Written Answers. - Honorary Consuls.

Ceist:

75 Dr. Upton asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs the specific training Irish honorary consuls receive in relation to the way in which they may speedily, effectively and comprehensively assist Irish people detained by the police in the protection of their rights; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [14607/98]

There is no formal system of training honorary consuls. They are experienced professional people who provide consular services for Irish citizens on the basis of comprehensive written instructions and, in most cases, under the guidance and supervision of one of our Embassies. Honorary consuls consult their supervising Embassy or the Department of Foreign Affairs as necessary about how to deal with individual cases. Embassy staff regularly visit honorary consuls in their areas. Increasingly, employees of honorary consuls are provided with practical training by the relevant supervising Embassy.

The manual of instructions for honorary consuls includes guidelines relating to assisting Irish people who have been arrested, detained or imprisoned abroad. Consular officers, including honorary consuls, try to ensure that Irish citizens in such situations have access to legal defence and receive a fair trial under local law and that their basic human rights are not infringed. As soon as consular officers, including honorary consuls, get to know of the arrest and detention of an Irish person, they are required to visit him or her if he or she desires such a visit. They are also expected to write immediately to the detained person giving information about local English-speaking lawyers, the legal aid system, the prison regime, entitlement to medical attention, visits, telephone calls, letters, parcels and money transfers, and the services available from the Irish Commission for Prisoners Overseas.

Honorary consuls and other consular officers must also determine whether the detained person wishes to have a relative or other person informed of his or her situation and, if that is the case, to arrange for the Department of Foreign Affairs to pass on the information.

The services provided by our honorary consuls worldwide are greatly appreciated and I pay tribute to their dedication and commitment.