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Taoiseach's Meetings and Engagements

Dáil Éireann Debate, Tuesday - 10 November 2015

Tuesday, 10 November 2015

Questions (14, 15, 16, 17, 18)

Micheál Martin

Question:

14. Deputy Micheál Martin asked the Taoiseach if he had bilateral meetings around the meeting between the European Union and the Community of Latin American and Caribbean States held on 10 June 2015; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [24525/15]

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Gerry Adams

Question:

15. Deputy Gerry Adams asked the Taoiseach if he will report on the European Union and the Community of Latin American and Caribbean States summit that he attended in June 2015; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [31692/15]

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Gerry Adams

Question:

16. Deputy Gerry Adams asked the Taoiseach if he will report on his conversations with European Union leaders at the European Union and the Community of Latin American and Caribbean States summit in June 2015; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [31693/15]

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Gerry Adams

Question:

17. Deputy Gerry Adams asked the Taoiseach if he will report on bilateral meetings he held while attending the European Union, Community of Latin American and Caribbean States summit in June 2015; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [31694/15]

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Gerry Adams

Question:

18. Deputy Gerry Adams asked the Taoiseach if he spoke to the British Prime Minister, Mr. David Cameron, at the European Union and the Community of Latin American and Caribbean States summit in June 2015; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [31695/15]

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Oral answers (8 contributions) (Question to Taoiseach)

I propose to take Questions Nos. 14 to 18, inclusive, together.

The EU and the Community of Latin American and Caribbean States, CELAC, summit of heads of State and Government which took place in Brussels on 10 and 11 June on the theme, "shaping our common future: working for prosperous, cohesive and sustainable societies for our citizens" was the eighth bi-regional meeting between the EU and the 33 countries of the Latin American and Caribbean region since the partnership was founded 16 years ago. It was also the second summit with the recently established CELAC as the EU’s counterpart. The summit was chaired jointly by European Council President Tusk and by President Correa of Ecuador, which currently holds the presidency of CELAC.

The format of the summit involved two working group sessions and a discussion session. I attended both working group sessions and spoke on the theme of re-invigorating the bi-regional partnership. The Minister of State at the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade, Deputy Dara Murphy, attended the less formal discussion session on 11 June on my behalf. In my intervention I supported closer ties between the EU and CELAC and raised the key global challenges of development and climate change, our priorities with regard to human rights, disarmament and conflict resolution as well as the importance of 2015 for global co-operation. I noted the historic opportunity this year provides for global consensus on many of the key challenges we face, particularly the UN’s post-2015 development agenda, where Ireland was one of the UN co-facilitators for the final negotiations, and efforts to tackle climate change.

The main outcome documents of the summit were the political declaration, entitled A Partnership for the Next Generation, and an action plan which I am circulating with my reply. The focus of the action plan is on areas including science, research, innovation and technology, sustainable development, environment, climate change, energy, regional integration and education to promote social inclusion and cohesion.

On the margins of the summit I had three bilateral meetings with the Presidents of Chile, Colombia and Mexico. In my meeting with President Bachelet Jeria of Chile, I expressed my congratulations on the Start-up Chile programme and my appreciation that Irish entrepreneurs have had the opportunity to participate in the programme. I also extended an invitation to the President to visit Ireland. During my conversation with President Juan Manuel Santos of Colombia, I noted Ireland’s support for the peace process in Colombia, the efforts of the Colombian Government to promote human rights and Ireland’s recent ratification of the EU, Colombia, Peru Free Trade Agreement as well as an interest in growing our relations with Colombia. I also noted that the Vice-Minister for Foreign Affairs of Colombia, Ms Patti Londoño, was due to visit Ireland on 17 and 18 June 2015. She subsequently did so and met with the Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade, Deputy Charlie Flanagan. I would like to take the opportunity to welcome warmly the appointment of the former Tánaiste, Deputy Eamon Gilmore, to the role of EU Special Envoy for the peace process in Colombia. I wish Deputy Gilmore every success in the important task of spearheading the EU's support for Colombia's efforts to build a lasting peace for the benefit of all its people.

I also met with President Peña Nieto of Mexico and discussed trade issues between Ireland and Mexico with him as well as the EU-Mexico Global Agreement. I reiterated an invitation extended by President Michael D. Higgins in Mexico in 2013 to the President to visit Ireland.

I meet regularly with my European counterparts and while we met informally at this summit, I did not have substantive meetings with them. I met most recently with Prime Minister Cameron yesterday in London.

