Foreign Affairs: Statements.

Friday, 20 February 1998

Seanad Éireann Debate
Vol. 154 No. 8

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Minister for Foreign Affairs (Mr. Andrews): Information on David Andrews  Zoom on David Andrews  I am very pleased to have this opportunity to [514] address the Seanad this morning. I know that the Members of this House take a keen interest in international affairs and I am happy, therefore, to come here today to speak about the Government's priorities in the foreign policy arena in the period ahead.

The subject of Northern Ireland has been much in the news recently and continues to be the major challenge confronting me, as Minister for Foreign Affairs. There is no doubt that this has been a difficult, disappointing, and stressful week for all the participants. While the facilities and amenities of Dublin Castle were widely acknowledged to be among the best, working in an atmosphere of tension must have been extremely stressful on all the participants.

The Government is continuing to work intensively to achieve a lasting political settlement in Northern Ireland. We had hoped to use the session in Dublin Castle for a detailed debate on North/South structures, based on the responses of the parties to the questions put by the two Governments at the Lancaster House meeting last month. Instead, as Senators all know, the session was dominated by the position of Sinn Féin in the negotiations in the light of the recent murders in Belfast of Brendan Campbell and Robert Dougan. The two Governments are in the process of finalising their determination, and should be in a position to deliver it later today. As soon as the determination has been agreed, the parties will be informed and it will then be made public. The House will appreciate in the circumstances that I am not in a position to say more about this matter for the moment.

Senator Mitchell, in his concluding comments to the press on Wednesday afternoon, rightly put the situation in perspective. He pointed out that we have been able in this process to get past previous difficulties and to keep moving forward. We have gone a lot further and are now much closer to a successful conclusion than ever before or, indeed, than some of the prophets of doom were predicting.

Let us now, therefore, focus again on the real business of the talks. They resume in Belfast next week. The core issues remain unchanged. Essentially, what we are trying to do is to create real partnership on this island and promote reconciliation at all levels and in each of the three key relationships.

In particular, strong and meaningful North-South structures must be a central part of any comprehensive settlement. Indeed, from our point of view they are indispensable. We cannot envisage agreement without them nor do we think the Irish people would accept such an agreement.

Such structures have three basic and complementary purposes. First, they must facilitate and promote the achievement of the many practical benefits, across the whole range of sectors, which will flow to all of the island of Ireland from people North and South coming together to co-operate and take action. There is already ample [515] evidence in many fields of the value of our working together involving the public, private and voluntary sectors. However, it is also clear from our own experience and from international analysis that in economic and social development well designed and purposeful institutions can have a crucial catalytic effect.

North-South structures must also serve as a powerful institutional expression of the all island identity of Nationalists both in Northern Ireland and more widely. From the Nationalist perspective, there can be no purely internal settlement in Northern Ireland and there must be powerful connections between the two parts of Ireland at all levels, including the official and governmental.

A third essential purpose is in facilitating contact and stimulating reconciliation and better mutual understanding between the Unionist and Nationalist traditions on the island, in particular between people in this jurisdiction and the Unionist community in Northern Ireland. For too long for a range of complex historical reasons we have lived back to back not side by side. It is now time to move together to build a new relationship of trust.

Some have suggested that we might be unwilling to take the measures necessary in our own jurisdiction to give new structures a real purpose and function. The Government knows that change will be needed here too. Entrenched attitudes have grown up on this side of the Border. People are often comfortable with what they are used to, but I am sure Senators will agree that we must accept our responsibilities willingly, both in the interests of an overall settlement and in our own direct interests. We will benefit from peace and reconciliation on our island and, more specifically, from new ventures in partnerships and relationships between North and South. In the same spirit, the Government is committed to making the other changes necessary as part of an overall and balanced settlement, including balanced constitutional change.

We know well that there are obvious and considerable differences between the positions of the participants on a significant number of issues. However, we believe there is a reasonable prospect of finding common ground as the negotiations approach their final stages. An honourable settlement is manifestly in the best interests of all the people of the island and this places a heavy burden of responsibility on their political representatives to make hard compromises. The two Governments are determined that this opportunity for a lasting and honourable peace must not be squandered and we will do all in our power to promote and encourage the compromises which are necessary on all sides if a settlement is to be achieved.

Looking beyond these islands, the European Union faces a number of major challenges in the period ahead both internally following the conclusion of the Amsterdam Treaty and externally as the EU prepares to expand its membership.

[516] The commencement of the next phase of enlargement is a decisive step forward in the historic project of creating a new Europe united on the basis of shared democratic principles, respect for minorities and human rights and with economic opportunity and social justice for all. The European Council in Luxembourg in December took the necessary decisions to launch successfully the next phase of the enlargement process. In implementation of these decisions the European conference, which will bring together the member states of the EU and the states aspiring to accede to it, will have its inaugural meeting on 12 March 1998. This will be followed by the launch of the accession process on 30 March. On the following day bilateral intergovernmental conferences will begin with Hungary, Poland, Estonia, the Czech Republic, Slovenia and Cyprus. At the same time the preparation of future negotiations with Romania, Slovakia, Latvia, Lithuania and Bulgaria will be facilitated through their participation in an analytical study of the EU acquis. These groups of countries are described as the `ins' and the `pre-ins', those who are ready to join and those who are being examined in the context of their willingness to join.

From the outset Ireland has made clear its commitment to enlargement as a historic opportunity for peace and stability in Europe. We look forward to working closely with our partners to address in an effective and co-ordinated manner the challenges and opportunities involved in enlargement and to building upon the solid foundations which were laid at Luxembourg. It goes without saying that enlargement on this scale will be a very considerable undertaking by the EU and that it will have significant financial implications. The EU will therefore have to provide itself with the resources necessary to make enlargement a success. No less importantly, the EU must also ensure the resources to consolidate its achievements to date within the existing member states. In this regard, an important requirement will be the sustainability of economic development in the less advanced regions. The EU will also have to meet fully its commitment to maintaining a viable rural community.

Against this background, the EU is currently engaged in a review of its future financing and a number of core policy areas. This process, which is referred to as Agenda 2000, is of major significance to Ireland as it involves the future shape of the EU's structural and agricultural policies. While we have experienced an undisputed improved economic performance in recent years and our membership of the EU has been an important factor in this regard, it needs to be stressed that the long-term sustainability of this achievement must be ensured. This is especially true with regard to infrastructural investment where we have still have considerable ground to make up. With this in mind, Ireland, like other member states, will be defending its interests energetically in the forthcoming negotiations. [517] I look forward to consideration next month in this House of the Bill relative to the forthcoming referendum on the Treaty of Amsterdam. The Treaty of Amsterdam has four main objectives: to place the citizen and the citizen's concerns at the heart of the EU and to create a secure environment for the European citizen and remove obstacles to freedom of movement; to give Europe a stronger voice in world affairs; to increase the efficiency and effectiveness of the EU's institutions with a view to enlargement. Put another way, the Amsterdam Treaty consolidates each of the three pillars of the Union — the European Communities, the first pillar, including the ECSC and EURATOM; the common foreign and security policy, the second pillar, and co-operation in the fields of justice and home affairs, the third pillar, the title of which will be changed in the context of the new Treaty.

The Amsterdam Treaty is a good deal for Ireland, for Europe and for the European citizen. It addresses some of the core issues which affect daily life throughout Europe — employment, the environment, social policy, public health, consumer rights and equality between the sexes. It establishes fundamental rights on a Treaty basis for the EU. It creates a framework in which freedom of movement throughout the Union can be progressively realised to the maximum extent possible and couples this with flanking measures in areas such as external border controls and fighting international crime.

The Treaty is a good deal for Europe because it strengthens and makes more coherent the foreign policy capacity of the Union and better prepares it for the next historic enlargement phase. In advance of the Union's membership exceeding 20 states, its institutions will be further examined to ensure that its functioning is not impaired by enlargement. Importantly for Ireland, there is no change in the right of each member state to nominate a full member of the Commission. The outcome of the future review of the Union's institutions is not prejudged.

In Ireland, we will have a referendum on the Treaty of Amsterdam on a date yet to be decided by the Government. What is new in this treaty, at the conceptual level, is the possibility for individual member states not to participate in certain areas. The corollary of this is that they may also decide to participate where they wish to do so. This is the so called flexibility provision. It is clearly in Ireland's interest and in accordance with our long established European policy to be at the heart of the process of European integration. The Government and, I believe, the overwhelming majority in this House would wish the State to have the capacity and freedom to continue to participate fully in the Union's development. I am pleased the modified wording of the constitutional amendment, announced yesterday by the Government, enjoys broad and almost unanimous political support, reflecting the overwhelming backing in both Houses of the Oireachtas for the ratification of the Treaty of [518] Amsterdam. The Treaty is good for the future of Ireland and for the well being and totality of development of our people. Since joining Europe in 1972 Ireland has made huge advances on many fronts.

On the wider international level, Ireland will seek election to a non-permanent seat on the United Nations Security Council in the year 2000. We had split membership of the Security Council for one year in 1962 and full, non-permanent membership for two years in 1981 to 1982. We are now seeking membership for a third time from 2001 to 2002. Our candidature follows from Ireland's consistent and vocal support for the ideals and objectives of the United Nations and the principle of multilateralism which it represents. Since joining the organisation in 1955 it has been a key tenet of our foreign policy that collective action by the world community, under the provisions of the UN Charter, to deal with threats to world peace and to economic and social advancement for all holds out the best prospect of peace and security for all states, both large and small.

Ireland has always sought to play a positive and constructive role in support of the ideals and objectives of the United Nations. Over the decades we have taken a leading role in promoting disarmament, we have supported UN action on respect for human rights and encouraged its efforts to achieve greater impact in securing sustainable development, particularly in the poorer countries of the world.

As is well known and appreciated by the United Nations and its member states, we have sought to make a particular and continuous contribution to the vital role of the United Nations in peacekeeping. Our support for UN peacekeeping has not been without cost, with over 75 members of our Defence Forces having paid the ultimate sacrifice in the service of the United Nations. Having had the privilege of serving as Minister for Defence on two occasions, I again put on record our appreciation, shared by many UN states, of the highly professional and dedicated service of our Defence Forces, past and present, to the difficult task of UN peacekeeping throughout the world. I have been at the coal face with the forces and have seen how they dedicate themselves to the interests of peace. They are a patriotic force in pursuit of UN ideals. The role played by the Defence Forces, wherever they serve and in whatever context, cannot be overstated. They have been and are magnificent.

