that the Council of Europe is not the European Parliament.

Once we became a member of the United Nations, we became dedicated to the reduction of international tensions and, in particular, to arms control; our efforts bore fruit eventually in the nuclear non-proliferation treaty. This achievement is often touted around. It reminds me a little of our lack of footballing success in County Leitrim. When I was a child, whenever we talked about the major footballing achievement of County Leitrim, we always referred to the 1927 Connacht final, which was our first ever Connacht title. It took us until 1994 before we added another provincial title. This generation and the next one will probably be talking about 1994 in the same way as we referred to 1927. Bearing in mind that we were a new member of the United Nations, one has to accept that Frank Aiken's initiative at that time was an enormous contribution towards world peace. As the Minister pointed out, Article 6 of the UN Charter contains the only multilateral legally binding commitment from the nuclear weapons states to nuclear disarmament.

Ireland was not long a member of the UN when we answered the call to send military observers into the Middle East and a Defence Forces contingent into the Congo. The sad legacy of that conflict resonates even to this day. Investigations are ongoing into the return of one of the tragic fatalities of the Defence Forces in that country. Since then, members of the Defence Forces and the Garda Síochána have served under the UN flag across the globe. Nothing embodies Ireland's commitment to the United Nations more tangibly, and nothing has brought greater honour to this State than the service and sacrifice of the Irish men and women who have worn the light blue beret with such distinction.

A modern historian has concluded that Ireland's independent role at the United Nations in that era from the 1950s on was, "planned far in advance, thoroughly reviewed by Irish diplomats, professionally implemented and ardently defended". That still remains the case today. I pay compliment to the skills of our diplomats in all the international fora in which Ireland is represented.

The Minister has highlighted Ireland's contribution to overseas aid. It is making a real difference to the lives of many thousands of people every day. Meeting the needs of the world's poorest and most vulnerable people is one of the great challenges of our time. There is a moral imperative to act and Ireland has a proud record in that regard. I am convinced that, notwithstanding the criticisms that legitimately or otherwise can be levelled at Irish foreign policy, if one were to ask the vast majority of people how they feel about our foreign policy, they would point immediately to overseas aid and UN peacekeeping as two positive and tangible examples of, not only Ireland's sovereignty but also of the esteem in which we are held internationally.

I referred earlier to Members of this House and others who are members of international bodies. I am sure colleagues would identify with my experience on the Council of Europe. As an Irish parliamentarian I regularly feel proud of the image and perception of Ireland that is held by international parliamentarians from countries in Europe and beyond. They have a positive image of our foreign policy and the way in which we go about our business. It is a noble cause on which we are embarked. There are many instances of Ireland's intervention to help those less well off, the vulnerable, the needy and those suffering human rights abuses. These have all been catalogued by the Minister, even down to the present day where he is again taking a strong, independent position in criticising the Mugabe regime. I compliment Senator Ross for raising the matter on the Adjournment of the House last night. It is vital we continue to do that.

Reference was made to Burma. The Minister of State, Deputy Treacy, represented this country at the recent ASEAN conference in south east Asia. Not only did he put forward the Irish position on the untenable nature of the Burma regime and the continuing captivity of Aung San Suu Kyi, but I know from speaking to him that he was involved in a one-to-one dialogue with the Myanmar Foreign Minister. In diplomatic terms, it could be said that an interesting exchange of views was made. I can assure the House the Minister of State was robust in putting forward the Irish position on the unacceptable nature of that regime. From my personal experience of talking to Ministers for Foreign Affairs and to Ministers of State in the Department of Foreign Affairs, whenever it has been necessary to assert the Irish position on human rights violations that have taken place, or where there are rogue regimes, Ireland has been to the fore in that regard.

I realise I have very little time left. There are many other areas to which I would wish to refer. I put on record the Government's continuing support for the UN, through the establishment of the United Nations Peacebuilding Commission and the fact Ireland has now set up a conflict resolution initiative in this country, which is a legacy of our peace process, an issue we have already debated in this House following the historic events in Belfast earlier this week.

Ireland's commitment to Africa is internationally recognised and appreciated, not only within Africa itself but by the international community. The Minister for Foreign Affairs has taken a robust position on Darfur. He has criticised the Sudanese Government for its lack of humanity and for refusing to allow a UN multilateral force into that sad country. I have already made brief reference to Myanmar.

