Oireachtas Joint and Select Committees
Wednesday, 15 January 2014
Joint Oireachtas Committee on Foreign Affairs and Trade
Review of Foreign Affairs Policy and External Relations: Discussion
I remind members, witnesses and those in the Visitors Gallery to ensure their mobile telephones are switched off completely for the duration of the meeting as they interfere with the recording equipment in the committee room even when in silent mode.
On 4 December 2013, the Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade met with the committee and announced his Department will carry out a review of Ireland’s foreign policy and external engagement. The committee agreed at that meeting that it would take submissions in a review of this. Accordingly, it will conduct hearings this afternoon and tomorrow. Following this week’s meeting, the committee will compile a report to submit to the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade.
I welcome Mr. Noel Dorr, a former ambassador who has had a long and distinguished career in the Department of Foreign Affairs, and Professor Ben Tonra, School of Politics and International Relations, University College Dublin. I invite Mr. Noel Dorr to make his opening statement.
Mr. Noel Dorr:
I thank you, Chairman, and the committee for inviting me here this afternoon. I have already circulated a statement to the committee to which I will speak.
I confess that, initially, I had some hesitation about speaking at length about the affairs of a Department where I served for most of my career. However it is now some considerable time since I retired and, as I no longer have any direct connection with the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade, I speak here entirely as an individual and on my own behalf. I begin by welcoming the announcement by the Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade of a review of Irish foreign policy. I note that he has said he will take account of a series of other reviews. A foreign policy review nearly 20 years after the White Paper of the mid-1990s is timely and I hope it will help to build public understanding and support for our foreign policy. Ireland’s foreign policy today is diverse and multifaceted. It extends well beyond the area of work of my former Department. Through our membership of the European Union and other bodies, the Taoiseach and other Ministers are deeply involved in foreign policy. However, I hope members will understand if I focus to a great extent on the area of work of the Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade and his Department.
Most books on international relations are written from the viewpoint of larger States. They discuss the international system in terms of power, such as shifting interests and power relations, the balance of power and deterrence. I have always thought that smaller countries, especially those with a history such as ours, draw on a very different kind of experience. We are not necessarily more moral, although we might like to think so, but the concern of smaller countries like ours is less with power or so-called power projection than with stability, order, justice and the rule of law in the international system. That underlying concern has characterised our foreign relations since the foundation of the State. The policy of any state will naturally be greatly influenced by its geographic situation, its economy, its history and the character and outlook of its people. Ireland is a small, independent and democratic state in western Europe and is a committed member of the European Union. We are an open trading country. We are not members of an alliance. We have a particular sense of our own history. We are situated in a prosperous region and despite the considerable difficulties caused by the severe recession of recent years we remain relatively prosperous by comparison with most other states in the world. All of this sets the broad background for our approach to international affairs.
This still leaves a considerable margin for decisions as to the kind of policies we pursue. By way of a very general summary of my own views, I believe that Irish foreign policy ought to be directed to promoting the interests, concerns and values of our people – I stress concerns and values as well as interests. With due regard to our size, population and relative prosperity, Ireland should act responsibly as a State in every way we can whether directly or through organisations such as the United Nations to promote peace, order, justice and human rights in a troubled world. I do not wish to see Ireland join a military alliance of any kind but I think our membership of the European Union is vital to us and we should be willing to work with other member states towards closer union. I will develop these points in more detail as I proceed.
My submission sets out a brief survey of the international scene but, in the interest of brevity, I will simply touch on some of the issues mentioned. The failure to construct the new order which we had hoped for in the 1990s is regrettable. War and conflict continue in places like Afghanistan and Iraq and a dreadful civil war is being fought in Syria. There is something of a split in Islam in the Middle East between Shia and Sunni. In regard to the Israeli-Palestine problem, it is difficult to be hopeful but we may hope that the US Secretary of State, John Kerry, will make progress. A more hopeful development has been the cautious movement towards dialogue between the United States and other western countries and Iran. Members will be aware of this topic given that they have been to Iran in recent days.