With this commitment to the United Nations in mind, we have put forward our candidature for the Security Council, seeking the opportunity to further contribute to the work of this key body. Ireland's profile within the United Nations, including our previous service on two occasions as members of the Security Council, has earned us the respect of the broad range of member states within the organisation. We value this endorsement. I am confident that if elected we will, through our future efforts, continue to show [519] ourselves worthy of that respect. Our fellow candidates on this occasion are Turkey and Norway.

Another issue which arose when I was in Panama was the crisis over Iraq's non-compliance with UN Security Council decisions on the work of the UN Special Commission, or UNSCOM, in relation to weapons of mass destruction. At an informal EU Foreign Ministers' meeting on the subject, I made clear the Government's belief that not only is it vital that, in the interests of peace and security for all, the UN mandate in this area must be respected and fully complied with by Iraq, but also that every effort must be pursued to achieve a satisfactory outcome to the current impasse.

Today the UN Secretary General is visiting Iraq. His talks there will be crucial and he has our full support in his difficult mission. If he can gain Iraqi agreement to a formula which will enable UNSCOM to fulfil its mandate while ensuring respect for Iraqi sovereignty, then the terrible consequences, including in human terms, of another war in the Gulf can be avoided.

The EU Foreign Ministers met on the margins of the conference in Panama. I took the opportunity to impress our views on the President of the Foreign Affairs Council, the British Foreign Secretary, Mr. Robin Cook, MP. Despite his involvement in the potential Iraqi war in the context of his association with the Americans, he dealt even-handedly with our representations. He has distinguished himself as Foreign Secretary and in the EU Presidency and gave me a fair hearing. I strongly urged that all diplomatic efforts be used to bring about a resolution in Iraq because, if they are not successful, the consequences would be too horrendous to contemplate.

President Saddam Hussein is not a good man but he rules over good people. I was in Baghdad before the last Iraqi war, trying to free a number of Irish nurses from the grip of the madness of his “human shield” policy. Deputy Michael D. Higgins, Deputy Bradford and I finally succeeded in obtaining their release. During that visit we met many citizens of Baghdad and found them to be decent, normal people. If the Americans attack with the assistance of their allies it will be an enormous tragedy for the people of Iraq and we should be concerned to secure their safety.

Next Monday I will attend the General Affairs Council in Brussels when EU Foreign Ministers will discuss, amongst other issues, Iraq, EU relations with Iran, and China. I have already outlined our approach on Iraq. As regards Iran, I am confident that, in the light of developments since the election of President Khatami, we are now on the threshold of a new era in relations between the EU and that country. I am hopeful that increased contacts following the resumption of official bilateral Ministerial visits to and from Iran will pave the way for a more constructive relationship in future. Iran is an important regional power and it is clearly in the best [520] interests of both the Union and Iran to enjoy a relationship based on mutual trust and co-operation.

I am pleased about that because I have always had a strong association with Iran, especially when in Opposition. My brother, Mr. Niall Andrews MEP, Deputy Ryan and I, among other Members of the Fianna Fáil parliamentary party, visited Iran on a number of occasions, even when the country was an international outcast because it was important that we kept contact with them even during that time. Eyeball to eyeball dialogue is a much better substitute for long distance diplomacy. I am glad our friends in Iran are being given a break by the international community.

EU Foreign Ministers will also be considering the future development of relations with China. As a permanent member of the United Nations Security Council, China plays a key role not only in Asia but also globally — for example, in relation to the present crisis in Iraq. China's important role is underlined by its continuing dialogue with the European Union. Our objective is to foster and deepen this dialogue. I am encouraged by a number of recent developments, especially in relation to the active role being played by the United Nations and its agencies in the human rights area.

I look forward to my meeting in Beijing next Tuesday with the Chinese Foreign Minister when we will be discussing a range of issues, such as the international issues I have already mentioned, and also the way in which we can further develop and strengthen our bilateral relations, including in the area of economic co-operation. I look forward, too, to visiting the special administrative region of Hong Kong later in the week; the former colony faces a new future with many challenges, not least those stemming from the current turmoil in the Asian financial markets. All of us in this Chamber wish the people of Hong Kong well in the future.

Looking ahead to next month, the focus of attention will be on the UN Commission on Human Rights in Geneva, of which Ireland is currently a member. A number of issues are expected to arise there, including the question of respect for human rights in Algeria — an issue of particular interest to me in view of my recent visit to that country, the first Irish Foreign Minister to do so. That meeting was followed by a visit by the troika of the EU and nine MEPs. One to one dialogue is far better than long distance diplomacy. Shouting at one another from a distance is no substitute for personal contact.

Looking at the wider developing world, it is evident the winds of change are transforming the international landscape. Ever greater numbers of people live in open societies and share in economic progress. At the same time, the marginalised and dispossessed of the most impoverished countries see many developed countries cut their development co-operation budgets each year. They see many Governments in developed countries relying on globalisation as the mechanism [521] that will lift all boats and transform the economies of all countries, however poor.

I do not believe globalisation is a magic solution or panacea for all problems. International economic liberalisation can lead to further inequality and not to greater justice unless there is a determination to share the benefits of economic growth fairly and responsibly. I believe, however, we must co-operate effectively at international level to ensure we create an environment in which the peoples of the poorest countries can benefit from increasing global prosperity. This must involve fair terms of trade, access to markets, greater incentives for private investment and a continued commitment to development assistance to give the most needy countries the kick-start they need.

Ireland has the fastest growing development co-operation budget of any developed country. I am proud of this and of the example it sets at a time of increasing concern among less developed countries, especially in Africa, that they are being left aside and marginalised in the race for global prosperity.

Irish aid this year will amount to £137 million or 0.32 per cent of GNP. The Government is fully committed to achieving a target of 0.45 per cent of GNP by 2002. I would like to pay a warm tribute to my colleague, the Minister of State with responsibility for Overseas Development Assistance and Human Rights, Deputy O'Donnell, whose energy and commitment have been essential to the rapid growth which our overseas aid programme is experiencing at present. I also acknowledge her commitment to, and continuing deep involvement in, the Northern Ireland peace process.

Development co-operation must be about reducing unacceptable levels of poverty in less developed countries. It must also be about tackling shared global priorities, including health, housing, drugs education, empowerment of women and protecting the environment. These issues affect all countries, rich or poor, whether in Africa or in Europe.

This is what the Government is seeking to achieve in our bilateral development co-operation programmes, as well as through the European Union and other multilateral institutions. Development co-operation is part and parcel of Irish foreign policy. It is not just about financial transfers but about strengthening links between development and democracy, respect for human rights and enabling people to participate in the decision making processes which affect their lives.

Before concluding, I wish to say a few words about a subject which I know is of interest and concern to this House. At a time when the number of people leaving Ireland to find work abroad is relatively low and when immigrants rather than emigrants are making news, it is easy to overlook the fact that many of our young people still need guidance and assistance when they go to live abroad. The Government is, therefore, continuing to give financial support to voluntary organisations [522] providing advisory and welfare services to Irish people in Britain, the United States and Australia. Amounts of £613,000 for organisations in Britain and £169,000 for organisations in the United States and Australia are available in this year's Enterprise, Trade and Employment and Foreign Affairs Votes. The interdepartmental committee on emigration, chaired by the Department of Foreign Affairs and comprising representatives of Departments and offices dealing with matters affecting emigration and emigrants, monitors developments in action areas and has meetings with people directly involved with emigrants.

Foreign policy is not just about promoting our national interests abroad. It is also about giving expression to our concerns about international events and advocating the principles and values which we believe should form the basis for relations between states and peoples. Ireland has a proud tradition and record of contributing to international efforts to bring about a peaceful world. We approach this not from any ideological viewpoint but from a deep conviction that all nations and peoples are entitled to the same standards of freedom and prosperity we have achieved for ourselves. I want the foreign policy of this Government to continue this tradition so that at international level we can help in some small way to build a common vision for the future based on shared interests and a new commitment to justice and equality.

The House will appreciate I have given an encapsulated overview of the foreign policy of the Department and, more particularly, the Government. I would have liked an opportunity to expand on what I have said but I appreciate the attention of the House.

Mr. Burke: Information on Paddy Burke  Zoom on Paddy Burke  I welcome the Minister and wish him well in his portfolio. I congratulate him on taking time from his very busy schedule to participate in this debate. I wish him, his advisers and all the parties involved in the Northern Ireland talks well. As he pointed out, this was a very difficult and disappointing week in that regard. I wish him the best of luck when the talks resume next week. There is light at the end of the tunnel and the process must be moved forward. We support the Minister fully and wish him well.

Ireland, despite its size, has always had a very strong voice on foreign affairs issues on the international stage. We have been recognised abroad for our progressive and fair minded thinking and have led the debate on many humanitarian issues. Therefore, it is highly appropriate for us to have this debate today.

The crisis in Iraq continues to deepen and, despite stringent efforts on the part of the diplomats, no satisfactory conclusion has yet been agreed. In 1991 a system was put in place to locate and destroy weapons of mass destruction. UNSCOM was established and the Iraqi Government's action in preventing it from doing its work is totally unacceptable. It is important for democracy [523] and the human race that UN inspectors are given access to all sites in Iraq in order to locate and destroy the stocks of weapons built up over the years. The diplomatic initiative should continue and I am pleased the Secretary General of the United Nations will visit Baghdad before the weekend. Every possible effort should be made to ensure that a diplomatic resolution is found.

It is vitally important to recognise there is a wide humanitarian dimension to this crisis. The ordinary people of Iraq are suffering badly from the political crisis. Yesterday morning we heard a detailed report from Maggie O'Kane on the crisis that exists in relation to children contracting measles and other treatable diseases. Iraq was once a progressive country with modern health care facilities but has now been brought to its knees because of the food for oil agreement.

The crisis in Iraq is a political and economic one, but the ordinary people are severely affected. Their situation must be highlighted at EU and other diplomatic meetings. The Iraqi crisis has again highlighted the situation in the EU relating to security. It is evident that whenever a crisis occurs, the EU does not have a common foreign or security policy. The response of various states to the crisis has been disturbing to those of us who class ourselves as Europeans.