Ireland, through the then Minister for Foreign Affairs, the late Brian Lenihan, was the first European country to commit to the establishment of a Palestinian state when it was not the most popular thing to do. Where I diverge from my colleagues on the other side of the House is that if this debate were to do nothing else, it would at least put forward the positive aspects of Irish foreign policy. This country traditionally does not do war, due to its small size, the fact we are not a military power, and that we were a former colonial dominated country, but we do peace and we do it very well. We do human rights, and we do it very well. I applaud those at all levels within the Irish diplomatic service and at a political level in the Department of Foreign Affairs for the continuing success of that twin policy that has established Ireland's role. To quote that often used cliché, we continue to punch above our weight. For a country of 4 million people on the periphery of Europe, the international prestige we have achieved through hard work is extraordinary. The countries we are now helping recognise that Ireland's colonial legacy has put us in a central position to understand and empathise with the problems that are occurring internationally.

I support the motion. If we had a plebiscite system and this request was put before the people for commendation it would be approved because every citizen would want our country to develop and implement an ethical foreign policy. When I read the wording of the motion I wondered if the Government would dare oppose the proposal by coming up with a ham-fisted amendment. Once again, it did not surprise me and produced the amendment on which the Minister spoke. It is disappointing that there is not unanimous support for the motion from our Independent colleagues because it would clearly represent the way the Irish people would wish our foreign policy to be implemented.

In defence of his amendment the Minister spoke about good intentions not being enough. He said we live in the real world and must try, to the best of our ability, to anticipate the outcome of our actions. What can we do in the various fora where we can play leading roles? We are now an established part of the European Union and at a time when new countries are joining the EU, Ireland can play a leading role but have we played our role in Europe to the maximum degree from a foreign policy perspective? We could make more progress on a number of areas including the Darfur question, Zimbabwe and Burma. Using our role in the European Union we should attempt to force greater European action to resolve those problems.

The problems in Darfur, which I have raised here on a number of occasions, continue to shock. They do not make front page headlines or the television coverage they deserves but the situation there is shocking and the European Union could and should be doing much more to demand and help implement a solution. Our Government should take a stronger line in that regard at European level.

Regarding Zimbabwe, most Members of the House will remember the situation in the former Rhodesia and the hope we all felt when the majority community was allowed to vote and dictate its own future but that hope and expectation has turned to despair. There should be a greater degree of political activity and response from our Minister on what is happening in Zimbabwe. I welcome Senator Ross's raising of the issue in the House last night because the disgraceful actions of Robert Mugabe, in particular the dreadful attacks on his own people, must continue to be highlighted.

Burma was mentioned by Senator Ryan. There is an opportunity for the Irish Government at EU level to keep that matter at the top of the political agenda.

Regarding the United Nations, where Ireland has played a long and distinguished role, we should be to the fore in reforming the United Nations as part of our broader foreign policy. While the UN has worked well over the years the new world order requires a new approach. A new management structure is required for the UN and a different type of funding. We should play a leading role in the reform of the United Nations and be sufficiently independent, not just on the European stage but on the world stage, to put UN reform at the top of our agenda.

There are many regions of the world on which Government pronouncements could and should be stronger, for example, China and the persecution of the practitioners of Falun Gong. A presentation was made to the Joint Committee on Foreign Affairs and the human rights sub-committee recently on the harvesting of organs from prisoners in what I would call concentration camps. It appears practitioners of Falun Gong are being targeted and Ireland should strongly express its views to the Chinese Government, not just to the ambassador in Dublin but further afield, and state clearly that the persecution of anybody in China, be it Falun Gong practitioners or members of other religious denominations, goes against everything for which we stand. We should not be afraid to do that.

Mention of China brings me to the issue of Tibet, which has been raised frequently and very effectively in this House by Senator Norris. This is yet another area of human rights concern worldwide but the growing economic development and expansion of China is making us too cautious in our willingness to call a political spade a spade. Ireland should make regular representations to the Chinese authorities on those issues.

The arms race was referred to by Senator Ryan. The Cold War is over but there has been a shocking speeding up of the arms race at a time when new countries are emerging with the possibility of nuclear weaponry. We must take a strong stance on the issue of nuclear proliferation. The nuclear issue is being resurrected in France and Britain and that gives us an opportunity to take a strong political stance on this issue. Our Government should not be silent on the matter.

Successive Governments have had a strong record on the issue of overseas aid and development. It is one area where the benefits of Irish foreign policy and the support of the Irish people is having a positive impact in the poorest countries worldwide, and I want that to continue.

The development and implementation of an ethical foreign policy should be at the core of the Iveagh House agenda. The motion before the House is worthy of support and I am disappointed that the Government amendment detracts from it.

It gives me great pleasure to second the amendment. It is an interesting motion but I wonder what it is meant to achieve. I believe it is an attempt to embarrass the Government but in that respect it fails because successive Governments have pursued an ethical foreign policy.

