Thursday, 23 October 1980
Dáil Eireann Debate
Dr. O'Connell: asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs if he will outline details of any steps taken to date, at both national and EEC level, to bring pressure on the present Government in El Salvador, to implement its promise to return to democracy and to a policy of social reform.
Mr. Lenihan: : In response to a previous question on El Salvador the Deputy will recall that I expressed the abhorrence of the Government at events in that tragic country, especially the callous murder of Archbishop Romero, and that I promised to raise the situation in El Salvador in Nine political discussions and in other appropriate international fora.
Subsequently, Ireland asked to have El Salvador included on the agenda at various levels of political discussions among our partners in the Community. At a meeting on the 22 July in Brussels, I alerted my fellow Ministers of Foreign Affairs to the concern felt in Ireland at developments in El Salvador and I urged that the situation there be kept under close review, particularly as regards any useful initiative which might be taken by the Nine to assist in averting the danger of full scale civil war.
Because of the Government's concern regarding the violation of human rights by the opposing factions in this tragic situation, I instructed our delegate to include a substantive reference to the situation in El Salvador in his address to the United Nations Economic and Social Council in New York last May. In fact, Ireland was one of the few countries to refer to El Salvador during the session.
The Deputy may be assured that the Government will continue to follow developments in El Salvador closely and with concern and to press, through any channels open to them, for respect for human rights and the restoration of fully representative government in that country.
Mr. O'Keeffe: : Has the Minister either at national level or EEC level brought up the question of continued US support for  this regime by supply of arms, supply of money and training of security forces there or has that aspect of the matter been ignored?
Mr. Lenihan: : The Deputy can be assured that we have expressed the view that democracy and human rights and an appropriate system of law should be restored in El Salvador. That in itself carries the implication the Deputy referred to.
Mr. O'Keeffe: : Do I take it that, apart from this long range implication, no such representation has been made or no view voiced to the US of our concern for their continued support of this repressive regime?
Mr. Lenihan: : I assure the Deputy, and I thought I had done so in my reply, that we have both in meetings of political co-operation of the Nine and at UN meetings, Taken up a very strong line on El Salvador. At present we are with a number of other nations—this is being discussed currently at the UN General Assembly—co-operating in a move to introduce a resolution requesting an investigation of the situation in El Salvador by the Commission of Human Rights as was done in the case of Chile. We have indicated our wish to co-sponsor such a resolution and have taken a lead in sponsoring the debate.
Mr. Quinn: : Is the Minister aware that there have been two separate vigils held outside the American Embassy in Ballsbridge which were organised by Irish people, relatives, friends and returned missionaries, working in El Salvador? If he is so aware does he not think it necessary—it must be left to the Minister to decide the appropriate form within the context of the diplomatic exchanges—not just to affirm support for human rights in El Salvador but to recognise the role the US Government have at present in supporting the regime and to express that to the Government in the appropriate way?
Mr. Lenihan: : In diplomatic matters of this kind one takes a positive attitude and co-operates with other countries. We are doing that by way of co-sponsoring a resolution at the United Nations. That is the way things are done. Governments cannot enter into agitation outside embassies and the Deputy should be aware of that. I have to decide the form in which this is done. As far as we are concerned we deplore the type of regime that exists in El Salvador and want to see a speedy restoration of human rights there.
Mr. Quinn: : Does the Minister not agree that he is breaking the position of Irish neutrality in that he made a specific protest against Moscow over the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan by supporting the boycott of the Olympic Games and remains abjectly silent in condemning the US support for the regime in El Salvador?
Mr. Lenihan: : I emphasised that at present there are discussions taking place at the UN General Assembly as a result of which we will be co-sponsoring a motion on El Salvador being put down by a number of countries who are genuinely concerned about the regime there and the declaration of human rights. The Deputy can be sure that I totally share his views. There is a way of going about these things and we are doing it in the appropriate manner.
Mr. Quinn: : I appreciate the Chair's tolerance in this matter, but since it has not been drafted would the Minister take the opportunity to include a suitable diplomatically phrased clause to take account of the point Deputy FitzGerald and I are raising?
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