It is time for Ireland to join the Partnership for Peace. It is damaging to our interest and to the evolving European security architecture in which we must play a role if we remain outside and no cogent argument for remaining outside has been put forward. Membership of Partnership for Peace is not the backdoor to NATO, and that must be clearly recognised. Forty three member states have signed up for PFP, including Russia and the other neutral European States — Austria, Sweden, Finland and Switzerland. It is time we recognised that, while the Cold War is over, international strife continues. The Iraqi and recent Algerian crises bring this very clearly into focus and this strife requires a new response. There is now great emphasis on the need for security, stability and good order as a prerequisite to humanitarian aid. The EU does not have the capacity for this response, but the PFP can help participating states to maximise their capacity to assist in situations of this kind.

Scaremongering politicians and others who claim that PFP is the backdoor to NATO are not being honest. PFP is for non-NATO members, some of whom may wish to join NATO and others who have no intentions of doing so. People often argue that refusing to participate in military alliances or being associated with such alliances allows Ireland to pursue international nuclear disarmament with greater authority. However, even NATO members, Denmark and Norway, do not permit nuclear weapons on their soil nor do they have foreign troops based in their countries. Both states have been vigorous advocates of nuclear disarmament as non-NATO States. As PFP members we will continue our vigorous campaign [524] for nuclear disarmament. I am not advocating membership of NATO, and there is no public support for this. However, there is clear support for membership of PFP and the time has come for those of us who believe we should join to articulate our case and not allow ourselves to be intimidated by throwaway comments.

Ireland should join the PFP now because our extensive peacekeeping experience, which is disproportionate to our size, can be shared in a structured way with other states and we, in turn, can learn in a structured way from the experience of other states. Membership of PFP would, therefore, create an outward perspective, keep our Defence Forces in a modern mode and boost Defence Force morale, which is greatly needed.

Ireland should not set a precedent of isolation. If other states followed our example then instability in Europe could ensue. Membership of PFP does not affect our tradition of military neutrality, as is evidenced by the PFP role of Austria, Finland, Sweden, Switzerland and Russia. There would be opportunities for greater North-South, east-west, and British-Irish co-operation, building on the strong foundations of Air Corps and Naval Service/RAF search and rescue practice. The co-operation of neutral Sweden, and NATO member Norway, both of whom are in PFP, shows how neutral and alliance neighbours can co-operate.

Humanitarian aid can be distributed only where there is security, stability and good order. PFP participation can help maximise our capacity to assist in situations of this kind. Training to counteract illegal drugs importation could be written into any PFP agreement. As an island State, this could bring many benefits in dealing with the drug epidemic. It would demonstrate to our EU partners and the wider international community that we are prepared to play an active role in the evolving post-Cold War European security architecture, and help establish our credentials for influencing this evolution.

PFP is a mutual agreement. We agree the role we want, and this is designed to suit our particular circumstances. It is not a one-fit suit which states must wear. No reasonable argument based on sustainable principles has been put forward which supports not joining PFP. Every Taoiseach from Seán Lemass to John Bruton has indicated that if continued membership of the EU required Ireland take on security or defence commitments, they would favour doing so. It is time the current Taoiseach made his position clear.

The Amsterdam Treaty does not entail defence commitments, although an enlarged union of 26 to 30 states may revisit this question. The purpose of an integrated union is to ensure peace and stability so that Europe can prosper and there will be no return to the tensions that gave rise to world wars. As the EU becomes more federal in nature it will take on a peacemaking rather than a peacekeeping role. The transfer of the Petersburg Task commitments from the Western European Union to the EU under the Amsterdam Treaty proposals is a step in this direction. Instability [525] anywhere in Europe has implications for the continent as a whole, yet in Bosnia NATO rather than the EU was the driving force behind the international peace effort. The single biggest political and economic bloc in the world, the EU, was confined to issuing démarches while countless Europeans died in horrific genocide.

We had a debate here recently on immigrants, and I stress the importance of giving attention to the plight of our emigrants. During that debate the Minister of State, Deputy Davern, was asked to provide proper funding for the various emigrant centres in England, the United States and Australia. I ask again today that that matter be examined with a view to putting a proper and extended infrastructure in place to assist those emigrants who are having difficulties. Yesterday, Fine Gael's Foreign Affairs spokesperson, Deputy Gay Mitchell, requested the Government to consider establishing a Minister with responsibility for emigrants. Given the heavy workload of the Minister for Foreign Affairs and the Minister of State, this proposal should be considered very seriously. The Minister has no doubt seen in his travels the necessity of sharing the benefits of the Celtic tiger with those people who have not been as successful as others abroad. It is also important at this time to recognise that the services provided by the Catholic Church in particular in the past will be increasingly more difficult to provide in the future because of the lack of personnel joining the Church. The onus will fall on the Government of the day to provide a service and now is the time to put a proper structure in place when there is financial affluence.

Another issue that needs to be addressed is capital punishment, which is being used in so called western democratic states. The United States is generally accepted as the bastion of human and democratic rights and its Government has championed human rights causes throughout the world. However, it is unfortunate that in some states in the US crimes may be punished by capital punishment. It is imperative that the Minister and his ambassadors continue to highlight the unacceptable nature of such action. I appeal to the Minister to raise this matter on each occasion he meets the American Ambassador or any American Secretaries of State. I wish the Minister well in the talks process and thank him for coming to the House.

Mr. Lanigan: Information on Mick Lanigan  Zoom on Mick Lanigan  I thank the Minister for his comprehensive statement which covered a broad range of topics. The main topic and cause of concern is what will happen in Iraq over the next few days or weeks. We should be concerned not only about Iraq but about the consequences of an invasion of Iraq on the region and the world. Since Desert Storm many British and US soldiers have come forward to say they have suffered biological damage because of what happened in the Gulf.

I would like to give a short overview of the impact of radioactive environmental damage on [526] the health status of the Iraqi population since the Gulf War. During the Gulf War in 1991, which lasted for 42 days, the UN forces used 141,921 tonnes of ammunition, which included significant amounts of radiological weapons; depleted uranium projectiles, DU shells, were said to be extremely effective against Iraqi armour.

Malcolm Rifkind, the British Defence Minister in 1991, stated in letter to Sir David Steel the former Liberal Party Leader that “British troops used 88 DU rounds” and that the United States used much more. He admitted that “these rounds would emit radioactive and toxic substances that present a health hazard”.

According to American Greenpeace, and based entirely on information supplied to it by the United States Government, “over 300 tonnes of D.U. mostly in fragmented form (dust) was left on the battlefields in Iraq and Kuwait”. This area of thousands of square miles is subject to short deluges during the rainy season. This allows a direct route into human food chains via ground water, arid and subarid animal grazing as well as widespread distribution through the alluvial and deltatic depositing of soils along the Euphratis and Tigris watercourse.

In Iraq the death rate per 1,000 children under five years increased from 2.3 in 1989 to 16.6 in 1993 — a horrific statistic; cases of lymphoblastic and now lymphoblastic leukaemia have more than quadrupled. Other cancers are also increasing at an alarming rate. In adult males, lung, bladder, bronchus, skin and stomach show the highest increases. In adult females, the highest increases are in breast, bladder and non-Hodgkin's lymphoma. There is also a decisive change in the epidemicalogical patterns, leukias and non-Hodgkin's lymphomas have replaced bladder and bronchus cancers as the second and third ranked killers.

The occurrence of extremely rare diseases, such as osteo sarcomn, teratoma and nephroblastome, is also increasing and, although they affect the general population, by far the most affected groups are children and young male adults. Limb reduction abnormalities similar to those caused by the drug Thalidomide as well as other skeletal malformations are appearing in significantly increased numbers.

It is difficult to quantify exactly how much of this is attributable directly to toxins and radioactive pollution. However, a German scientist, Dr. Sieqward Gunter, found that a single intact DU round exhibits 11 microsievert per hour. He noted that personnel in Germany should not be exposed to more than 50 microsievert per year. Fragmented in dust form these rounds are poisoning entire populations. Because of the sanctions, doctors are unable to formulate the massive drug cocktails required for effective cancer treatments. As many as 500 children per day are dying in Iraq. A wall of silence as deadly as the radioactive dust continues to condemn them to the most slow, agonising and filthy death, yet nobody is speaking out. Other cancers such as thyroid will [527] take up to 40 years to appear. The use of these weapons was in direct violation of international conventions. That is an overview of what has happened in Iraq since 1991.

In an attempt to take out Saddam Hussein or to get his regime to allow weapons inspectors visit all sites to find out what weapons of mass destruction exist, there is a danger that the end result will be massive loss of life and problems for the Iraqi civilian population. We must do everything possible to avoid a repeat of what happened in 1991. We hope the Secretary General of the United Nations will be successful when he visits Iraq this weekend. We appeal to the Iraqi regime and to Saddam Hussein — if it is possible to appeal to such a man — to allow inspections teams in. We must also appeal to the United Nations to ensure inspection teams are United Nations driven and not driven by the participants of the last incursion into Iraq.

The situation in Iraq could impact on other areas. There is no doubt but that Israel is taking advantage of the crisis in the Gulf by intensifying its settlement activities and paralysing the peace process because few people are taking an interest in what is happening in Palestine at present. The international community and the United States are totally involved in the Iraqi crisis. Since the crisis began Israel has confiscated 600 duhms or 1,500 acres of Palestinian land to build Jewish settlements in Palestine, the West Bank and in Jerusalem. Israel has refused to implement the Oslo Accords and the Hebron Agreement concerning redeployment of Israel forces. Israeli forces are building up at present because of the danger of a possible attack by Iraq. Prime Minister Netanyahu is able to hide behind the threat from Iraq in his further efforts to avoid dealing with the Oslo Accords. He stated categorically that he wants to keep control of over 60 per cent of the West Bank, although the Accords stated that 15 per cent should remain under Israeli control. It is said the Iraqis are not abiding by agreements made with the United Nations but Israel is not and has never abided by agreements made with the United Nations. Unfortunately, the United Nations does not seem capable of applying itself in all areas of conflict.

We should also address some of the problems in Africa. Reference was made to Algeria. There is no doubt but that the genocide in Algeria is not being faced up to by the world. We must plead and pray that some semblance of reason will emerge in that beleaguered country. There is no doubt but that Islamic extremists are the cause of 90 per cent of the problem. However, a certain amount of blame should be attributed to the Algerian Government. It should be helped and cajoled in whatever manner possible to ensure that the Algerian people can live in peace and harmony with each other.

There are horrendous incursions into Sierra Leone at present and there is a danger that the country will be completely taken over in the next [528] few weeks. Huge numbers are leaving, including over 200 refugees who were drowned in a recent horrific accident. The situation must be addressed.