When Liam Cosgrave addressed the General Assembly of the United Nations he had to deal with two major events, namely the Suez invasion and the invasion of Hungary. The former demonstrated that old empires could no longer expect to ride roughshod over the interests of sovereign states and the latter exposed the ruthless brutality of a new form of tyranny. Over 30 years were to pass before Hungary was to finally regain its freedom. Liam Cosgrave made it crystal clear how Ireland felt about these actions, both of which underlined the volatility of international relations at the time.

A year later Frank Aiken reminded the General Assembly that another world war, whatever its cause, would neither democratise nor communise the world but annihilate it. Ireland became dedicated to the reduction of international tensions and, in particular, to arms control. Our efforts eventually bore fruit in the shape of the nuclear non-proliferation treaty.

As Senator Mooney said, we had not long been a member of the United Nations when we sent military observers into the Middle East and the Congo and we have since sent both the Garda Síochána and the Defence Forces into many places to serve under the United Nations flag. We were committed to such work and our special contribution to the cause of peace continues today in Liberia and other countries.

Foreign policy is set by Governments and Ministers but is carried out by diplomats. I pay tribute to our outstanding diplomats, past and present. Two in particular stand out, namely Freddie Boland, who was once president of the General Assembly, and the evergreen Conor Cruise O'Brien. A modern historian has concluded that Ireland's independent role at the United Nations in that era was planned far in advance, thoroughly reviewed by Irish diplomats, professionally implemented and ardently defended. Government and diplomatic service, therefore, worked together closely in establishing a tradition of well-considered support for effective multilateralism which has been a central feature of Ireland's foreign policy under successive Governments ever since.

As part of our aid programme we are committed to reaching the overseas development assistance target of 0.7% by 2012. The Government agencies' aid programme does not belong to the Government but to the people, who fund it through taxes, and Irish Aid is making a real difference to the lives of many thousands of people every day. While this work is carried out on behalf of the Irish public and with their money, it seems that many people are not aware of its extent.

We know from our long experience of peace-building and our recent term on the UN Security Council that where there is conflict, especially internal conflict, it is not enough to end the fighting. Preventing a return to fighting requires a strengthening of institutions, the reintegration of fighters into society and a reasonable prospect of social and economic progress. Yet the countries in question with weak institutions or none are those least likely to attract development funding and are most likely to once again fall into conflict. When we held the European Presidency we agreed with our European partners that there was a gap in the UN system and that the EU should propose to the high-level panel the creation of a political body to mobilise and co-ordinate resources to keep fragile states from reverting to conflict or falling into it in the first place.

Three key challenges face the world, which govern our foreign policy to a large extent. One is the achievement of sustainable development and the elimination of poverty and disease. The second is the promotion of universal human rights and the rule of law and the third is to ensure security, prevent conflict and end war. Our overseas aid target of 0.7% of gross national income by 2012 is three years ahead of the schedule of the European Union. We have published a White Paper clearly setting out our objectives in the context of the millennium development goals, with a special focus on Africa, poverty reduction, tackling hunger and HIV/AIDS.

There can be no lasting development or security without full respect for human rights. The human rights of the most vulnerable are especially important. I strongly welcome the recent conclusion of negotiations on the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities. However, human rights are no use if they are written down but not adhered to. An earlier speaker mentioned China, with whom we do business. It is a huge market but is responsible for terrible abuses of human rights. Some of the Senators who tabled the motion may query whether we should do business with a country that abuses people by, as Senator O'Toole said, cutting out their organs to sell, even if we make billions out of it. It has a one-child policy, among other things.

One of the challenges of foreign policy, even an ethical one, is to achieve the best we can in sometimes difficult situations, hoping that by doing business we can get people to see things our way, the democratic way, or to work more closely with the UN. Senator Mooney mentioned the ASEAN conference, one of which I attended in Vietnam two or three years ago. The case of Aung San Suu Kyi in Burma, or Myanmar, came up and I, along with many others, called for her to be released. It is only by constant pressure, however, that these things can be achieved.

On peace and security, Senator Mooney mentioned the peace-building commission. It must be properly resourced and we have committed €10 million to the fund. The single most important issue facing us is the Middle East and the dreadful events that happen there time and time again. We can blame whomever we like, and I know who that would be if were given the chance, but we must always consider what we can do to heal the situation. Ireland strongly supports the efforts to create a national unity government in Palestine and the Government has committed to a peace process reflecting the Quartet principles.

