Human Rights

Questions (52)

Maureen O'Sullivan

Question:

52. Deputy Maureen O'Sullivan asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade if progress has been made on the number of Basques in prison five years after ETA ceased the armed struggle; and if there can be a resolution at EU level. [53200/19]

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Written answers (Question to Foreign)

As I have stated previously, the management of a State’s prison and judicial system is a matter for the Government and the relevant competent authorities in each European Union Member State, in accordance with domestic, European and international law. As such, it would not be appropriate for me to comment on the matter in question.

This issue is a legacy of a more troubled time in Spain’s past and it is important that we do not forget the victims of terrorism: those who have died and those for whom pain and suffering still endure.

I am aware that the issue of prisoners is a sensitive and complex one. However, decisions on such specific matters clearly fall within the jurisdiction of the Spanish authorities and need to be decided in line with the relevant legal and constitutional provisions in Spain. I therefore do not see a role for Ireland or the EU in this matter.

The Government will continue to monitor the situation in the Basque regions in France and Spain.

Foreign Policy

Questions (53)

Seán Haughey

Question:

53. Deputy Seán Haughey asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade the status of EU efforts to ensure European values and ideals, including the rule of law and that the independency of the Judiciary is upheld in European Union member states, and in particular Hungary and Poland; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [53291/19]

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Written answers (Question to Foreign)

Upholding European values as set out in the EU Treaties, including the rule of law and independence of the judiciary, is at the core of the work of the EU. Ireland actively contributes through the appropriate mechanisms to ensure that all Member States respect shared European values and fundamental rights.

Ireland has engaged in the ongoing Article 7 procedure on rule of law in Poland and Hungary, and in broader discussions on the Rule of Law, at the General Affairs Council.

Most recently, Ireland participated in the second hearing on rule of law in Hungary, at the 10 December General Affairs Council. Ireland joined fellow Member States in questioning Hungary on rule of law issues. Ireland focused on the issue of academic freedom and on the Central European University. The Commission also briefed Ministers on the ongoing state of play regarding the rule of law in Poland.

We believe that the Article 7 process should continue but we should consider all of the instruments we have at our disposal to uphold the values of the Union.

In November, the Court of Justice of the European Union made two rulings on rule of law issues in Poland. We respect the rulings of the Court of Justice of the EU and encourage Poland to continue to engage and address the concerns that have been raised.

At the 19 November General Affairs Council Member States reviewed the annual rule of law dialogue and discussed a set of conclusions on the issue. As there was no consensus between Member States on the text, Presidency conclusions were issued. Ireland supported the Presidency conclusions.

It is important that any new mechanisms to uphold the rule of law should be inclusive, non-burdensome and avoid duplication of efforts under existing mechanisms, and that each Member State should continue to be treated equally.

Northern Ireland

Questions (54)

Michael Moynihan

Question:

54. Deputy Michael Moynihan asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade if he has written to or spoken with his UK counterpart regarding a possible amnesty for the 200 soldiers and police officers being investigated for alleged criminal actions during the troubles; and if the Northern Ireland office has reached a conclusion following its deliberations on same. [47449/19]

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Written answers (Question to Foreign)

I have engaged extensively with the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland and with the leaders of the political parties in Northern Ireland to seek the full implementation of the Stormont House Agreement legacy framework.

The Government’s position is clear: there should be effective investigations into all Troubles-related deaths, regardless of the perpetrator.

That is provided for in the legacy framework of the Stormont House Agreement and it is imperative that this be implemented.

The Government closely monitors all relevant developments in the British Parliament relating to the investigation of outstanding cases in Northern Ireland.

We have been clear that we would not support a proposal to introduce special measures or treatment regarding investigation of state or non-state actors.

The rule of law applies equally to everyone and must be upheld, and this principle is at the core of the Stormont House framework.

There are no amnesties from prosecution provided for in the Good Friday Agreement or any subsequent agreements. The public consultation led by the UK Government in Northern Ireland last year confirmed that a “clear majority” in Northern Ireland believe that a Statute of Limitations or amnesty would not be appropriate for Troubles-related matters.

The Taoiseach and I will continue to engage with the new British Government on this most important issue to secure implementation of the comprehensive framework of the Stormont House Agreement to deal with the legacy of the past in a way that meets the legitimate needs and expectations of all victims and survivors.

Trade Relations

Questions (55)

Maureen O'Sullivan

Question:

55. Deputy Maureen O'Sullivan asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade if Ireland and the EU are progressing trade links with Cuba in view of the EU Cuba Political Dialogue and Cooperation Agreement. [53201/19]

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Written answers (Question to Foreign)

The EU-Cuba Political Dialogue and Cooperation Agreement (PDCA) was signed by EU Member States and Cuba in December 2016. The agreement is robust and comprehensive, consisting of three main pillars: Political Dialogue, Cooperation and Sectoral Policy Dialogue, and Trade and Trade Cooperation.