A horrific civil war was ongoing in Angola for many years. The Angolan people have made attempts to bring a peaceful resolution to their problems. However, UN sanctions were recently imposed on UNITA, the main opposition grouping in the country. These appear to be contrary to the principle of all international agreements because UNITA is not a country. It is beyond belief that the UN can impose sanctions on a broadly based political party. Hitherto, UNITA and the NPLA have been trying to get together under the Lusaka accords. While all the principles of the accords have yet to be fully honoured, UNITA has done everything possible to bring about peace in Angola.

There are parallels between Angola and Iraq, the main one being that they are big oil producing countries. Given the pictures that have emerged from the civil war, the oil industry sees Angola as a poor country. However, it is extremely rich in diamonds, petroleum and agriculture. Some 30 per cent of its oil exports go to the US. This has a major influence on Government circles in Angola. If the revenues from this source were used by the Angolan Government to help the people recover from the civil war, the country's poverty and deprivation would be largely eliminated. While Angola is a considerable distance from us, the Government should accord the highest priority to supporting the efforts of UNITA and Dr. Savimbi.

The growing element of racism in Irish society has arisen because of the huge influx of refugees who have come from many parts of the world, including eastern Europe, Africa and the Middle East. We must ensure they are accorded the best possible welcome, something which unfortunately has not been accorded in the past.

As a nation we have a reasonable record in terms of our hospitality. However, in the past few years it has not been forthcoming to refugees or asylum seekers. The latter must not be turned away and thereby put at risk of being sent back, directly or indirectly, to a country where they fear persecution, torture or death. All asylum seekers must be made aware of their rights in a language they understand. Reception procedures should be courteous, effective and provided by appropriately trained staff. They should have the same freedom of expression and freedom of movement within the State as Irish citizens and detention should not be used as part of the asylum procedure.

Many people who are obviously not Irish are to be found in all parts of the country. We must ensure that the welcome they get is appropriate to the often horrific problems from which they have fled. I know a number of asylum seekers or refugees who have been treated abominably and a number who have been well treated and are happy to be here. [529] I am pleased the Minister raised the matter of Irish aid abroad. We are now beginning to live up to our commitments. The recent increases in GDP expenditure on aid and the uses made of it are appropriate. Under the Minister of State at the Department of Foreign Affairs, Deputy O'Donnell, there will be an appreciation that money allocated to overseas aid, on a bilateral, multilateral or one to one basis, will be spent in the best possible manner in the countries to which it is given. At times in the past, moneys allocated were not used to the best advantage of those most in need but fell into the hands of governments or individuals who did not need it but used it to build up their power. I thank the assistant secretary of the Department of Foreign Affairs, Margaret Hennessy, for the work she is undertaking on aid programmes world-wide.

I thank the Minister for his overview on world events. I also wish him and his negotiating team on the Northern Ireland situation the very best. We can discuss the problems of the world but if we do not resolve the problems at home we will have failed. There will be hiccups in the talks but I urge all involved to continue with them.

Mr. Norris: Information on David P.B. Norris  Zoom on David P.B. Norris  I welcome this debate and the Minister of State, Deputy Flood, to the House. He is a competent, intelligent and good hearted person and I have no doubt he will act as an efficient conduit to the Minister for Foreign Affairs of what he considers to be the more important and salient points and questions. I accept that he will not be in a position to answer my questions this morning but I am sure he will get answers in writing from the Minister for Foreign Affairs.

This is a broad debate and for that reason it is somewhat lacking in passion. In addition to these wide ranging debates we should have more focused debates on specific issues relating, for example, to the crisis in the Middle East, the situation in Israel and Palestine, the Iraq war, about which we will wish to say a little today, Tibet and East Timor. These should take place not just in the Oireachtas Joint Committee on Foreign Affairs, to which a number of us belong, but also in the House.

We are lucky to have Members such as Senator Lanigan who has long experience and wide knowledge. He is able to draw on a wide range of sources and make good and intelligent contributions to this debate. However, we should also have more focused debates. I note that the issue of Northern Ireland is responsible for the Minister's unavailability for the entire debate and I send my best wishes to him and the Minister of State, Deputy O'Donnell, on their endeavours in that regard. It is interesting that this matter is included in a debate on foreign affairs. Does this give some form of de facto recognition to partition?

I take an unsympathetic view towards the extreme Republican cause, but we must be practical. There are people with close connections to [530] paramilitary organisations on both sides at the talks. My firm conviction is that they should be included in the talks at all costs until they reach a conclusion. The idea of suspending participants for three weeks because it is believed they are implicated in murder is not appropriate. A three week suspension is what one receives for bad behaviour in school; it is not a penalty for murder. Such suspensions make a farce of the proceedings. The participants should be kept at the talks until they sign an agreement which is put to the people in referenda on both sides of the Border. After that, if any of them step one inch out of line they should be sat on with the greatest firmness and maximum intensity. Members of the House know what I mean in that regard.

I laugh when I consider the rhetoric of Sinn Féin. Mr. Adams and other spokesmen mentioned kangaroo courts. They were horrified at the idea and did not want to be dragged to such a court in Dublin. This was a court in the Four Courts presided over by judges and at which they had legal representation and the rules of evidence applied. This is unlike the kangaroo courts in which paramilitaries on both sides of the divide in Northern Ireland have consistently engaged. Realism should be brought to bear on this matter.

Other spokesmen for Sinn Féin mentioned the democratic mandate given to them by the Irish people to negotiate. The party has three Members from a combined parliamentary register of both Houses of 900 people. If that is the position, I should board an aeroplane today and go to negotiate with Saddam Hussein because of my mandate from the people. However, I have a greater sense of realism. We should be under no illusion that the reason particular emphasis is given to the paramilitary representatives on both sides is precisely because they are paramilitary representatives. I agree 100 per cent with Deputy Des O'Malley who said on television last night that this is “Make up your mind time”. They cannot have both the ballot box and the armalite. It is not enough to leave the armalite at the door; it should be thrown in a river. I look forward to that happening and the sooner it takes place the better.

I support the Minister's indication that Ireland will seek a non-permanent seat on the United Nations Security Council in the year 2000. There will be all-party support in both Houses of the Oireachtas for such a move. I am glad the Minister said globalisation is not a panacea. It is incumbent on the Seanad to analyse all proposals coming before it in light of this view. Instruments from Europe are slid in on a regular basis. These include matters such as legitimising the patenting of life forces. This means that the seas, crops and the production of people in less advanced nations can be patented by multinationals and sold back to them at enormous profit. Given Ireland's record as a former colony, it should examine these matters carefully.

I was sorry that although China was mentioned, the troubled question of Tibet did not feature. It [531] is not possible for the Minister to deal with every issue in the short time available but Tibet is a most significant matter. I draw the Minister's attention to a report in which I was involved, “China's Tibet — the World's Largest Remaining Colony”. This is the report of a fact finding mission and an analysis of colonialism and Chinese rule in Tibet in which I participated as part of a three person team which visited Tibet last spring. In the light of this report and recent developments, I wish to raise a specific aspect.

I understand that the Minister for the Marine and Natural Resources, Deputy Woods, recently visited Beijing to deal with trade issues. Under pressure from the Chinese, he indicated, and was widely reported as saying, that the Irish Government did not intend to continue supporting the UN Human Rights Commission's resolution on human rights in China. A meeting of the UNHCR will be held soon in Geneva and I ask the Minister to clarify this position. I understand the Taoiseach gave an assurance to the Tibet solidarity group that the comments do not represent the Government's position and that the Minister was caught on the hop. That is understandable in a human sense and I do not wish to pillory the Minister. However, I seek clear clarification on this subject.

It would not be appropriate for Ireland to change its position due to economic bullying. I understand the matter arose in the context of the issue of fish. I recently read the memoirs of Mr. Charles Bewley. When he was in Rome in the 1930s and somebody asked the Norwegian Minister what was Norway's foreign policy interest with regard to Italy, he replied “haddock”. We should not allow fish to supersede human rights in our dealings with China.

I read with great interest the detailed White Paper on Foreign Policy produced by the previous Government. I assume the ideas contained therein remain intact. One of the most interesting and valuable points in the White Paper was the issue of a human rights desk in Iveagh House. Would it be possible for that desk to make a report to the House or to the human rights subcommittee of the Joint Committee on Foreign Affairs, which perhaps would be an appropriate first forum? Perhaps the Minister could give a direct and practical answer to this question.

Regarding the current Iraqi crisis, I am no friend of Saddam Hussein. However, I did not put him in place. The CIA put him in office and it, acting as an instrument of American foreign policy, delivered to him the names of the left wing opposition whom he promptly murdered. We are complicit in the career of Saddam Hussein. He was theoretically correct when he said Kuwait was part of Iraq. This is undoubtedly the case; it is a historical reality. Kuwait has only been in existence for the past 80 years. The border travels perpendicularly from the coast and takes turns at right angles back to the coast, neatly enclosing all the major oil resources in the area. The border [532] was drawn by British civil servants and it is not a naturally occurring boundary.

The methods used by Saddam Hussein against his population and neighbours are reprehensible in the extreme. However, we must ask from where he is getting the instruments? We should remember that the British supplied him with material for the big gun under Margaret Thatcher's Government. We should consider Mr. Clarke's statements on this issue and immediately wonder what is the substance behind statements by senior diplomats and members of Government that the materials for the biological and chemical weapons Saddam Hussein is producing were sourced principally from the United Kingdom and Germany.

It beggars belief that the Germans can be once more supplying the chemical materials for the massacre of civilian populations. Will they ever learn? Will the Minister seek at the highest levels in Europe the names of the individuals and companies in Britain and Germany involved in supplying the instruments of death to this dictator? We are entitled to know. People are becoming very cosy about the Amsterdam Treaty. I do not feel as warm about it and I do not want to be involved in a partnership for peace that includes companies such as, I presume, I. G. Farben and others that are supplying this type of weaponry. I do not want to be involved in a partnership for peace thatincludes companies such as I. G. Farben supplying this kind of weaponry. Let us look at what they have——

Mr. Dardis: Information on John Dardis  Zoom on John Dardis  The Senator knows I. G. Farben no longer exists. It was split in three as a result of what happened in the war.

Mr. Norris: Information on David P.B. Norris  Zoom on David P.B. Norris  I know that and I know the three component parts are doing extremely well with some of the same personnel.