The international community must also be generous in its response. We acknowledge Israel's absolute right to exist in peace and security, which should be unchallenged. Not least in its own interest, however, Israel must engage seriously and openly with Palestinians. It must cease all activities, in particular the expansion of settlements, which are against international law and make a lasting peace harder to obtain. I was in Syria and Lebanon recently. I had previously been in Israel and could see the Golan Heights from both sides of the wall. They are occupied by strangers put in place by the Israelis and have no tie with the country except their religion. It is discriminatory.

I gleaned information while I was there to the effect that an agreement had been reached between the Syrians and the Israelis whereby the latter would pull out of the Golan Heights and the former return to them, with the proviso that the Israelis be allowed to patrol them at any time they wanted. The agreement was vetoed by Washington. Again, during the fighting between Hizbollah and the Israeli defence forces a number of attempts were made by both sides to stop the war but each time Israel was instructed by Washington to continue. We could get involved in this area and should never be afraid to do so.

On nuclear non-proliferation, we want to see a diplomatic solution to Iran's nuclear programme and call on Iran to respond positively and rapidly to wide ranging proposals being put to it. Equally we support the same efforts in respect of the six-party talks in North Korea.

I support the amendment. I understand the frustrations of some Senators who have looked at our foreign policy and do not understand it. I do not understand every aspect of it myself but I believe successive Governments have done their best. I welcome the Minister of State to the House and am glad to see him occupying a chair which his noble father occupied many a time before him.

I also welcome the Minister of State to the House. It is not the first time he has been in the House.

I had no problems adding my name to a motion of Seanad Éireann calling on the Government to develop and implement an ethical foreign policy, but the interesting word is "develop". Nobody can complain about developing an ethical foreign policy. That is not to suggest that the policy is not ethical already but it suggests it could be further developed.

Irish people have been proud of our foreign policy over the years. I recall that Frank Aiken stood out against the general foreign policy line by claiming that we should recognise red China, as it was then known, against the wishes of our American friends. When Charles Haughey was Taoiseach it was decided not to support Britain in the Malvinas war. Senator Norris gives that war another name but people who have been to Argentina know the correct name for the place.

I use Mrs. Thatcher's phraseology and praise the Minister of State, DeputyHaughey's, father for his rebuttal of her.

Hear, hear. It was in 1982.

There has been particular mention of the fact that we call ourselves neutral. I am not sure that we are neutral between good and evil but we are a non-aligned nation, with an involvement in the United Nations. I recall going to Baldonnel in 1961 to watch the first airplanes carry Irish troops away to the Congo. There was a real sense of pride in the nation. We have had a foreign policy of which we can be proud. The other aspect of our foreign policy has been overseas aid.

There has been a moral and ethical policy throughout those years. There is one exception. I believe Ireland has not taken a balanced view with regard to Israel. The voices we hear in the House tend to condemn Israel on practically every occasion so I wish to put a balancing argument against that viewpoint.

God almighty.

I object to the number of occasions the word "occupation" is used with regard to Israel and the West Bank.

That is what it is legally.

I am not sure that is correct.

I am sure, and I have been there.

I have been to Israel as well. I will outline a little of the history. After the 1967 war Israel offered a deal of land for peace. That was turned down and the Arab summit held in Khartoum immediately afterwards arrived at its triple negative resolution — no negotiations, no recognition and no peace. That is the line Hamas and Fatah have taken over the years. Achieving peace in Northern Ireland has not been easy but at least we sought a way of reconciliation in some form or other, rather than insisting everything must be totally black or white. Hopefully, from 8 May there will be peace in Northern Ireland.

However, there is no sign of that peace arriving in the Middle East, particularly for Israel, in the Hamas attitude. It continues to hold the three negatives of no negotiations, no recognition and no peace. Its twin objectives are the end of Israel and the establishment of an Islamic republic from Jordan to the Mediterranean. I believe there must be a balance on this issue. It is not easy to solve the problem of the Middle East but we must attempt to get that balance. The objective of countries such as Iran, who say they want to wipe Israel from the face of the earth, is similar to that of Fatah and Hamas. There must be balance and I am not sure that Irish agencies and Government representatives seek that balance strongly enough. It appears that we are continually afraid to criticise the Arab viewpoint, particularly the viewpoint so strongly voiced in that area.

Look at what happened in the case of Egypt. When Egypt bravely decided to recognise Israel, the Israelis left the Sinai and even abandoned a town they had built there. Since then there has been peace on that 166 mile border. Jordan, too, decided to recognise Israel and abandoned claims to the West Bank. There has been peace along that 149 mile border as well. However, what happened when Israel decided to leave Gaza last year? As soon as it left, those who took over, Hamas and Fatah, poured bombs and rockets into Israel. When Israel left Lebanon, and that was a difficult time——

What about the rockets and bombs the Israelis poured on top of people and the many casualties?

