The Minister of State for Trade, Employment, Business, EU Digital Single Market and Data Protection, Pat Breen T.D., visited Bahrain on 21 November, leading a trade delegation. He was accompanied by an official from the Embassy of Ireland in Riyadh, which is accredited to Bahrain.
The Embassy of Ireland in Riyadh and the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade worked with Enterprise Ireland and the Department of Business, Enterprise and Innovation in relation to the Minister of State’s programme. The Bahraini authorties were contacted with a view to securing Ministerial meetings at which the Minister of State could discuss Ireland’s bilateral relationship with Bahrain, including our concerns about human rights. However, in the event, it was not possible on this occasion to secure such meetings as the relevant Ministers were out of the country.
While consideration was given to postponing the visit it was decided to go ahead with the trade mission, given that a substantive programme was in place. Bilateral trade with Bahrain is worth over €100 million annually. In addition, the Minister of State attended the Bahrain GAA games and met the Irish community in Bahrain, signalling the Government’s support for the Irish diaspora.
While it was not possible for the Minister of State to raise our concerns about the human rights situation directly with Bahraini Government representatives on this occasion, I can assure the Deputy that the Bahraini Government is aware of our concerns. I raised the human rights situation with the Bahraini Foreign Minister in New York in September 2019 and officials from my Department met earlier this month with a delegation from Bahrain on human rights. Topics covered at that meeting included prison conditions, freedom of expression and opinion, protection of Human Rights Defenders, and capital punishment.
My Department will continue to monitor developments in Bahrain, and to call on the Bahraini Government to deliver on its stated commitment to make progress in relation to human rights. We will continue to seek every opportunity to do so directly with Bahraini officials, as well as at EU and international level.