Iraq has 2,265 gallons of anthrax which is very difficult to get rid of and could kill billions, the spores causing flu like symptoms. There is an island off Scotland which has been in purdah for about 70 years. They have 3,117 gallons of botulinum toxin that we know of; ricin, a toxin derived from castor beans; 2,000 litres of afletoxin which destroys the immune system in animals and is carcinogenic, produced at Fudaliyah on the outskirts of Baghdad; hundreds of litres of clostridium perfingens, produced in the Al Hakum centre south west of Baghdad; VX, a toxic nerve gas; agent 15; the daura foot and mouth disease vaccine; camel pox; haemorrhagic conjunctivitis. The list goes on and on. What is happening there is extremely dangerous. What happens if they bomb it? Where do all these materials escape to? Into the atmosphere? Who will be killed? Will it be limited to the civilian population of Iraq or will it travel more widely? I do not believe in the surgical high-tech bombing about which we were told during the last Gulf war. It turned out to be nonsense. Bombing raids were not precise, they could not control civilian casualties. We were told [533] patriot missiles could destroy scuds and were so accurate. They were not. It has been calculated that they caused even greater damage. Item 12 on the Order Paper is a motion passed by the Committee on Foreign Affairs and there is a recommendation in it in regard to Algeria. I would like the Minister to take that into account.

In Rwanda and Burundi there is something practical Ireland can do. We can reinforce the United Nations Human Rights Commission office in Kigali in terms of cash support and personnel. I hope this Government will do everything in its power, acting on behalf of the Irish people, to support the work of the United Nations Commissioner for Human Rights, Mrs. Mary Robinson, a former President of this country. She has the intellectual capacity to make an enormous difference in the human rights of people throughout the globe but she needs the determination and support of governments on a world-wide basis. This support should start at home. We must lobby our colleagues in Europe for proper support for Mrs. Robinson in her task.

Mr. Dardis: Information on John Dardis  Zoom on John Dardis  The Minister gave a wide ranging and comprehensive overview of many aspects of foreign policy and I commend him for the tone and content of his remarks. Senator Norris made a good point when he said these debates can be so wide-ranging they degenerate into generalities on several areas. It would be preferable that, for future consideration, Northern Ireland be considered separately and other aspects be dealt with individually.

When there were successive calls for a debate on Northern Ireland in recent weeks, I thought it would be better to leave that matter to one side, given the enormous sensitivities involved at the moment. However, the House has a good record in debates on Northern Ireland. I frequently think on these occasions that we miss the wisdom, charity and understanding displayed by the late Senator Gordon Wilson. Had he lived, his input would be of significant value.

It holds true that the least said, soonest mended but the Minister has made several comments on Northern Ireland and it would be appropriate to respond to those. I commend him and my party colleague, Minister of State O'Donnell for their tremendous efforts in the peace talks. I commend the unified approach of the two Governments and the even handed way they have approached the talks, notwithstanding the difficulties of recent weeks. If the various parties involved, particularly the representatives from the northern parties, approach the talks in the spirit of wishing to maintain the peace permanently, many of the difficulties which have surfaced might be dealt with more satisfactorily from eveyone's point of view.

The North-South structures the Minister referred to are important from the point of view of this State and the United Kingdom. There have been many advances on a de facto basis in the area of North-South co-operation. The Minister [534] mentioned the input of voluntary and private bodies to that co-operation. That should not be underestimated. Co-operation at sporting, cultural, social and business levels can contribute to creating an atmosphere where there is mutual confidence between the two communities on both sides of the Border. That, in turn, can have a significant impact on the talks.

The European Union is a factor. To a degree the situation in the north of Ireland is an anachronism within the EU, because of the progress which has been made in Europe in overcoming the serious divisions which existed after the Second World War. That is the great dividend which has been reaped through co-operation at European level. It is a valuable model for our divided society.

Martin McGuinness said on the radio we would have to be fearful of the consequences if Sinn Féin were excluded from the talks. Under the Mitchell principles not only the use of violence but the threat of the use of violence are grounds for exclusion. We were told Sinn Féin had signed up to the Mitchell principles. It strikes me the remarks made by Mr. McGuinness during the week on the radio were an implicit threat of violence. That has to be dealt with in the talks as well as the horrific shootings which have taken place in Northern Ireland. I subscribe to the remarks made by Deputy O'Malley claiming Direct Action Against Drugs and Sinn Féin are synonyms for the IRA. It is a misuse of the English language to trot out the mantra that what the IRA does has nothing to do with Sinn Féin. That cannot continue indefinitely.

I find it astonishing that a group of people who, for successive years, refused to recognise the courts in this State or in the United Kingdom seek refuge in the courts to prevent them from being excluded from the talks. That is an extremely curious position for the Sinn Féin Party to take. Do they agree with the Mitchell principles? What is sauce for the loyalist goose is sauce for the republican gander. If loyalist parties are excluded by virtue of violence then the same principle should apply to Sinn Féin. I do not want to intrude into the business of the courts or to influence whatever rulings the courts would make. This is a matter for the courts and we respect the separation of powers between the Government and the Judiciary. I agree with the Minister's speech when he stated: “Essentially what we are trying to do is to create real partnership on this island and promote reconciliation at all levels in each of the three key relationships”.

As regards the Amsterdam Treaty, I am pleased the Government has brought forward a revised wording for referendum in the Bill going before the Dáil. It was suggested by people who opposed the treaty that the new wording could allow the State to agree to defence co-operation within the EU without any need for a referendum. Defence co-operation is excluded in the options and discretionary part of the treaty under [535] the Bill. But it does include closer co-operation on matters concerning the Single European Market; police and judicial co-operation and provisions concerning free movement of persons in the EU including the Schengen accord. I agree with all this and look forward to the Bill being passed and the adoption of the treaty in the referendum because it is another step forward in that great journey embarked on by the founding fathers of the EU, namely, Schumann, Spaak and Monnet. They brought us to the point where we have a stable peace in Europe and an understanding between peoples on a very wide range of countries.

I look forward to the enlargement of the Union eastwards. I also look forward to the talks which are about to take place with the applicant countries and those in the second round. It is proposed that funding of the enlargement will come from its own resources, but this is based on the questionable proposition that growth will be at a certain level throughout the entire Union, including the eastern countries. It may well reach the point that if the Common Agricultural Policy and the other EU policies are to be funded adequately there may need to be a small increase in own resources.

The Minister made the point about rural communities and what is happening to them. We are faced with very serious difficulties when we come to negotiate the Agenda 2000 provisions, especially in respect of agriculture, in terms of trying to maintain rural communities and have viable rural communities. These communities are so important to society, not just from the point of view of farming but in terms of the stability of the overall society. I know the Government will defend our interests when it comes to these difficult negotiations.

I do not have any difficulty with Partnership for Peace. It is important to point out that common foreign and security policy and common defence are not the same. They are frequently portrayed as the same. I would advocate closer co-operation in common foreign and security policy because of places like Iraq and Yugoslavia. The capacity of the Union to deal effectively as a major international power in each of those places is greatly diminished by the lack of common foreign and security policy within the EU. Successive Governments have always said there will never be any commitment to common defence other than by referendum. I cannot imagine a future Government adopting a different policy.

I wonder how long we can continue to be a la carte EU members. On the one hand we are taking the Structural and Cohesion Funds and arguing for a continuation of them when our GDP has got to the point where we no longer qualify for Objective One status. On the other hand we are saying we will not sign up for some things we find difficult. I do not understand how we can adopt those two positions at the same time.

I think there is an urgent need for greater co-operation [536] in the area of justice and home affairs and the so called third pillar. As borders disappear, and will continue to do so, the capacity for criminals to move across those borders is enhanced. The only effective way of dealing with that is to have a system whereby if criminals cross a border they can be pursued by the police. I know of a case where cigarettes stolen in Holland were passed through Belgium down to the south of France. On each occasion the investigating police found it more difficult to cross a border than the consignment of cigarettes. The Union will have to look at this situation. Other aspects of the Amsterdam Treaty could be dealt with.

I hope the UN Secretary General, Kofi Annan, will be successful in his mission to Iraq. He does not wish to bully anybody but to listen carefully and assess the situation. I am impressed that the Minister for Foreign Affairs, Deputy Andrews, said the Iraqi people are good people. In a significant statement he said it would be a tragedy for Iraqi civilians if the US took military action against Iraq. Every possible diplomatic card must be played to its full potential before military action against Iraq is considered. It is well known that Iraq has chemical weapons and the consequences are horrendous not just for Iraqi civilians but for the entire world. We all abhor and condemn these weapons but we must not allow this fact to cloud our judgment of what the effect would be if military action occurred.

Oil is a central factor in this situation. I suspect the war in Yugoslavia would have been settled a lot quicker if there had been oil at stake. We must not succumb to US propaganda. The CNN and other channels, and even the English channels, are giving us a particular spin on the issue. It is a matter of some satisfaction that we have our own reporter, Maggie O'Kane, giving us a balanced report.

In conclusion, I would like to have dealt with East Timor and the resolutions passed in Lisbon. I hope the Government will continue to put all pressure on at international level to ensure that the East Timorese wish for self determination is acceded to. Unfortunately, I do not have time to mention the embargo on Cuba and overseas development aid to Palestine.

Mrs. Ridge: Information on Therese Ridge  Zoom on Therese Ridge  I welcome the Minister, Deputy Flood. Many of the issues which I wished to address have been more than adequately dealt with by other Members. I agree with Senator Norris's comment on the lack of focus of this debate. The Minister's speech is positively global in its approach. The House could prioritise foreign affairs matters so that we could make more realistic contributions to a debate.

I share the Minister's concern and the disappointment and frustration felt by all of us at the lack of progress of the peace talks. It would be helpful if after crucial meetings one communication was given to the media by the talks chairman instead of the continual verbal sniping which we see each evening on the television news. The [537] media often encourage this sniping by isolating the speakers who are most likely to add fuel to the fire and not those who might calm it. I support Senator Norris when he says that one must talk even to one's staunchest enemies. The former Prime Minister of Kenya was once the leader of the Mau Mau and yet, as Prime Minister, took tea with Queen Elizabeth in Buckingham Palace. Precedents such as this must be followed in the interest of sanity. The lion must eventually lie down with the lamb, although it is sometimes difficult to know who is the lion and who is the lamb. With the other Members I send my good wishes and my commendation for their patience and perseverence to all the participants in the peace process. I wonder will we have peace in ours or anybody's time. I hope that when the talks move to Belfast a change of venue might bring some progress.