The Israelis were in Lebanon because they had been attacked from there over the years but they left it voluntarily. As soon as they did, the bombs and rockets were launched from there as well. I am not defending the situation or trying to make it simple or easy. However, I believe there has not been the balance of interests and moderation that is required if peace is to be achieved there.

Israel was recognised by the League of Nations in 1924 and by the United Nations in 1947.

We recognise the legitimate government of Palestine.

However, the Arab League has responded by urging that the state of Israel be wiped out. I am seeking to achieve a balance in our viewpoint. I do not believe that balance is heard regularly in this House. I am sure there is a strong opposing case to be made but the fact that I am not making that case is because it has so often been made in so many other ways in the past.

Israel is the only state in the region where there is a free Arab trade union. It is the only state that grants full equality to women and to gays.

It does not grant full equality to Arabs. It forbids inter-racial marriage.

Israeli Arabs have their own free press, free trade union and free television stations. I am concerned about the unbalanced nature of the words used in Ireland about Israel. I believe Israel does not get the fair hearing it needs. When we talk about an ethical, moral and fair foreign policy, we should include a fair, ethical and moral viewpoint on the balance of interests in that difficult region and take account of the fact that the voice of Israel should at least be heard.

I wish to share time with Senator Mansergh. I was taken aback by the text of the motion. I am sure the Minister for Foreign Affairs, Deputy Dermot Ahern, was equally surprised by the text. I agree that all good governments should have an ethical foreign policy and that it should be the basic tenet with which any sophisticated, democratic nation conducts its foreign affairs. However, I am surprised that Senator Norris believes this Government must develop such a policy because usually he is fair in his assessments. He appears to be misguided. The Minister, his Department and the Government have been pursuing an ethical foreign policy.

Consider some of the issues the Department has been working on recently. The Minister outlined them earlier. The Department and the Minister have been pushing for the United Nations Security Council to consider further measures against Sudan. It is seeking to ensure that the country has sufficient peacekeeping support and humanitarian aid, and that the vulnerable people of Darfur are protected. What is this, if not an ethical foreign policy? The Senator will acknowledge that there is little economic or other selfish interest to be gained by the Government in these endeavours. Was the provision of €5 million in funding to the African Union mission that is helping peace building in Sudan also not an ethical act? What about the €29.7 million that has been provided in emergency and recovery funding to Sudan by the Government since 2004?

These are not the only recent examples of ethical activity. The Minister of State, Deputy Treacy, took the opportunity of the recent EU and Association of South East Asian Nations meeting to raise Ireland's concern about the human rights situation in Burma and to call for the release of prominent political prisoners. These concerns were expressed directly to the Foreign Minister of Burma.

Earlier today the Minister of State, Deputy Treacy, again emphasised the ethical nature of the Government's foreign policy when he stated the Government's opposition to nuclear weaponry and urged the nuclear states to undertake a policy of disarmament. I could also refer to the Minister for Foreign Affairs, Deputy Dermot Ahern, condemning the violence of Zimbabwe, the new five-year multi-annual agreement the Government has introduced for the aid agency, Christian Aid, or the pledge of extra funding for the United Nations assistance mission in Iraq. The examples of the Government being ethical are endless. We can consider the active participation by the Government with United Nations, European Union and the Council of Europe regarding human rights. On the question of extraordinary rendition and prisoners being transferred through Ireland, I accept assurances from the Minister and I know what he is saying is correct.

The Minister did not answer the question he was asked and the same goes for the Senator.

When talking about something being ethical we are talking about moral principles. The problem with moral principles is that they vary from person to person. When two people are asked their views on any controversial area and they will invariably give two different answers. No two people share the exact same moral principles just as no two people share the exact same opinions.

Does the Senator mean that using torture is a good idea?

Effectively that is what the motion comes down to. Senator Norris may have different views on how the Government should implement foreign policy. I have no difficulty with that. He is entitled to think that way and express his views on areas in which he believes the Government should act differently. I am delighted with and have great confidence in the Minister, Deputy Dermot Ahern, and his approach. The Government is behaving ethically and morally in dealing with foreign affairs.

I would belong to the school of ethical realism. Foreign policy is about promoting the interests and ideals of the state. One should promote the ideals of the state with least damage to one's interests and promote the interests of the state with least damage to one's ideals.

At least that is honest.

Over the years going back to Éamon de Valera Irish foreign policy has had a very high ethical content but not totally divorced from interests. For example, we eschew the use of force, but of course, we do not have any force to use. Unfortunately the term "ethical foreign policy" is a rather discredited term from British politics. The former British Foreign Secretary, Robin Cook, used the term and was then laughed to scorn when people saw the scale of arms sales, etc.