The trade pillar is aimed at strengthening EU-Cuba trade and economic relations by promoting dialogue, encouraging increased trade and investment flows, promoting the integration of Cuba into the world economy, and supporting the diversification of the Cuban economy.

Ireland was pleased to ratify the EU Cuba PDCA earlier this year, marking a significant moment in our bilateral relationship with Cuba, which has been strengthening in recent years. In October this year, President Miguel Díaz-Canel visited Ireland and met with President Higgins and the Taoiseach, returning a visit by President Higgins to Cuba in 2017. I understand that the Taoiseach had a positive and constructive meeting with President Díaz-Canel and that they discussed several issues of mutual concern, including ways in which both countries can improve trade and economic links.

While current trade levels between Ireland and Cuba are relatively low, the enactment of the PDCA and the growing level of bilateral engagement between our two countries will facilitate the strengthening of economic relations and increased trade. President Díaz-Canel was accompanied on his visit to Dublin by Minister for Foreign Trade and Investment, Rodrigo Malmierca, a signal of the importance our two countries place on expanding relations in this area. Real progress in this area will materialise as Cuba continues its necessary programme of domestic economic reforms to open up its economy.

Ireland's Embassy in Mexico, which is accredited to Cuba, has been engaging with the Cuban Government regarding the potential to increase economic cooperation. Our Ambassador has made several trips to Cuba this year, including a trade-focused visit in November, when she attended the Havana Trade Fair and met President Díaz-Canel, Vice-Minister for Trade, Ileana Núñez Mordoche, and relevant government officials to discuss ways to expand bilateral economic and trade links.

Ireland looks forward to further dialogue with Cuba across the areas outlined in the PDCA and to continuing work to strengthen diplomatic, political and economic ties between our two countries.

Foreign Conflicts

Questions (56)

Richard Boyd Barrett

Question:

56. Deputy Richard Boyd Barrett asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade if he has discussed with his counterparts in Europe the ongoing uprising in Bolivia; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [53383/19]

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Written answers (Question to Foreign)

Since the outbreak of violence that followed the 20th October general elections, officials in my Department have been in regular contact with EU colleagues to discuss the ongoing situation in Bolivia.

A preliminary report of the general elections issued by the Organisation of American States (OAS) had found irregularities in the electoral process. In its final report published on 4 December, the OAS stated that there was intentional manipulation and serious irregularities in the electoral process, making it impossible to validate the results.

The elections were followed by weeks of mass protests and reports of violence across Bolivia. I supported numerous EU statements over those weeks calling for an end to violence, peaceful negotiations and a credible electoral process. Since the departure of former President Morales to Mexico on 12 November, an interim Government headed by Jeanine Áñez has taken up office to allow for the holding of fresh elections.

At the FAC meeting on 9 December, the EU's High Representative Josep Borrell briefed Ministers on recent developments, as well as on the EU’s ongoing work locally with the Catholic Church and UN in mediating political discussion between the Bolivian parties. We also discussed the possibility of sending an electoral observation mission to monitor the new elections in Bolivia, which are likely to be held in March or April 2020.

The alleged abuses of human rights in Bolivia and excessive use of force by authorities against protestors is a matter of concern to me. Ireland supported the EU statement made on 15 November calling on the Bolivian law enforcement bodies to guarantee security for the Bolivian people while respecting human rights at all times.

My Department will continue to work with our EU colleagues to support Bolivia on a path towards stability and credible elections. Officials in my Department maintain regular contact with EU Missions on the ground in Bolivia, through our Embassy in Buenos Aires which is accredited to Bolivia, and will continue to monitor the situation.

Ministerial Communications

Questions (57)

Seán Crowe

Question:

57. Deputy Seán Crowe asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade if his attention has been drawn to growing protests in Malta regarding the mishandling by the government of the investigation into the murder of a person (details supplied); if his attention has been further drawn to mounting concerns regarding the alleged involvement of former chief of staff and other employees of the office of the Prime Minister in the murder and a subsequent cover-up; if he has discussed the issue with his Maltese counterpart; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [53319/19]

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Written answers (Question to Foreign)

I am aware of the protests in Malta in relation to recent developments in the investigation of the October 2017 murder of investigative journalist, Daphne Caruana Galizia. In the past few weeks, a number of significant arrests have taken place and allegations have been made against senior Government officials. This has resulted in a number of resignations from the Government and the announcement by the Prime Minister of Malta that he will step down as his party leader on 12 January 2020 and as Prime Minister shortly afterwards.

Ireland and our EU partners have condemned in unequivocal terms the murder of Ms Caruana Galizia, which represents an attack on freedom of expression; a fundamental right in any democracy. It is essential for a healthy democracy that journalists feel safe to pursue their work, free from the threat of intimidation, harassment and violence.

