Wednesday, 25 September 2019

Questions (51)

Seán Crowe


51. Deputy Seán Crowe asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade if a report will be provided on his meeting with the Colombian Minister of Foreign Affairs in Dublin on 17 September 2019; if he offered further support from Ireland to the Colombian peace process; if concerns were raised regarding the increase in attacks and assassination of social and political leaders in Colombia; if he shared his concern that the attacks and assassinations are happening with impunity and undermining the peace process; and if he raised concerns with the minister regarding human rights abuses and environmental degradation at the Cerrejón coal mine, which provides a significant amount of coal for Moneypoint power station, County Clare. [38953/19]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Foreign)

I was very pleased to welcome Minister of Foreign Affairs of Colombia, H.E. Carlos Holmes Trujillo García, to Dublin last month. This visit was a demonstration of the excellent bilateral relations between Ireland and Colombia, which have been going from strength to strength since the recent opening of our respective Embassies in Bogotá and Dublin. Foreign Minister Trujillo also had an opportunity to meet with members of this House during an appearance before the Joint Committee on Foreign Affairs and Trade.

My meeting with Foreign Minister Trujillo was an opportunity to take stock of this important relationship and to discuss priorities moving forward. There is significant cooperation between our two countries in a number of areas, as demonstrated by the visits last month of a number of Colombian state agencies to Ireland. We discussed this cooperation and the areas on which we will continue to focus, such as trade, investment, agriculture, science, research, innovation and cooperation at the multilateral level.

I also underlined the ongoing support of Ireland to Colombia in the implementation of its peace agreement, including dealing with setbacks arising from violence. I assured Minister Trujillo that we see our partnership with Colombia in sharing experience of peace-building as a long term commitment. We agreed that we had much to learn from each other as we strive to build and maintain peace in our two countries.

Ireland has contributed more than €14 million in support of the peace process in Colombia since 2007, mainly channelled through the United Nations, and Colombian and international NGOs focusing on human rights, conflict prevention, peace-building and supporting livelihoods for rural populations.

We will continue to provide support to the Colombian peace process through funding to international organisations, but also through lesson sharing programmes between Ireland and Colombia, based on our own experience of peace building on this island.

My Department supported the travel of three experts from Northern Ireland to Colombia in June to engage with the Government on key elements of the peace agreement and its implementation. Officials at my Department in Dublin were also pleased to meet last month with Dr. Emilio Archila, Presidential Counsellor for Stabilisation and Consolidation of Colombia, who is responsible for the implementation of the peace accords.

The peace process is fundamental to improving the human rights situation in the country, which I am aware is difficult for many human rights defenders across Colombia, including those in La Guajira region protesting the practices of the Cerrejón mine. Officials at our Embassy in Bogotá are due to travel to La Guajira region this week to meet with relevant stakeholders, including human rights defenders, civil society organisations, and representatives of the private sector in the area, including the Cerrejón mine. I look forward to receiving the report of this visit. I have also written to the CEO of the ESB requesting further information on their dealings with Cerrejón.

Ireland remains committed to supporting the full implementation of the peace accords in Colombia to ensure a more peaceful future for all Colombians. We will continue to work with the Government of Colombia and with our EU partners to ensure a coordinated and effective approach that best supports the peace process.