I have mentioned that.

Unfortunately four years ago when it was launched, the Iraq war was seen by US President Bush and the British Prime Minister, Mr. Blair, as exemplifying an ethical foreign policy. I am very suspicious of moral crusades particularly ones using force to justify a position. One should not overdo the high ethical content because very often it is compatible with very shabby practices, as we know.

I wish to respond to what Senator Quinn said. Unfortunately I did not hear the previous contribution. I agree that contributions to the Middle East are very often unbalanced in one direction or the other. I believe that a policy of constructive engagement with Hamas is required. That is, after all, what brought success to the peace process. It is entirely unreasonable to suggest that recognition of the state of Israel be a precondition for any kind of engagement. It would be like insisting that changing Articles 2 and 3 should have been a precondition of any negotiations on Northern Ireland.

I am sorry that we are approaching a general election. I received an invitation — I will not be more specific than this — to go to talk in a very distant part of the world to certain groups in the Middle East about the Irish peace process. In any other circumstances I would have gone because I believe exchanges about experiences are important. Senator Quinn claimed we are very hard on Israel. The problem with the Middle East is that the United States is exceptionally soft on Israel.

Hear, hear.

Hear, hear.

That is why we have the problems we have. I have perfect sympathy with Israel's right to exist within recognised borders. However, it has not recognised the displacement and dislodgement of people who have been put into an area. I recognise the Jewish people have had huge hurts and grievances historically — above all in the mid-20th century. However, it has not accepted the harm caused by displacement. There are certain parallels with the plantation of Ulster 400 years ago.


Those insights need to be got across. The balance of power is with Israel, which has not done enough to try to consolidate relations with its neighbours. I accept that at times its neighbours have been very difficult and nearly impossible. A considerable amount could be learnt from the Northern Ireland peace process by all the different participants.

I welcome the Minister to the House. I suspect my colleagues who tabled the motion did so with extraordinary rendition or something similar in mind. We have discussed that issue in the Seanad already this year. I have no doubt that public pressure about suspected flights pushed the Government to request the guarantees it received from the US Administration. If there were flights carrying prisoners or airplanes landing on their way to get prisoners, I am sure they discontinued at that point because of the media and public attention and because of our Ministers raising the matter. I am reiterating a point I made on that day, namely that it was our Minister, Deputy Dermot Ahern, who first raised the matter of extraordinary rendition in Europe.

I agree with Senator Norris's views on US Secretary of State, Condoleezza Rice — I do not believe a word out of her mouth. I do not mind putting it on the record, that President Bush is the worst American President in the history of the United States.

Hear, hear.

The damage he has done to peace, international stability, the American economy and the United States abroad has been disastrous. The quicker he goes the better. The US Secretary of State, Condoleezza Rice, visited Brussels as a result of our Minister applying pressure regarding extraordinary rendition. This demonstrates our intention to deny any support for it. I find the argument on both sides strange. They do not seem to come together. Those who support flights and those who do not support them do not seem to come together and clarify that we do not support extraordinary rendition. The other side does not say, "We know you don't support rendition."

The issue of extraordinary rendition offered us an opportunity to be a leader on the international stage by pressing for the review and updating of the 1944 Chicago Convention, which governs the information given about flights. We should show initiative in this area, which is of concern to all European countries. I blame US President Bush for what is happening in Iraq and for international instability. It is too bad that it has seriously damaged the political legacy of the British Prime Minister, Tony Blair. We could not have achieved the agreement reached last Monday without the support of Tony Blair. It is sad that this is his legacy because he has no other. His reputation is tarnished and damaged. Undoubtedly, the roles played by the Irish and British Government in the North are a role model for peace. Will people stop laughing when I am speaking?

Through the Chair.

It unnerves me when people laugh. It is hard to concentrate.

Senator White should continue.

In respect of the success of the peace process in the North, ultimately, dialogue had to take place. I have said before in this House that dialogue, rather than physical force, is necessary. We need dialogue in the Middle East. Ireland will be a role model around the world and I have no doubt that Senator Mansergh will be invited to visit places on many occasions because Fr. Alec Reid is working intensively and passionately on the situation in the Basque country. Hopefully, in time, Senator Mansergh will be able to give his attention to these issues.