Together with EU partners, we have called for a thorough and independent investigation into the murder of Ms Caruana Galizia. In a case such as this, it is vitally important that there is trust in the integrity of the investigation and the primacy of the rule of law.

Together with the representatives of several other EU member states, Ireland will continue to actively monitor the situation. Our Ambassador in Malta has attended the public inquiry into Ms Caruana Galizia’s murder, which started in early December. The Ambassador has also met with family members of Ms Caruana Galizia.

It is my firm hope that the recent developments in the investigation will soon lead to those responsible for this appalling crime being apprehended and swiftly brought to justice.

Human Rights

Questions (58)

Maureen O'Sullivan

Question:

58. Deputy Maureen O'Sullivan asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade the way in which he can ensure at a European level that Tamils in Sri Lanka will be supported in view of the ongoing violence against them by the regime; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [53198/19]

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Written answers (Question to Foreign)

Within the EU and the UN, Ireland has consistently engaged with the process of reconciliation, accountability and the protection of human rights in Sri Lanka. I have also expressed my sympathies to the people and Government of Sri Lanka in relation to the horrific bombing attacks on Easter Sunday.

I was encouraged by the EU Election Observation Mission’s findings that the recent election process was peaceful overall and that the fundamental freedoms and rights of Sri Lanka’s citizens were largely respected. I am further encouraged by President Rajapaksa's commitment, following his election, to be a “President for all Sri Lankans”.

I hope that the new Government will continue to make progress on its predecessors’ commitments to the relevant UN Human Rights Council Resolutions, most recently resolution 40/1 in 2019, all of which Ireland co-sponsored. These Resolutions encourage the commitment of the Government of Sri Lanka to undertake a comprehensive approach to dealing with the past and to the promotion of reconciliation, accountability and the protection of human rights.

I am glad to see that the EU has recently announced the launch of new projects in Sri Lanka that will support human rights and civil society there. The "Search for Common Ground" project in particular works to "promote cooperative engagement across traditional dividing lines in Sri Lanka to create a more inclusive national identity". In addition, the EU Commission’s Annual Action Programme focused particularly on promoting mechanisms of engagement between local groups and between citizens and the Government to mitigate the risk of a return to conflict. It made provisions for the funding and support of the development of reconciliation and development roles in local authorities and the strengthening of local mediation boards.

Ireland will continue to voice its support, within both the EU and the UN, for reconciliation and accountability for human rights violations during the civil war in Sri Lanka.

Trade Relations

Questions (59, 61, 63)

Bernard Durkan

Question:

59. Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade the extent to which he expects trade talks to proceed in the aftermath of Brexit incorporating the importance of previous trade relations and the ability to retain existing markets and create new market opportunities for the benefit of the island of Ireland; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [53381/19]

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Bernard Durkan

Question:

61. Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade the extent to which he expects final clarification on issues relating to Brexit to occur in particular issues relating to the Single Market on the island of Ireland, the Single Market and customs union and the protection of the peace process as an international agreement; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [53380/19]

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Michael Moynihan

Question:

63. Deputy Michael Moynihan asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade if preparations are under way or completed in the event of the withdrawal treaty Bill passing in the UK. [53343/19]

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Written answers (Question to Foreign)

I propose to take Questions Nos. 59, 61 and 63 together.

The outcome of last week’s British General Election has clarified the way forward on Brexit. Prime Minister Johnson has indicated that he wishes to ratify the Withdrawal Agreement as soon as possible and we look forward to working with the new Government.

It is expected that the Withdrawal Agreement Bill will be reintroduced later this week, with a view to completion of its Parliamentary process at Westminster in January. The European Parliament will also have to provide its consent on the EU side. Once this is complete, the UK will leave the EU, in accordance with the Withdrawal Agreement, on 31 January 2020.

While we regret the UK’s decision to leave the EU, we respect it and we look forward to building a strong new relationship with them in the period ahead.

The revised Withdrawal Agreement meets our objectives, including protecting the Good Friday Agreement, avoiding a hard border on the island of Ireland and protecting the integrity of the Single Market and Customs Union and Ireland’s place in them.

At its meeting on 13 December the European Council invited the Commission to submit a draft comprehensive mandate for a future relationship with the UK immediately after its withdrawal. The Political Declaration on the Future Relationship sets out the parameters for an ambitious, broad, deep and felxible partnership across trade and economic cooperation, centered on a Free Trade Agreement, but also including broader sectoral and strategic engagement.

Ireland has consistently supported the closest possible relationship between the EU and the UK, in the interests of Ireland, North and South, and British-Irish relations, as well as in terms of our economic and trading priorities. We also have signigicant interests in ensuring adequate level playing field provisions to facilitate fair competition.