I share Senator Dardis's concern at the free movement of crime. I am in favour of the free movement of people throughout Europe but I would be grateful if the Minister could give us some information about the measures being taken to deal with criminal movement throughout the EU. Senator Dardis's contrast of the movement of criminals across borders with that of the police was illustrative of the difficulty we face. Drug trafficking is a major concern for most people. Can the Minister give us further information on the flanking measures which will be put in place to combat international crime?

I am pleased to note that we will still have the right of nomination for the appointment of Commissioners. I commend the present and former Commissioners who have represented Ireland so well in the European Union. As a democrat I welcome the enlargement of the Union while acknowledging that the cake slices will get smaller when it must be shared more widely. Now that we are enjoying an economic boom we must remember that we were once sitting lower down the table than we are now and welcome the new nations, particularly those from the old eastern European bloc.

May I read into the record of the House my party's view of the partnership for peace initiative as set out in the Fine Gael policy document, Ireland and the Partnership for Peace Initiative — Our place in the New European Security Architecture:

In three quarters of a century of Independence, Ireland as a State has played an important role in the world in peace-keeping and, through the UN for example, in advancing the cause of non-Nuclear Proliferation. Twenty-five years ago, after half a century of independence, we joined what is now the European Union. In the last quarter of a century our sovereignty has become a greater reality, not because we chose to stand aside from certain organisations but because we joined specific organisations, most notably the United Nations (UN), the Organisation for Security Co-operation in Europe, (OSCE) and, most significantly, [538] the European Union (EU). Our decision not to join the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation (NATO) in 1949 continues to enjoy wide public support, even though the reasons for not joining have never been enumerated or publicly consented to. As our foreign affairs spokesperson, Deputy Mitchell, has pointed out the public are able to discern between membership of NATO and having an association with NATO, tailored to our needs and with our full agreement and consent. The 1996 MRBI research shows this to be the case.

Fine Gael believes there is no cogent argument for Ireland remaining outside the PFP and that to remain outside is damaging to our own interests and also to the evolving European Security Architecture in which we must play a role and of which we must be one of the architects. This, in turn, is important for the morale of our defence forces.

The Cold War is over, but international strife continues. Increasingly this strife is of an internal nature (such as in the former Yugoslavia and Algeria) and requires a new response. There is now a greater emphasis on the need for security, stability and good order as a prerequisite to, for example, humanitarian aid. The EU does not have a capacity to make this response. PFP can help participating states to maximise their capacity to assist in situations of this kind.

In arguing for Ireland to become a partner in Partnership for Peace, Fine Gael put forward this policy document in the hope that it will lead to informed public debate. Furthemore, we call on those who dissent from our view to express their disagreements in principled and cogent terms so that the people can hear all of the arguments where these exist, both for and against.

For too long in Ireland there have been subjects which are taboo i.e. these cannot be raised or discussed. Fine Gael believe that Security and Defence issues whould be discussed in a rational and balanced way and offer this policy document as a contribution to what we hope will be a constructive debate.

Thank you for allowing me to read Fine Gael policy on this important issue into the record of the House. I do not normally read documents into the record but this is an important issue. The Minister specifically referred to our role in the United Nations and our seeking a seat on the Security Council. I hope we will be successful in this regard. Other Members referred to our proud UN record and I would be remiss if I did not do so.

In the debate on the reform of the United Nations General Assembly, the Minister indicated that Ireland and its European Union partners made proposals for financial reform of the United Nations budget. These recommend that member state contributions be assessed by means of a simple, fair and transparent mechanism based on the principle of capacity to pay, and calculated [539] in accordance with the per capita gross national product. Under these proposals, the majority of poorer developing countries would contribute less toward the United Nations budget. This is important in the context of the former Eastern bloc countries to which I referred earlier.

I wish to comment on Ireland's overseas development aid. The Minister stated the Government is committed to achieving a target of 0.45 per cent of gross national product in this regard. I have in my possession a document entitled “The Reality of Aid” which deals with overseas development aid provided by European Union countries. We have reason to be proud of our contribution. However, if the rate of increase does not improve, we will not reach the figure to which we have committed by 2012. In 1996, Ireland donated £106 million — 0.3 per cent of gross national product — in development aid. This represents an increase in real terms of 14.5 per cent over 1995. Ireland's aid in 1996 rose from 0.29 per cent to 0.3 per cent. The figure for Irish overseas aid continues to rise but we will have to work hard to increase it from 0.3 per cent to 0.45 per cent. I appreciate that the Government is committed to achieving this by 2002 and I hope that objective will be realised.

When Ireland last held the Presidency of the European Union, the former President of Tanzania, Mr. Julius Nyerere, addressed a debate during which he remarked that the real threat to peace comes from desperate poverty. That is a most succinct statement. The Minister should bear in mind the gap that exists in terms of Ireland's current overseas aid donation and the figure we have committed to reach by 2012, particularly in respect of Ireland fulfilling its commitment to developing nations.

I appreciate that I have referred to a number of different topics but I wanted to put forward my party's position in respect of the Partnership for Peace initiative. Given that this is a debate on foreign affairs I also wanted to address the issue of development aid and remind the Minister — I did so on two occasions — of the Government's commitment in that regard. For what they are worth, I also offered my views on Northern Ireland. I thank the Chair for the opportunity to address the House on these matters. Given Members' goodwill towards trying to provide an input into possible solutions to major problems, it might be preferable to list specific topics in order of priority in future debates on foreign affairs. This would mean we could have a more meaningful exchange of views.

Mr. Lydon: Information on Don Lydon  Zoom on Don Lydon  Like other Members, I believe the debate is confused and too wide ranging but there is not much we can do about that. The Minister's contribution was somewhat confused. It is disgraceful that a man who works so hard should be presented with a script with recurring paragraphs and incorrect terminology. I welcome the Minister [540] of State at the Department of Tourism, Sport and Recreation, Deputy Flood, and I concur with a previous speaker's comment that he is an extremely capable individual.

I wonder if the situation in Iraq is a sideshow designed to take the heat off President Clinton. There are double standards at play here because the US is determined to take action against Iraq but not against Israel. United Nations sanctions are at stake in both cases. Saddam Hussein refuses to allow the examination of all sites while Israel refuses point blank to honour its treaty obligations to the Palestinians. However, President Clinton has never indicated he is planning a massive air strike against Israel. He wants Israel as an ally and there is a strong and powerful Jewish lobby in the US. Please do not misunderstand me, I do not advocate that President Clinton should proceed against Israel. However, the similarities in these two cases are inescapable.

Israel has a massive military machine and possesses the third largest air force in the world. It has annexed the Golan Heights and discriminated against Palestinians in the most extreme fashion. Approximately 1.5 million Palestinians have lived in refugee camps for many years. Three generations of some families have occupied the camps because their homes — which were later bulldozed to the ground — and lands were taken from them. It is obvious that double standards are in operation.

I am amazed not only by the hypocrisy of the US but also that of the British in respect of Baghdad. As late as 1993, the British were selling the ingredients to manufacture anthrax to Saddam Hussein. Mr. Blair has now decided to send war planes to bomb his customers in Baghdad. He is disturbed that the Iraqi leader has the audacity to manufacture weapons for germ warfare with ingredients supplied by the British. This is like giving a child a box of matches and some firelighters and waiting to wallop him with a big stick if he happens to start a fire.

I am not so naive as to imagine that Saddam Hussein will be considered for canonisation. His record, like that of many despots, is one of extreme cruelty to his people. He displayed an obvious disregard for their welfare when he attacked Kuwait a number of years ago. I am also not so naive as to believe the Americans could not have eliminated him if they had wished to do so at the conclusion of the Gulf War. I firmly believe they left him in power for two reasons. First, he will always be useful for sabre rattling if domestic issues in the US threaten the stability of that country's presidency. Second, Washington wanted Saddam Hussein to remain in power so that sanctions and military pressure would isolate and weaken Iraq thereby dividing the Arab nations to come down in favour of either Iraq or the US. The CIA tried to assassinate him on a number of occasions but these attempts failed. However, they had the effect of producing purges in the Iraqi armed forces and narrowing Saddam Hussein's support base.

[541] What would happen if Saddam Hussein was killed? First, a new leader might claim credit and demand that sanctions be lifted. This would result in a strong Iraq. Second, democracy might result, but that would not suit the monarchy laden Gulf states and I do not believe it will happen. Third, all hell might break loose and Turkey would probably invade and, as it has threatened to do for some time, assume control of the Kirkuk oilfields.

What has been the West's reaction? The imposition of sanctions has only hurt the ordinary people and Saddam Hussein is not particularly concerned about this. Air attack, which would result in many civilian casualties, is not the answer as it is immoral and I doubt it would work. The only answer may be the use of ground forces and this is unlikely to occur. The US must avoid being isolated at all costs. Not many European leaders or Russia have come running to support the US. It is no accident that the charge against Iraq is being led by the US and the UK. We must move carefully because when the chips are down we call for Uncle Sam. The Americans are the only people who bail us out when things get hot.

The fight is not just about weapons of mass destruction. It is also about oil and the fear that Iraq will regain its place as a key supplier of oil and thereby reduce oil prices in world markets. I am glad the Government supports diplomatic initiatives and was pleased to hear the Minister state this was the Government's preference and that he particularly wishes to see the problem solved through diplomatic means as it will be a tragedy if the US goes in with all guns blazing. The Secretary General of the United Nations is visiting Iraq today and we must hope that works.

The debate is too short to go into detail on the Amsterdam Treaty, but I am glad the Government has produced a different wording for the referendum on it. The wording will have many consequences, one of which, if it is accepted, is that it will result in the protection of the Protocol which was annexed to the Maastricht Treaty, which in turn served to protect Article 43.3 of the Constitution, protecting the life of the unborn. It is a very important feature which has not been referred to by many people but, nevertheless, it is necessary.

I now turn to the People's Republic of China. Many attempts have been made worldwide to isolate Taiwan as greedy multinationals use their insidious powers with an eye to what might hopefully be lucrative markets in mainland China. However, we must never forget the great Chiang Kai-Shek and his support for democracy against tremendous odds. Taiwan did not occupy Tibet, destroy the religion and culture of that great country or banish the Dalai Lama. Taiwan, because of good government, cared for its people while in many cases those on the mainland lived at subsistence level. It developed a great and thriving economy far out of proportion to its size and did this by respecting the rights of its citizens, wise investment and aggressive marketing. Taiwan [542] successfully avoided the financial quake in Asia which hit its neighbours hard.

