Oireachtas Joint and Select Committees
Thursday, 13 July 2017
Select Committee on Foreign Affairs and Trade, and Defence
Framework Agreement between European Union and Republic of the Philippines: Motion
Comhghairdeas and very best wishes to the Minister of State in his new role. It is a strange kind of country, with some 140 families ruling over 100 million. I note there is not that much of a difference between exports and imports, which is interesting. The Minister of State might outline what we are exporting and importing. I see trade as a real opportunity to get and keep human rights on the agenda. There is an opportunity to have those conversations in any of our trade negotiations, especially in regard to workers' rights. The agreement is also based on a commitment to democratic principles and fundamental human rights and there is a basis to establish a formal human rights dialogue between the EU and the Philippines.
There are opportunities to highlight exactly what Fr. Shay Cullen and others have been telling us. Issues of particular concern are the plan to reduce the age of criminality to nine years of age, the reintroduction of the death penalty - although I see this morning a report that Japan has hanged two people for offences - the shoot to kill policy and, in particular, the exploitation of children and women. Fr. Cullen showed us very graphic pictures of children behind bars, children who were malnourished and very significant cases of stunted growth, but in particular material in regard to the sex industry. It is horrifying to learn about children being forced to perform sexual acts in videos which are live-streamed to adults who can pay for this. Fr. Cullen also highlighted human trafficking.
I want to bring the discussion back to what we can do because we are not doing enough. At this point, a convicted paedophile from this country with his or her passport - it is usually a he - can travel to the Philippines and buy children for sex. Between this committee, the Committee on Justice and Equality, and Defence, and the Minister of State, this is an issue we can address. I hope to meet some of the officials from the Department of Justice and Equality because I have been advised that is what we have to do.
Our legislation allows this and it is allowing people in this country to pay to see children being murdered on video as well for sexual gratification, which I do not understand. The trade is an opportunity to do that and I hope we take every opportunity we can to highlight this and to say it is totally and utterly unacceptable but Ireland will do what it can in legislation to prevent this happening. Australia recently introduced legislation to combat this and we hope to bring that to the justice officials as well.