The other area I wish to discuss is Ireland's long-standing support for UN peacekeeping. This is one of the most tangible expressions of our principles and values in foreign relations. I draw attention to the fact that the Captain of the Guard, Comdt. John Flaherty; the Superintendent of the Houses of the Oireachtas, Comdt. Paul Conway; and one of the ushers, Mr. Mick Phelan, who is here in the Chamber, all served with UN peacekeeping and did us proud. Coming from a country which was colonised for 800 years, we understand and identify with underdeveloped and developing countries. We have empathy with developing countries and this is why we give aid, which will come to €650 million this year. There will be people born in Third World and developing countries today who will live healthy lives as a result of the aid we give. I wish to put on record my thanks for those I have named who have served with UN peacekeeping.

Hear, hear. Well said.

An bhfuil tú ag éisteacht liom, Mr. Phelan?

Through the Chair.

Gabh mo leithscéal.

Protocol and decorum.

I was very pleased to hear the Minister draw attention in his speech to the situation in Zimbabwe. I find the tacit support of the South African Government for President Mugabe hard to take given that the South African population was trampled and walked upon. The population in Zimbabwe is being trampled and walked upon, but the South African Government will not defend them.

In his speech, the Minister said that he joined his EU colleagues in holding the Zimbabwean Government responsible for the safety of the opposition leader, Morgan Tsvangirai. He stated:

On behalf of the Irish Government, I call for his immediate and unconditional release and that of his colleagues. Our concerns about his arrest, however, do not stop there. His arrest and the actions of the authorities raise fundamental questions about President Mugabe's respect for basic democratic norms, fundamental freedoms and the rule of law.

The Senator has one minute left.

Today in this House, our Minister for Foreign Affairs called on the Zimbabwean Government to change course, respect the rule of law and respond to the clear suffering of the people in Zimbabwe.

I wish to put on record the joy I felt in 1982 when the former Taoiseach, Charles Haughey, had the courage to take a neutral stance on the Falklands War. I was so proud and knew that as a small country, we felt tremendous pride when the Secretary General of the Department of Foreign Affairs proudly spoke on the steps of UN headquarters and when we took an independent position and did not back the former British Prime Minister, Margaret Thatcher. Subsequently, Mrs. Thatcher had a serious falling out with Mr. Haughey, which affected the Northern Ireland peace process. It took tremendous courage on the part of Mr. Haughey to do this on that occasion.

I thank all my colleagues who took part in this debate. It is a pity the Minister paid such a flying visit. I wish he had been here to listen to some of my comments and tried to answer them. He simply obfuscated. Questions were not answered, which was extremely disappointing.

I contrast this with the refreshingly honest, though sadly short, speech of Senator Mansergh because he understood exactly what I was getting at and said clearly and directly that what he felt was necessary for this country and others was a kind of realpolitik. Did I hear a slight variation? Was it echtpolitik? I thought he might have made that little distinction, which would, no doubt, be lost on many of our listeners. Senator Mansergh argued that its aim was to pursue the interests of the State.

And ideals.

Yes, but the interests came first. Senator Mansergh did not put the ideals first, which is very telling. That is a position. It is a very old-fashioned 19th-century position. In a world that is globalised, it is no longer relevant. It is the one thing that will get us into trouble. At least, that is my opinion. However, Senator Mansergh was honest and open and dealt with it.

If, by realpolitik, he means we must talk to people we do not particularly respect or admire, he is right. Certainly, in respect of the Middle East, I would be far closer to his analysis than that of my friend and colleague, Senator Quinn. It is astonishing that we should talk about balance and not realise that it is quite the opposite direction to that suggested by Senator Quinn. The balance is against the unfortunate Palestinians who have been hammered into the ground. Look at the language used. When half the Members of the Palestinian Parliament is snatched and kidnapped, we are told they are detained. When two soldiers in a war situation are taken, they are kidnapped. There is no balance. Funds are being illegally kept away from a legitimate government. It may be regrettable, but it was elected. Do we believe in democracy? Not, it seems, when it comes to the Palestinians.

I was one of those who were crucially involved in the establishment of the first Israeli embassy here and have supported and continue to support the State of Israel, but I will not support any government, however close to it I am, that violates human rights. I have said the same about the British Government in respect of the appalling vista. It is time we grew up and faced these things. If the British Government was involved and implicated in bombings and so on, we must know about it to ensure it never happens again.

I have visited places like Twane and Sysia, which are little villages around south Hebron where I am glad to say my former partner, Ezra Yitzrak, whose life is under threat from American settlers, has worked. It sickens me when I hear these people with twangy American voices speak as spokespersons for the Israeli Government and deny the rights of people who have been there for 500, 1,000 and 1,500 years. I have seen what has happened there. I know I will lose votes for saying it, but I will never stop doing so because I do not believe just in Jewish rights, Christian rights or Muslim rights. I believe in human rights for all people.