All is not well in mainland China. The governor of the central bank, Dai Xianglong, said recently that 20 per cent of all bank loans were non-performing and of these 5 to 6 per cent were a total loss. In contrast, the central bank of Taiwan is among the top 100 banks in the world. I wish to see the eventual reunification of China, but we should not turn a blind eye to the massacre that occurred at Tiananmen Square or the annexation of Tibet with the persecution of religion or the abuse of human rights in mainland China which went on for many decades. China would do well to emulate Taiwan rather than the other way around. The legacy of Chiang Kai-Shek is much better than that of Mao Tse-Tung.

With regard to East Timor, I hope the resolutions reached at the conference in Lisbon will be looked at again and supported. The main problem is the division of oil fields between Australia and Indonesia. Oil starts many wars. With regard to the Six Counties, the fundamental tenet of the Fianna Fáil Party is the reunification of the country through peaceful means. I have the utmost faith in the dealings of the Government, and particularly the Taoiseach, in this regard. I am sure he will achieve the best possible result in very difficult circumstances and I trust the final outcome will be a united Ireland where Irishmen alone will govern Irishmen.

Dr. Henry: Information on Mary E.F. Henry  Zoom on Mary E.F. Henry  Fifteen minutes is a short time to cover the world but I will concentrate on Burma. I commend those who set up the Burma action group in Ireland in 1996 because a most repressive regime has been in place in Burma over the past ten years which has totally destroyed democracy. In 1988 the legally elected Government was overthrown by the military and SLORC — the State Law and Order Restoration Council — took over. It is comprised of individuals who have been involved in the most terrible abuses of human rights.

In December 1997 the Minister for Foreign Affairs made an important statement in the Dáil in which he said Ireland was among a number of EU member states which would favour increased restrictions being imposed in order to bring further pressure to bear on the Burmese regime. This was made clear at the General Affairs Council in Brussels on 6 October 1997. He further stated “we shall continue to seek agreement from partners for the adoption of such measures”.

I am sure the Minister meant what he said and it was disappointing that only Denmark and the UK supported this line in that meeting. The Danish consul in Burma died in prison and this was the reason for Denmark's dismay at what was happening there. They went on and opted to pass the buck by asking Mary Robinson, the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, to take an initiative. It is disappointing the EU cannot take such an initiative. Will the Minister continue efforts within the EU to try to bring [543] pressure to bear upon the repressive régime in Burma?

It is sad to think the situation in the United States, which is thinking of banning new investment in Burma, is not matched in Europe. Madelaine Albright is quoted as having said she will send a message to the military that it will not attract the investment it clearly craves unless it begins a genuine dialogue with its people. The SLORC regime is not at war with anyone except its people and its treatment of them and ethnic minorities in particular has been appalling.

The Burma action group and Trócaire brought Dr. Sein Win, the legal Prime Minister of Burma, to Ireland and he spoke most movingly about the situation there. I am sure he would prefer to go to back to being a mathematician than a politician in exile. We must examine what efforts we can make to ensure he is in a position to go back to his country along with others who have had to flee. Aung San Sou Kyi, whose father was so important in the democratisation of Burma after it achieved independence, is still under house arrest. She is the legally elected President of Burma and it is incredible to think that a woman of her nobility could maintain her courage in the conditions under which she is being kept. She is able to say there will be change because all the military has are guns which have been the cause of the most appalling atrocities in Burma. The number of people who have died at the hands of the military, who have been shot, who have been used as forced labour and expired due to work and lack of nourishment, or who have died in captivity from torture and the inhumane treatment within the prisons there, is legendary.

There are dreadful refugee camps on the Thai/Burma border where the Karen and Mon nation ethnic groups, in particular, have had to flee. These camps have been burnt down in many cases in recent years so that people have had to flee further. It is important to note also that Muslims from the north-west of Burma have had to flee to Bangladesh because of oppression. Every ethnic minority in Burma has suffered. I know the general population has suffered, but the ethnic minorities have suffered even more.

The outside world has committed sins of commission as well as sins of omission regarding Burma because SLORC receives about 60 per cent of its financial support from oil companies. I heard Senator Dardis state how important oil was in relation to the Iraq crisis. If there was oil in Bosnia the problem there would have been solved more quickly.

Oil companies from France, Britain, the US and Japan are involved in the exploration, production and export of oil and gas from Burma. Despite a great deal of international pressure, some of them still take little notice of the dreadful human rights abuses which are taking place around them and which are being carried out on their employees.

[544] I suggest that we bring all available pressure to bear. We should not buy from the petrol stations that stock oil from the region, for example, if we feel strongly enough about it — I certainly do. It is only by imposing economic sanctions on Burma that anything will change there.

Another recent problem has been the major increase in tourism in the area. There has been huge investment from south-east Asian countries and there has been a proliferation in the number of tourists to Burma. I wonder if the tourists realise how the infrastructure of that country is supported. I know it may be a cheap holiday, but must we lower ourselves so much that we will visit countries where the general population is being so appallingly abused? By spending our money there, we are only allowing the regime to continue.

From an economic view point, all Ireland gets from Burma is heroin, which we could well do without. Since 1988 illicit exports of drugs from Burma have doubled. There are hundreds of millions of dollars involved and a great deal of the money involved is being laundered by the state oil company.

Sadly, we receive another import, clothes, from Burma, about which we could do something. The clothes are made very cheaply for some stores which have sold them in this country. The only store in which I ever saw them has stated it has withdrawn any stocks which were made in Burma, so I will refrain from naming it. These clothes are made in military factories where workers are slave labourers. If we see clothes made in Burma-Myanmar we should instantly tell the store that this is quite unacceptable for Irish people.

Another unfortunate export from Burma is trafficking in women and children. While Burma signed the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child in 1991, it is interesting that it had two significant reservations. Burma refused to recognise Article 15, which recognises the right to freedom of association and peaceful assembly, and Article 37, which states that no child shall be subjected to torture or other cruel, degrading and inhuman treatment or punishment. These reservations were withdrawn later, but it is very interesting that they should have thought at the time that this was in any way acceptable when they were signing an international declaration.

The Geneva Convention (Amendment) Bill, 1997, regarding the ratification of the 1977 protocols on the Geneva Convention, has been reinstated on the Dáil Order Paper. I urge the Minister to bring it before the Houses of the Oireachtas as soon as possible. Some of these protocols relate to our not becoming involved in nuclear bombing. However, there are other ones where our moral support is very important, for example, where the enforced transportation of the civilian population or depriving people of food, medicine, etc., is used as a method of war. We should be in a position to say that we oppose in strongest possible way any such actions. Our [545] belated ratification of the convention after 21 years — a matter I have raised since I entered the House — will be greatly welcomed not only by the UN but by international agencies such as the International Red Cross, who must deal with refugee and prisoner of war problems.

Labhrás Ó Murchú: Information on Labhrás Ó Murchú  Zoom on Labhrás Ó Murchú  Fáiltim roimh an Aire Stáit, an Teachta Flood, agus an Aire Gnóthaí Eachtracha, an Teachta Andrews. Gabhaim buíochas leo toisc an chaoi a thabhairt dúinn cursaí Gnóthaí Eachtracha a phlé anseo.

Most Senators have dealt with the major world issues, and rightly so, and the Minister, Deputy Andrews, outlined the many areas of concern for the Government. I often feel that the big names, such as Saddam Hussein, President Clinton and Prime Minister Blair, will always be sure of headlines and publicity. The smaller players, those who are vulnerable, helpless and oppressed, depend on our voices to help them.

In the past couple of days I received a little gift, which I am sure all Senators received. It is called a friendship bracelet and it was sent to us from the street children of Latin America, courtesy of Amnesty International.

In this regard, I want to read into the record the name of Nahaman Carmona Lopez. It is a strange sounding name and we would not be familiar with him. He will not be aware that I read his name into the record either because he, a 13 year old street child, was kicked to death in 1990 by the police in Guatemala.

Subsequently, it was brought to the notice of Amnesty International who started a campaign to ensure that those responsible for the death of Nahaman would be brought to justice. A campaign of telegrams and letters brought about a trial and those four policemen were found guilty. They subsequently appealed the case and won it. Amnesty International then started another campaign of publicity, letters and telegrams. There was a retrial and, again, they were found guilty and sentenced to 12 years. A short time later they were released quietly from prison.

Whether it is Colombia, Guatemala or Brazil, the same attitude is displayed to these young street children and there are hundreds of thousands of them. The military and the police regard them as human debris, creating an untidy situation on their streets. Were it not for Amnesty International, which was launched in 1961 by Peter Benenson, a British lawyer, many of those cases would go unnoticed.

Ireland can play a unique role in human rights and in highlighting of violations. We can do so because of our own impeccable record in human rights, as a non-colonial power and as a country which even in the most deprived times sent help to other countries. Amnesty International has over one million members around the world and a professional staff which is at all times monitoring court cases, human rights abuses and making representations to governments. Were it not for Amnesty International we could not maintain [546] that a check is being kept on dictatorships and military powers which have no regard for human rights. At the same time, it is up to governments to take a leading role in this regard. Unfortunately, whether with regard to the Middle East, Iraq, Bosnia or elsewhere, Governments often stop action being taken. This may be for partisan political or commercial reasons, leaving the helpless more vulnerable than ever.

I wish to refer to another person of whom we will not have heard, Mario Peiriama de Andrade. This man will not be concerned that I read his name into the record because he is immune to complaint. He is a member of the death squad killers of street children in Brazil. He said of his activities “You have to be cold, look right in their eyes, kill them and smile at them. I've always done it like that.” I have a picture of the sad face of the 13 year old Nahaman and it would bring tears to a stone to realise that there are many thousands in his position.

I began my contribution with these comments with regard to Latin America because I wonder why President Clinton, Prime Minister Blair and other leaders do not have the same regard for human rights there as they express in their concern for Iraq. Why do they speak in such an inflexible militaristic fashion, fragmenting the international community of the UN? It cannot be merely for the sake of human rights. I do not say that in an anti-American spirit because the Irish have always had a traditional friendly disposition to the US. Nor do I say it in an anti-British spirit because, despite the historical hostility which exists between us, many Irish people have travelled to Britain and intermarried and we have very close relationships with Britain. However, if the UN is not united with regard to Iraq, why should unilateral action be allowed? Our voice may be small on the international stage but I appeal to the US and Britain to do what they can for human rights violations in other countries.