The administrative approach to implementation of the Protocol on Ireland and Northern Ireland will be clarified during the transition period. The EU and UK will work together in the Joint Committee to provide further detail on how the Protocol works in practice. Ireland will play our part constructively, as an EU Member State, to make sure that these processes work for the island of Ireland, including in respect of the all-island economy, North-South co-operation and the ongoing protection of the peace process and the Good Friday Agreement.

Question No. 60 answered with Question No. 51.

Question No. 61 answered with Question No. 59.

Human Rights

Question No. 63 answered with Question No. 59.

Questions (62)

Maureen O'Sullivan

Question:

62. Deputy Maureen O'Sullivan asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade if he has had correspondence or talks with companies and enterprises here that are complicit in human rights violations through trade with countries and industries that do not observe human rights and businesses such as an Irish company which coal from the Cerrejon coal mines in Colombia; and his views on whether such instances emphasise the need for mandatory guidelines on business and human rights domestically. [53199/19]

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Written answers (Question to Foreign)

I am aware that the matter raised by the Deputy is of deep interest to many NGOS both internationally and here at home in Ireland and I have reported to the House on my contacts with the company that sources coal from the Cerrejón mine in replies to previous Parliamentary Questions.

My Department has been monitoring issues surrounding the Cerrejón mine in Colombia, including its impact on the environment and local communities. Our new Embassy in Bogotá has been actively engaging on this issue since opening earlier this year. In September, our Ambassador to Colombia led an Embassy visit to La Guajira, where the mine is located and I have reported previously to the Dáil on this matter.

The National Plan on Business and Human Rights contains a number of relevant key actions, to be taken forward by the Business and Human Rights Implementation Group. However, a number of mechanisms that address responsible business conduct and respect for human rights are already in place. The EU Directive on Disclosure of Non-Financial and Diversity Information (2014/95/EU) requires large companies to publish reports on the policies they implement including with regard to environmental protection, social responsibility and treatment of employees, respect for human rights, anti-corruption and bribery and diversity on company boards. The Directive was transposed into Irish law through the European Union (Disclosure of non-financial and diversity information by certain large undertakings and groups) Regulations 2017, which were amended by the European Union (Disclosure of non-financial and diversity information by certain large undertakings and groups) (Amendment) Regulations 2018.

Other relevant international mechanisms in this context include the OECD Guidelines for Multinational Enterprises and the ILO Tripartite Declaration on Multinational Enterprises and Social Policy.

Question No. 63 answered with Question No. 59.

EU Meetings

Questions (64)

Michael Moynihan

Question:

64. Deputy Michael Moynihan asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade if he will report on discussions on the multi-annual financial framework at the December 2019 GAC meeting. [52981/19]

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Written answers (Question to Foreign)

At the December General Affairs Council (GAC), Member States exchanged views on the revised Multiannual Financial Framework (MFF) proposal put forward by the Finnish Presidency. This is the most recent iteration of the draft proposal by successive Presidencies in these complex negotiations, which are likely to continue well into 2020. The Presidency has proposed an overall level of 1.07% of EU27 GNI for the next MFF period 2021-2027 and has maintained or slightly increased the allocations for Cohesion and CAP, which are priority areas for Ireland. To maintain CAP and Cohesion spending at the level proposed by the Commission, the Presidency has proposed adjustments to a range of other programmes. At the GAC, Member States expressed a range of views on the proposals according to their particular priorities, including in relation to the proposed overall amount, the distribution of funding across different areas and the possible sources of revenue for the MFF. Following discussion at the GAC, the Presidency presented the revised Negotiating Box to the December European Council. The Heads of State and Government called on the President of the European Council, Charles Michel, to take the negotiations forward with the aim of reaching a final agreement. Ireland continues to take a constructive approach in the MFF negotiations. We remain open to increasing our contribution to the budget from current levels provided European Added Value is ensured and our core interests are met, including maintaining funding for CAP.

Foreign Policy

Questions (65)

Maureen O'Sullivan

Question:

65. Deputy Maureen O'Sullivan asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade if Ireland has understandings or agreements with foreign countries regarding aerial defence in situations in which aircraft intrusion is used as a way of compensating for lack of jet aircraft within the Air Corps; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [53014/19]

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Written answers (Question to Foreign)

The Air Navigation (Foreign Military Aircraft) Order 1952 specifies that all foreign aircraft seeking to overfly Irish sovereign airspace or land in the State must request the permission of the Minister for Foreign Affairs. Specific criteria with regards to the granting of such permission have been put in place by successive Governments and include that the aircraft be unarmed, carries no arms, ammunition or explosives. In addition, such craft must not form any part of a military operation or exercise.

I cannot comment on national security or defence arrangements. I can, however, reiterate that the Government’s engagement in international security cooperation is conducted with full respect for Irish sovereign decision making authority and Ireland’s traditional policy of military neutrality which is characterised by non-participation in military alliances.