Wednesday, 4 November 1987
Dáil Eireann Debate
Mr. P. O'Malley: asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs, arising out of the Government's decision to vote in favour of the recent UN resolution calling for direct negotiations between the two parties to the conflict in the Western Sahara, the Polisario Front and the Kingdom of Morocco, the plans, if any, he has to formally recognise SADAR; and if he will make a statement on the matter.
Mr. M. Higgins: asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs if his attention has been drawn to the fact that a number of Scandinavian countries and some member countries of the European Community will be voting for, and in some cases, initiating, by way of being signatories to, a resolution shortly to come before a meeting of the United Nations calling for direct talks between the Moroccan Government and the Polisario Front which would lead to a peaceful resolution to the conflict currently being waged in the Sahara; if the grant given to Trocaire for humanitarian aid to refugee problems, resulting from this conflict, will be repeated; and if he will make a statement on the matter.
Mr. Andrews: asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs if his attention has been drawn to the ongoing war between the Saharawi Arab Democratic Republic and Morocco in Western Sahara; if he will support the legitimacy of the Saharan right to self-determination through  Ireland's representatives at the United Nations; and if he will make a statement on the matter.
Ireland has strongly and consistently supported the implementation of the principle of self-determination for the people of the Western Sahara. It is an essential element of our approach to this conflict that, through the good offices of the UN Secretary General, conditions be created at an early date which will enable the people of the region to exercise their rights. Accordingly, at this year's session of the UN General Assembly, I instructed the Irish delegation to vote in favour of a resolution which calls for a ceasefire in order to create the conditions necessary for a peaceful and fair referendum in the area.
In a statement explaining the Irish position, our representative emphasised our full support for the efforts of the UN Secretary General in seeking to work out a basis for agreement between the parties involved. These efforts are continuing and it is my earnest hope that they will prove fruitful.
We have not recognised the Saharawi Arab Democratic Republic, established in 1976 by the Polisario, the region's indigenous resistance movement, because we are not in a position to recognise an independent state in the Western Sahara before the people of the region have themselves decided the issue of self-determination through a referendum. Furthermore, it is not our practice to give formal recognition to liberation movements or similar bodies which would involve ascribing to them the actual status of a Government.
Humanitarian concern for the wellbeing of the Saharawi people has been a priority consideration of our approach. As a practical expression of this concern, funds have been allotted in the past for the provision of food and education supplies for the refugees living in camps in western Algeria. We are continuing to keep the situation under close review.
Mr. M. Higgins: I should like to congratulate the Minister on the initiative taken by Ireland at the United Nations, which was welcomed by Members from all parties. I want to ask the Minister a few questions. Will he consider implementing the proposals from the multiparty group who visited the region, which should have been made available to him by now? Will he consider repeating the humanitarian aid to the children in the desert? We gave £64,000 through Trocaire which was eventually spent by the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees. Finally——
Mr. M. Higgins: Will the Minister be in a position at some stage to place in the Library the derivation of this practice referred to in his reply that we do not recognise liberation movements? It appears this convention has grown up in Iveagh House; it has never been decided by this Parliament.
Mr. Lenihan: We have taken the first step by voting positively for the Western Sahara in the United Nations last week. We feel the best way to resolve this matter is to have a properly conducted referendum, as has already been conducted in other troubled areas where elections were properly organised and supervised. Deputy Higgins and other representatives of the three parties were at the elections in Nicaragua, which we have consistently stood over as being valid elections. As I said, I would like to see a properly supervised referendum held in the Western Sahara. I am aware of the terrible conditions facing the people there by way of starvation, violence, homelessness and so on. These conditions are intolerable. I will be reading the report referred to by the Deputy in greater detail and I will be glad to answer  further questions when I have considered the matter.
Mr. Andrews: Would the Minister consider sending a Government political personage, in the persona of his Minister of State, to the Western Sahara with a view to adding to the report so ably prepared by Deputy Higgins on behalf of those of us who visited the Western Sahara last September? In addition to this visit by the Minister of State or some other worthy person, would the Minister consider reporting on the possibility of giving additional food and educational aid to this area? I realise we are suffering from cash cutbacks and that macro economics are hurting many areas, but the Minister will agree——
Mr. Andrews: Would the Minister consider sending humanitarian aid to the people in the Western Sahara and the Saharawi Arab Democratic Republic? I will wind up my rather long-winded question by congratulating the Minister on taking that magnificent initiative at the United Nations.
Mr. Lenihan: I will consider the question of a visit to the areas mentioned. I want to pay a tribute to my Minister of State, Deputy Calleary, who took a very close interest in this matter at all stages. I want to emphasise this in view of some of the stick he has just taken.
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