Tuesday, 17 September 2019

Questions (61)

Seán Crowe


61. Deputy Seán Crowe asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade if his attention has been drawn to the fact that a lawsuit (details supplied) in Colombia has been filed by two communities in La Guajira, four national NGOs and three members of the National Congress of Colombia; if the case is being tracked by his Department in view of its connection in Ireland; and if the ESB has been briefed by his Department on the case in view of the fact it buys significant amounts of coal from the mine and the commitments of his Department regarding the National Plan on Business and Human Rights 2017-2020. [37240/19]

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Written answers (Question to Foreign)

I am aware of the matter to which the Deputy refers, and of the issues that have been raised regarding the Cerrejón mine by environmental and indigenous rights activists in La Guajira. I remain concerned at reports of the activities of the mine having a detrimental impact on the environment and on local communities.

As I have stated previously, matters related to the ESB fall under the remit of my colleague, the Minister for Communications, Climate Action and Environment. However, as Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade, I have written to the ESB requesting further information on this issue, which I will be happy to share once received.

Officials at my Department in Dublin and at our Embassy in Bogotá have been monitoring this situation closely and engaging with relevant stakeholders. Officials have met with representatives of the mine and have discussed the human rights issues that have been raised by civil society groups in the area. Officials have also discussed the situation with partner organisations in Colombia involved in monitoring human rights in the area, and intend to visit La Guajira, where the mine is located, in the near future.

The relationship between business and human rights is fundamental to securing a society that works for all citizens, and this is a priority for me and my Department. In November 2017, my Department launched the National Plan on Business and Human Rights 2017 -2020 to give effect to the UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights. The aim of the Plan is to promote responsible business practices at home and overseas by all Irish business enterprises in line with Ireland’s commitment to the promotion and protection of human rights globally. The Plan is directed at Government and State agencies, Irish companies operating at home and overseas, and multinational enterprises operating in Ireland.

The establishment of the Business and Human Rights Implementation Group was a key commitment of the National Plan. The Implementation Group, established in December 2018, is mandated to meet at least twice per year. I was pleased to be able to participate in the inaugural meeting of the Group on 16 January 2019. The Implementation Group went on to hold its first working meeting on 3 April 2019 and is scheduled to meet again in October.

My Department and I will continue to monitor this situation closely and engage with relevant stakeholders on the important issues raised by civil society groups regarding the mine.