I thank the Taoiseach for his reply. I welcome the aforementioned action plan and the issues it addresses, including sustainable development, climate change, trade and various other matters. Obviously the Taoiseach did not meet the President of Bolivia at the summit or discuss the ongoing issue of the very unsatisfactory follow through by the Bolivian Government on the execution or murder of Michael Dwyer from County Tipperary a number of years ago. I know the Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade, Deputy Charles Flanagan, recently met the Bolivian President and has been involved with the case. There is now a commitment, as I understand it, to an international, independent investigation. At the time of that execution there was much written in the media which was unfair to Michael Dwyer and his family. His mother has fought a very courageous campaign over quite a number of years. Did the Taoiseach have any contact with the Bolivian Government on this issue? The obfuscation and the stonewalling nature of its response over the years is extremely unsatisfactory. The prosecution case never really hung together and has now fallen apart completely. Essentially Mr. Dwyer was executed in a hotel bedroom by Government forces which raises issues for us, diplomatically, in terms of our relationship with the Bolivian Government, at least until the issue is resolved to some degree. When I say resolved, I mean that some level of disclosure and honesty is required of the Bolivian Government in the context of what happened.

I ask the Taoiseach to indicate if he had any briefings on the Cuban situation, particularly the moves by President Obama to change the relationship between the United States and Cuba, and whether that has been reflected on the EU front, in terms of changing the paradigm. I believe I was the first Minister for Foreign Affairs to visit Cuba some years ago, following prompting by the Spanish Foreign Affairs Minister at the time-----

I ask Deputy Martin to give way to Deputy Adams.

I am interested to know if the Taoiseach had any briefings or heard any commentary about how both Europe and the Caribbean and Latin American States see the evolution of Cuba in the short to medium term.

Finally, were there any functions involving Enterprise Ireland in the context of Latin America, including Brazil and Mexico? Some years ago Enterprise Ireland identified Latin America as a potential market for the penetration of Irish goods and services. It has not been, from what I can gather, as effective as we might have thought. I would like the Taoiseach to provide any updates he may have received during his visit and to outline his thoughts on that matter.

I was reminded during my recent visit to Cuba of the enormous historical links that exist between Ireland and Latin America. Apart from anything else, there are half a million or more citizens in that part of the world who claim Irish descent. There has been a huge change in the politics of that region. I commend Presidents Obama and Castro for the new accord which has developed and for the courage they have shown in terms of the initiatives to normalise the relationship between their two countries. However, I think we can play a more positive role because while the US President has used some executive powers to remove some aspects of the blockade, it still remains in place.

Ireland could play a very positive role in encouraging a complete end to the blockade.

Trade between the State and Latin America is worth €3 billion annually. I am convinced trade between the entire island and Latin America could be improved if we were imaginative about it. I met some of the negotiators involved in the Colombian peace process. I very much welcome the positive role certain countries - Norway and, in particular, Cuba - have played in that peace process. The Cuban President, Raúl Castro, hosted a press conference at which the Colombian President and the leader of the FARC rebel group shook hands, which was a remarkable breakthrough. A timeframe of six months has been set for achieving a final agreement.

I also welcome the appointment of Deputy Eamon Gilmore as the European Union's envoy for the peace process in Colombia and I wish him well in that role. Sinn Féin is committed to providing whatever support and help it can to anyone in the region. Given our background, the Government can play a role in this regard. However, we must ensure bilateralism prevails in the Colombian peace process. It must not only be about ending war. While ending the war is crucially important, we have to build democracy and peace and this must be based on people's rights. A bilateral cessation would be very helpful in Colombia because a unilateral cessation by one side is in place at the moment.

I have to interrupt the Deputy because his time has concluded.

I will finish on the following point. I support the Dwyer family in their call for a fully independent international inquiry into the state killing of Michael Dwyer. Having watched a television programme about the case recently, I hope the Government will give the family as much support as possible.

I am glad Deputy Adams welcomed the action plan. In respect of the Dwyer case, I briefed President Michael D. Higgins recently on the legislative programme and so on and an tUachtarán undertook to raise the matter directly with President Morales of Bolivia during his visit to this country. I am sure we will receive a report on the matter.

In regard to Mexico, the country is the focus of much more intense interest from Ireland. In recent years, we sent senior Ministers to Mexico to attend engagements during St. Patrick's week. The Minister for Health, Deputy Varadkar, visited the country last year, the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform, Deputy Howlin, visited in the past fortnight and other Ministers have visited previously. We should, at an appropriate time, send a serious trade mission to Mexico, a country where much activity is taking place.

On 27 October 2014, Ireland voted at the United Nations General Assembly to lift the embargo against Cuba. We welcome the decision by President Obama and President Castro to restore diplomatic relations. This holds the potential for serious economic development and opportunities for people in Cuba and many other countries.

I will leave it at that as we have run out of time.

Written Answers follow Adjournment.
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