Wednesday, 31 March 2004

Ceisteanna (5)

Michael D. Higgins


3 Mr. M. Higgins asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs his views on whether the implementation of Resolution 1373 of the UN Security Council which called for international co-operation against global terrorism has been damaged by the pre-emptive strike, invasion and occupation of Iraq. [10190/04]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Oral answers (11 contributions) (Ceist ar Minister for Foreign)

The Security Council's counter-terrorism committee, which was established pursuant to Resolution 1373, is the body responsible for monitoring the implementation of the resolution. Since its establishment, the committee has noted remarkable progress among UN member states in the implementation of the measures contained in that resolution. The committee has co-operated closely with the member states in reviewing and facilitating the improvement of existing national counter-terrorism legislation.

The committee receives and analyses regular reports from United Nations member states outlining their progress in discharging their responsibilities under the resolution. Last week, the Security Council unanimously adopted Resolution 1535. This will revitalise the work of the committee and give renewed momentum to its efforts in promoting and monitoring the implementation of all aspects of Resolution 1373. I am not aware of any concern by the counter-terrorism committee that the war in Iraq has impacted negatively on the efforts of member states in this regard.

There remains a strong multilateral support for the fight against international terrorism. On 11 and 12 March, the counter-terrorism committee held a special meeting in Vienna involving international, regional and sub-regional organisations, which stressed the importance of international co-operation in effectively countering global terrorism, and identified areas where such co-operation could be enhanced in the future.

I do not wish to be personal, but that is one of the most evasive answers I have heard in a long time. I asked a specific and important question as to whether the invasion and occupation of Iraq, without any UN mandate, had in the view of the Department and the Government, weakened international support for Resolution 1373. The question is there in black and white, so the Minister of State must have an opinion on it. I certainly have. Is it not the case that many of the countries that were willing and eager to respond to the threat of international terrorism, deplored the unilateral action taken against Iraq? That is a fact with which the Minister of State either agrees or disagrees.

The Minister of State referred to the work of the UN Security Council's counter-terrorism committee, but that is a different question. Is the Minister of State in a position to deny that the Government has not ratified all that was required by Resolution 1373? I believe there are some outstanding conventions that have not been ratified, and the same is true for a number of other EU countries.

I want the Minister of State to answer my question as to whether international co-operation has been damaged by the pre-emptive strike, invasion and occupation of Iraq. If a large family of nations within the United Nations supports Resolution 1373, yet a separate coalition of the willing is operating outside the UN Charter, how can the Minister of State tell me that I should be satisfied with an answer about the workings of the counter-terrorism committee? I know about that committee but that is not what I asked. The Minister of State should answer the question I posed.

Ireland has ratified six of the 12 conventions.

So six have not been ratified?

Yes. The Criminal Justice (Terrorist Offences) Bill is currently before the House. It will provide for the ratification of four of the remaining six conventions: the International Convention for the Suppression of the Financing of Terrorism, the International Convention Against the Taking of Hostages, the International Convention for the Suppression of Terrorist Bombing, and the Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of Crimes Against Internationally Protected Persons, including Diplomatic Agents. In addition, the Maritime Security Bill 2004, which will allow for the ratification of the two remaining instruments — the Convention for the Suppression of Unlawful Acts Against the Safety of Maritime Navigation, and the Protocol for the Suppression of Unlawful Acts Against the Safety of Fixed Platforms on the Continental Shelf — is being brought forward by the Minister for Communications, Marine and Natural Resources.

If the Deputy listened, I made the point carefully in my reply——

I listened carefully.

——that I am not aware of any concerns of the counter-terrorism committee that the war in Iraq has impacted negatively on the efforts of the member states in this regard. I would remind the Deputy that there is much work ongoing——

That is not the question I asked the Minister of State.

The Deputy should let me finish. Currently, there is much work ongoing as regards security. The Government initiated a similar response by the EU where tough, efficient procedures were introduced to deal with the terrorist threat. We have sharpened our focus in that regard. It is also important to pursue the many other issues, such as development, poverty eradication and conflict prevention, side by side with these security measures. They go hand in hand, as do the various issues with which I have to deal, including debt, infectious diseases and providing stable government.

Does the Minister of State deplore the attempt to suggest that those who opposed the illegal invasion and occupation of Iraq, without a UN mandate, are somehow soft on terrorism? It is an outrageous suggestion. Does he also deplore attempts in the media to suggest that those who wanted the UN Charter to be respected are soft on terrorism? Having almost obtained unanimity from the family of UN states, does the Minister of State not agree that that goodwill was squandered by acting outside the UN Charter?

I agree with the Deputy that people holding views such as he has expressed should not be criticised for being soft on terrorism. I support people's right to express differing views on this matter. Many people have different views. The European security strategy sets out the concept of preventative action, which is different from pre-emptive action. Many issues will be debated at the summit and this issue also needs to be debated.