Thursday, 30 April 1970
Dáil Eireann Debate
Minister for External Affairs (Dr. Hillery): Two countries, Poland and Czechoslovakia, which have no diplomatic missions in Dublin, maintain unofficial trade missions here. These missions have no official status.
Mr. Ryan: If they have no official status, can the Minister say what their particular status is and whether they are regarded as negotiating on behalf of the Governments of the countries in question? If they are not so engaged, on which basis are they here?
Dr. Hillery: It is a trade mission. Those people have access on trade matters to Departments other than the Department of External Affairs. Any negotiating they would do would be on trade, with private firms. There is no question of negotiating with any State representative or any Department of State.
Mr. Ryan: Does the Minister accept that those persons are representatives of the Governments in question, because neither Poland nor Czechoslovakia permit private interests to export from their countries? Their exports are under the direct control of the communist Governments of these countries. That being so, those people are official representatives of their Governments even if not recognised by the Department of External Affairs as such.
Dr. Hillery: They would be the appointees of a State trading country, probably holding official positions in their own countries. In this State they have no official status. Their status here would be that of aliens, the same as any professional person from abroad living here. It is true to say that the countries from which they come and on whose behalf they operate are State trading countries and that we are not.
Mr. Ryan: I wish to ask one final question. If those people were recognised here, with diplomatic or consular status, and if they were engaged in political activities, would they then be deemed by the Minister to be personae non grata and would the countries in question be asked to withdraw them?
Dr. Hillery: That is a hypothetical question. The present position is that they are here on permit. There is no statutory provision in our law to impose any requirements not to participate in political activities.
Mr. Ryan: asked the Minister for External Affairs whether he has received any complaints regarding certain activities of a trade mission to Ireland (name supplied); and, if so, what action he has taken in the matter.
Dr. Hillery: A telephone complaint was received by my Department on 27th February, 1970, in which an allegation was made against a trade mission to Ireland. It was not clear that there was any substance in the allegation which would have warranted action on my part.
Mr. Ryan: Is the Minister aware that the Irish-Czechoslovakian Society have been in existence for several years and that since the Russian-organised downfall of the Dubcek régime the members of the society found that the Czech trade mission were endeavouring to take over control of the society and that, having failed in that mission, they then set up a rival Irish-Czechoslovakian society which purports to interpret the interest of the ordinary people of Czechoslovakia, whereas the Irish-Czechoslovakian Society comprises all Czechoslovakians in Ireland plus Irish people who are interested in the maintenance of liberty and fundamental rights in Czechoslovakia? Does he consider it desirable that those complaints should be left uninvestigated and can he justify taking no action in regard to the withdrawal of the members of the Czech trade mission here?
Dr. Hillery: Basically, to maintain the rules under which we should like to behave in this country, the affairs of the Irish-Czecholslovakian Society should be managed by the members of that society, and, if they find something which is not to their liking, the members should, in the first instance, handle it themselves. If there is any activity by an alien resident in this  country—I point out again the fact that they are members of a trade mission does not change their status from being aliens—which may be undesirable from the point of view of this country, then the Minister for Justice could withdraw or not renew their permits. I should like to get back to the first thing: until it is evident and clear that the activities of any individual make it desirable to withdraw or not to renew his permit, it would be a matter for the individuals in the society to solve their own problems in accordance with the rules of the society.
Dr. Hillery: In the first place, the aims of the society should be dealt with by the society and they should not call on the Government unless there is clear evidence that individual aliens are engaging in activities which are subversive to the State.
Dr. Hillery: This is for the Minister for Justice, really—the granting, or otherwise, of the permit. I presume the Minister would wish to have all the freedoms we enjoy and cherish existing in this country and, at the same time, to make sure that no individual alien, whatever his country, takes any action against the interests of the State or people enjoying the benefits of the freedom in this State.
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