Eminent medical advice indicates that the chances of bombing the nerve gas and biological weapons centres in Iraq without causing immense damage to the atmosphere are slight. Such bombing will mean anthrax will be projected into the air. By its nature, anthrax contamination requires treatment with antibiotics within hours. What chance have Iraqi civilians of getting help when, as a result of sanctions, they have already been denied medical supplies? It is not inconceivable that tens of thousands of civilians will suffer in Iraq as a result of anthrax and nerve gases being expelled into the air.

President Clinton said with regard to America that it was important to protect children against biological warfare. What about the children in Iraq and other regions? It is time for the nations of the international community, large and small, to be strong, courageous and outspoken in making it clear that no one has the right to declare war in their name.

I welcomed the Minister's statement with regard to Northern Ireland. We should not be [547] pessimistic in spite of the recent tragedies. The history of Northern Ireland has always been played out against a background of tragedy and trauma, which has not been confined to any one political or religious affiliation. Men, women and children have suffered. However, 25 years ago could anyone have envisaged that all the parties would be sitting together talking to one another and acknowledging that a solution must be found?

Anybody with an economic sense or any human strategy at their disposal will realise, apart from rights and wrongs, that it is pragmatic that there be cohesion between North and South. It is pragmatic to have cross-Border institutions with executive powers because we will all benefit from them. I pay tribute to the Governments and to all the parties, including the republicans, the loyalists and the Women's Coalition who have made an effort, in spite of sorrow, tragedy and trauma, to work together.

The bona fides of Sinn Féin with regard to peace are above reproach. It has acted in a statesmanlike manner and has won admiration nationally and internationally for its stance. Some people will endeavour to undermine the Sinn Féin status and strategy and to undermine the peace process. However, if we do not continue to progress with all parties around the talks table, making their views known and compromising to reach accommodations, the alternative is frightening. I appeal that all parties be left in the talks so that we can work together for the betterment of Ireland.

Mr. Costello: Information on Joe Costello  Zoom on Joe Costello  I welcome this opportunity to speak on foreign affairs. The Seanad has a greater scope for a wide-ranging and constructive debate on global affairs than the Dáil. I have been struck by the knowledge of Senators in this domain and by the degree of unanimity across a range of issues. I agree with Senator Ó Murchú's remarks. He has underlined my feelings that, as a small neutral nation, Ireland can play a major role in international affairs. I will not refer to Northern Ireland or EU issues because I wish to concentrate on three areas — Iraq, Algeria and East Timor.

I will first address the current crisis in the Gulf with regard to Iraq. Like every other Member of the House I am appalled by the brutal and murderous regime operated by President Saddam Hussein in this ancient and historic land. He is one of the most brutal dictators of modern times. His presence destabilises the whole region and brings great hardship to the people of Iraq. His methods of dealing with internal dissent and separatist movements are an affront not only to international standards but also to the sense of justice and decency we all share as human beings. His is a vile and despicable regime that stains the name of Iraq throughout the world.

[548] However, the current stance taken by the US and, I regret to say, the British Prime Minister, Tony Blair, is short-sighted and counter-productive. Given the recent history of this island and the present talks I find it astonishing that anyone could propose the view that violence can lead to a resolution of any problem, yet this is the solution proposed by both the US and Britain. If the essential truths contained in the Mitchell principles applied to democratic Governments across the world, the US and Britain would currently be in the dock, along with Saddam Hussein, for the flagrant abuse of these principles.

The history of threatened American intervention against this pernicious dictator has been guided by self-interest and hypocrisy. One of the cruellest and most deadly foreign policy decisions taken by the US over the past number of years was, in the aftermath of the Gulf War, actively to encourage tens of thousands of marsh Arabs and Shi'ite Muslims in the south of Iraq to rise against Saddam Hussein. These people were led to believe their insurrection would be supported by the huge US forces then in the region after their short and vicious defeat of Saddam's army. The marsh Arabs and their allies took the Americans at their word. They rose against the brutal dictatorship but they were left stranded by the US. Poorly armed and badly trained farmers, herdsmen and religious leaders were left to be slaughtered by the remains of Saddam's army, with the hollow words of US propaganda ringing in their ears. This US action should make anyone wary of both the intention and the motivation of US foreign policy in the region.

The American and British attitude to Iraq since the Gulf War has been short-sighted and illthought out. As to the boycott supported by both those countries, economic sanctions are a complex issue and their imposition cannot be dictated by universal principles. The economies and political structures of every nation vary enormously and to hold the view that sanctions per se are an appropriate response to any disgraced regime is naïve. With particular reference to Iraq the current constraints have been totally counter-productive. A vicious dictator like Saddam Hussein will ensure that the people of Iraq bear the brunt of economic hardship while his cohorts continue to enjoy the trappings of power. The widespread poverty and deprivation engendered by sanctions has also had the effect of consolidating support for President Hussein within Iraq. The current regime is adept at internal propaganda and ensures that the population lays the blame for its current hardship firmly and solely at the door of the USA. This in turn increases internal tolerance for his regime. It is a foolhardy policy which should be immediately reviewed.

To turn to the current crisis, I fully support the endeavours of the UN General Secretary to find a peaceful and satisfactory solution to the current impasse. While the thought that President Hussein may yet again be building up his arsenal of [549] deadly weapons is repugnant, the heavy handed and provocative manner in which the US in particular has pursued this matter is of no benefit to the search for peace in the region. It is notable that many of Iraq's closest neighbours, who may be the targets of future attacks, have refused to join the headlong rush of the US to resolve this problem through violence. I support their alternative strategy and send the message that we cannot tolerate massive military violence from any quarter.

I have worked in education for many years and know the damage confusing signals can cause to young minds. It is not acceptable that, on one hand, children are told of the horror political violence has wrought on their country while, on the other, a leading world power revels in the prospect of launching a bloody attack on the citizens of another country. I reject this form of double think.

Beyond the current position in Iraq there are a range of issues which have continued for many years without solution. One of the most horrific conflicts of modern times is the bloody and barbarous civil war which has raged in Algeria since the quashing of the election result at the beginning of the 1990s. That it has taken the international community so long even to recognise the scale and seriousness of this conflict says much about the dictatorship of the TV image and its control over the agenda of world leaders. We do not see many images of the Algerian conflict beamed into our living rooms every day but if we did the UN and the EU would have taken steps to intervene a long time ago. In the West it is only through the work of brave and committed journalists like Mr. Robert Fisk and Ms Lara Marlowe of The Irish Times that this civil war has impinged on our consciousness. I pay tribute to the courage of these writers and the many hundreds of their fellow journalists in Algeria who have paid the ultimate price for attempting to report the conflict in an objective and rational way.

There is no easy or apparent solution to the Algerian crisis. The main protagonists on both sides of this bloodbath seem further away from each other now than they did at the beginning. However, it is incumbent on the international community — and the EU in particular given its proximity to north Africa — to attempt to facilitate dialogue between the warring factions. While the armed Islamic group and certain sections of the Algerian military seem intent on foisting terror and bloodshed throughout the land, there have been positive developments in recent months. Moderate elements in the FIS have gained increasing authority in the movement and their accession to power seems to have been met with a degree of generosity by elements within the Government.

It is imperative that the EU does all in its power to facilitate dialogue between the moderate [550] elements within Algeria. If the framework of a political solution can be sketched out between rival groups, it undermines the authority which the extremists seek to support their vicious and violent campaign. If access to Algeria is denied or is too dangerous to attempt, the EU in co-operation with the UN should then do all in its power to arrange meetings on neutral territory. We have seen from our own peace process in recent months that many methods of dialogue must be on the table to break down prejudice and genuine fears which have been induced through years of violence. We should use our experience and knowledge of these matters to inform policy in the area so that we can take the first tentative steps to forging a solution and an end to the bloodshed.

Solutions to international affairs often take many years, however. The ongoing oppression of the people of East Timor is an affront to civil rights that cannot be allowed to continue. I thank and pay tribute to the role played by my colleague and former party leader, Deputy Spring, in putting East Timor on the top of his agenda when Minister for Foreign Affairs during Ireland's EU Presidency. He also tried to make his European colleagues do likewise. I hope the current Minister, Deputy Andrews, will give it the priority it deserves.

My party leader, Deputy Quinn, raised in the Dáil this week the question of appointing a Minister responsible for European affairs but he has received no adequate response to his timely and well established suggestion. I do not doubt the Minister's good faith on East Timor but I do doubt his capacity to invest a large amount of time in this subject, given his commitments on the peace process and Europe. I, therefore, urge the Taoiseach to review the decision not to appoint a Minister responsible for European affairs. It is imperative that our Minister for Foreign Affairs is seen to be active on East Timor because it places pressure on our EU partners to act on the matter. It further pressurises the Indonesian Government to deal with a small country. I hope the Taoiseach will look favourably on Deputy Quinn's proposal.

The East Timor Ireland Solidarity Campaign requests the Minister for Foreign Affairs to do what the President of South Africa, Nelson Mandela, did recently, which is to call on the Indonesian Government to release all East Timorese political prisoners, including the patron of the East Timor Ireland Solidarity Campaign, Mr. Xanana Gusmao.

Minister of State at the Department of Tourism, Sport and Recreation (Mr. Flood): Information on Chris Flood  Zoom on Chris Flood  I thank Members for their very distinguished contributions to this wide ranging debate. I also thank them for their sympathy and understanding regarding the current work schedule of the Minister [551] for Foreign Affairs and the Minister of State, Deputy O'Donnell, which is why they could not be here for the entire debate. I also thank Members for their kind remarks about myself.

Members raised a number of very serious and important issues and expressed the hope that the Minister for Foreign Affairs might find it possible to respond to them. I assure Members I will ensure the Minister is made aware of those issues and I am sure he will respond as soon as possible.

[552] I thank Members again for their fine contributions to this wide ranging and important debate.

An Cathaoirleach: Information on Brian Mullooly  Zoom on Brian Mullooly  When is it proposed to sit again?

Mr. T. Fitzgerald: Information on Tom Fitzgerald  Zoom on Tom Fitzgerald  At 2.30 p.m. next Wednesday.

The Seanad adjourned at 1.15 p.m. until 2.30 p.m. on Wednesday, 25 February 1998.


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