I am involved in a situation where a small town was demolished and a settlement built on it. This is in the occupied territories and I remind Senator Quinn that it is an occupation. It has been determined to be an occupation under international law and there is no getting away from that. It is also an illegal occupation. In that area, they moved the people out, built their settlement on top of it and employed the Arabs who were displaced to build the houses of their oppressors. Now that the work is finished, they are demolishing the poor, unfortunate makeshift shacks and hovels they have and depriving them of the most basic levels of sanitation and health care. I consider that an outrage and have a video of this incident which I will show to the Oireachtas Joint Committee on Foreign Affairs.

As someone who is so moved about the Holocaust, it shocks me to see young Israeli soldiers — men and women — laughing, sneering and ridiculing elderly and infirm people as the bulldozers smashed down their pathetic little dwellings. That is not moral, it is disgusting. There is an apartheid system in Israel at the moment, with the development of ghettos. I know that angers my Jewish friends and so it should. It is not the word that should anger them, however, but the reality on the ground that I have seen. It has shamed me and I honour those people like Ezra who stand up against it. I also honour the 19 air force pilots who refused to bomb the occupied territories because it was against international law.

We had an appalling exhibition by the Minister who did not do me the courtesy of coming in and listening to what I had to say. He obfuscated again and answered questions that had not been asked. We know that airplanes were refuelled. Senator White made a reasonable point that perhaps they stopped because of pressure from us. The Minister said we have a great foreign policy and that our approach to Darfur, Zimbabwe and Burma is not motivated by self interest. Of course it is not — we do not have any interests there, so it is easy to say that.

We know they use torture, including water-boarding, and Condoleezza Rice has admitted it. I want the House to listen to a description of water-boarding from an American practitioner who eventually decided to give up this horrible practice. I remind the House that torture is defined by the United Nations as follows: "Any act by which severe pain or suffering, whether physical or mental, is intentionally inflicted on a person for such purposes as obtaining from him or a third person information or a confession". This is what the man who practised water-boarding had to say about it:

Water-boarding is a torture, period. I ran a water-board team and administered dozens of students through the process as a tool to show what the worst looks like, short of death. This is why there is a doctor and psychologist standing right next to the student — to do it safe and help the student recover. It is not a simulation. When applied you are in fact drowning at a controlled rate. We just determine how much and how long you'll break. Everyone breaks.

It has nothing to do with foreign policy.

Senator Norris is out of time.

Fine but I am going to make a final point. We have recently seen this business of the Australian, David Hicks, confessing. Is it any surprise, since he spent five years under these conditions? I have his description of what happened. He had to lie on the floor with very few clothes, the air-conditioning is kept on full so he shivers all the time. He said to another detainee——

This has nothing to do with foreign policy.

The Senator should shut up. He was laughing earlier on and distracting people.

Senator Norris, please.

It has nothing to do with this.

Just listen to this. Hicks said to another detainee: "When you get out of here, please tell people my sanity is at risk".

This has absolutely nothing to do with Irish foreign policy.

He was attempting to commit suicide. Is it any wonder that he changed his mind?

Senator Norris is out of time.

It had nothing to do with me. That is very unfair.

I did not say the Senator was laughing at me.

It has nothing to do with foreign policy.

Amendment put.
The Seanad divided: Tá, 25; Níl, 12.

  • Brady, Cyprian.
  • Brennan, Michael.
  • Cox, Margaret.
  • Daly, Brendan.
  • Dardis, John.
  • Dooley, Timmy.
  • Feeney, Geraldine.
  • Glynn, Camillus.
  • Hanafin, John.
  • Kenneally, Brendan.
  • Kitt, Michael P.
  • Leyden, Terry.
  • Lydon, Donal J.
  • Mansergh, Martin.
  • Minihan, John.
  • Mooney, Paschal C.
  • Morrissey, Tom.
  • Moylan, Pat.
  • O’Brien, Francis.
  • O’Rourke, Mary.
  • Ormonde, Ann.
  • Phelan, Kieran.
  • Scanlon, Eamon.
  • White, Mary M.
  • Wilson, Diarmuid.


  • Bradford, Paul.
  • Browne, Fergal.
  • Burke, Paddy.
  • Burke, Ulick.
  • Finucane, Michael.
  • McHugh, Joe.
  • Norris, David.
  • Phelan, John.
  • Quinn, Feargal.
  • Ross, Shane.
  • Ryan, Brendan.
  • Terry, Sheila.
Tellers: Tá, Senators Minihan and Moylan; Níl, Senators Norris and Quinn.
Amendment declared carried.
Motion, as amended, put and declared carried.