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
In an ideal scenario I would agree wholeheartedly with Deputy Darragh O'Brien. It would have been far more desirable to have this debated in both Houses of the Oireachtas. That opportunity does not arise right now. In April, all Departments confirmed that no new legislation was required to ensure Ireland is able to implement the agreement once it has been ratified. There has been significant interdepartmental collaboration on getting us to the point we are at right now. There are no other similar agreements in the pipeline but I will give a commitment that we will not arrive at a point again where we are running up to a vote at 6 p.m. without having had an agreement debated in the Dáil and Seanad. It is not the most desirable scenario. I agree with the Deputy and undertake to ensure it does not happen again as long as I am working with my colleagues in the Department.
Deputy Crowe sought examples of inter-country or framework agreements that have secured lasting human rights improvements in the past. The only comparison one might be able to make is with the expansion of the EU after the fall of the Berlin Wall. It is not completely analogous to this but the agreements that were formed with countries such as Romania and Bulgaria are the basis for what we are trying to do now with the Philippines. They were countries in which there were significant human rights abuses back in the 1950s, 1960s and 1970s. As part of accession to the EU and forming ongoing economic and societal relationships, those issues had to be addressed. They were addressed through engagement and by building bilateral and multilateral relationships with these countries. What is the alternative to not forming this agreement with the Philippines? It has been ratified by virtually every other country in the EU. I would like Ireland to be inside the fence of that ongoing engagement in order that it is able to interact with the Philippines at the highest level with the support and backing of the EU. In that way, we can address the very issues the Deputy raised because it is a far more productive use of our time and diplomatic power to be able to engage and change culture. I agree with the Deputy that it will take a very long time but the alternative is not being part of the process. We have much to bring to the table and much expertise that we have built up over the years to be able to play a very productive part in slowly but surely addressing these major human rights issues.
Did I leave anything out?