Oireachtas Joint and Select Committees
Wednesday, 11 February 2015
Joint Oireachtas Committee on Foreign Affairs and Trade
Priorities of Latvian Presidency of European Council: Latvian Ambassador to Ireland
I welcome H.E. Dr. Gints Apals, ambassador of Latvia to Ireland. Both he and Ms Vija Busa are welcome. We look forward to his address to the committee. Members will recognise the ambassador, as he is a regular observer at these committee meetings. Today, he is in formal session for the first time with the Joint Committee on Foreign Affairs and Trade.
Today's meeting will concentrate on the programme of Latvia's Presidency of the European Council, which occurs for the first six months of 2015. The format of the meeting is that we will hear an opening statement from the ambassador and then take questions from the members of the joint committee. I hope to be able to take a number of questions together. Perhaps the ambassador might bank the questions, and he or his deputy might answer them as he sees fit.
Before we start, there is the usual citation in respect of mobile phones. I ask members to switch them off to ensure that they do not interrupt the proceedings, which they do even when on silent. I remind members of the long-standing parliamentary practice to the effect that members should not comment on, criticise or make charges against a person or body outside the Houses or an official either by name or in such a way as to make him or her identifiable.
By virtue of section 17(2) of the Defamation Act 2009, witnesses are protected by absolute privilege in respect of their evidence to the joint committee. If they are directed by the Chairman to cease giving evidence on a particular matter and continue to so do, they are entitled thereafter only to a qualified privilege in respect of their evidence. They are directed that only evidence connected with the subject matter of these proceedings is to be given and they are asked to respect the parliamentary practice that, where possible, they should not criticise or make charges against any person or entity by name or in such a way as to make him, her or it identifiable. Ambassador, I call on you to address the committee.