In the Pacific region there is contention between China and Japan over certain islands. This could be dangerous if the contention was to develop further. In Africa, there is considerable conflict. The fall of Gaddafi in Libya has released arms and fighters, who have spread elsewhere. A worrying growth of Islamic fundamentalism can be observed across Mali, Central African Republic, Southern Sudan and northern Nigeria. Issues arising at a global level include the continuing growth of world population, pressures on resources, poverty and the dangers and instabilities posed by climate change. I have not even touched on economic issues or on the current crisis of the international financial system which continues to cause serious problems.
As to specific issues in our foreign relations I must necessarily be selective. There are five in particular which I would like to touch on briefly. The first is Northern Ireland and the related but much broader issue of Anglo-Irish relations. An unhappy consequence of the settlement of 1921 which led to the foundation of this State was that certain issues were bottled up in Northern Ireland. These included the relations between Nationalist and Unionist communities and the relationship between the two islands on the narrower ground of Northern Ireland. Unionists remained fearful about the constitutional status of Northern Ireland and the differences which arose from time to time about how best to respond to the conflict had the effect of holding back and sometimes disrupting what would otherwise be a close, warm and neighbourly Anglo-Irish relationship. As these issues touched on the security and in some ways on the very identity of the State, they involved the Taoiseach and all Members of Government. Happily today, the fundamental issues have been resolved. The conditions for any possible future change have been agreed and institutions have been put in place to promote co-operation between parties within Northern Ireland, between North and South in Ireland and between Britain and Ireland. Most importantly, the settlement reached has been ratified by the people in simultaneous referenda. These structures are working and they have been ratified symbolically by the Queen's visit to Ireland and, no doubt, will be given further impetus by the President’s visit to London. This is enormous progress.
However, outstanding problems include sectarianism and the small number of dissidents who cannot count on deep support but can cause significant trouble. Those of us who worked for a resolution of the problem of Northern Ireland in different ways and places had always hoped that once the deep causes of conflict had been removed or diminished, the politics of the area would no longer be a zero-sum game and that the political parties in Northern Ireland would find it possible to work together towards a shared future and not just a shared out future. While I am too far removed from events to speak definitively, there is reason to be disappointed about the slow progress towards this goal thus far. The competing narratives about the past are still in contention and the Haass-O’Sullivan talks have not yet succeeded. It will be necessary for the two Governments to continue to follow closely what is happening and to contribute in any way they can towards a settlement of outstanding issues.
The second issue is the European Union, which is of such central importance to us that our EU membership is best seen as the over-arching framework or horizon within which many other foreign and domestic policy choices are now made. It is regrettable that we have come to associate the Union with austerity as much as with solidarity but we should remind ourselves of what the EU is and why we want to be part of it. The EU originated in an idea by far sighted European leaders in the 1950s, and the then Taoiseach, Seán Lemass, was also far sighted in his decision in 1961 that Ireland should apply for membership. However, the European Union of today is not just the creation of those early leaders. It is the work of generations of leaders of different political outlooks, who worked first in western Europe and later in the continent as a whole over more than 60 years. In the 40 years since we joined in 1973, Ireland has played a full part in the creation of this Union. It is not something over there; it is our Union which we helped to build. What has emerged is an organic growth, shaped according to what was politically and economically feasible at various times over more than six decades. It involves a pooling of sovereignty in specified areas by 28 States based on the principles of democracy, human rights and the rule of law. The legal order it has established applies to citizens as well as to member states. This Union of states and peoples is something quite new in international life. It is a structure which accommodates a creative tension between the direct national interests which member states naturally pursue and the more generous ideal which the very concept of the Union represents.
I am aware that what I have been saying may appear rhetorical or idealistic. It has been difficult to detect much vision in the response of the Union to the economic and financial crisis of recent times. What we now see too often is apparent disarray and lack of solidarity and in Ireland we tend to see the troika as imposing austerity rather than as a body through which EU institutions were fully represented and which was prepared to help us with funding when we could not raise funds elsewhere. At this time of low morale in the Union, it is important to remind ourselves of what it is we have created together in Europe. In June 2014 it will be 100 years since two shots fired in Sarajevo started a chain of events which included the carnage of two World Wars and the frozen hostilities of nearly half a century of Cold War. I do not know whether the European Union, as distinct from individual member states, is planning to commemorate this event but I suggest that we need an EU event of particular significance in this centenary year to remind us of our dark past and to point out the contrast between a millennium or more of warfare and the Europe of today, a continent which, notwithstanding its economic and financial difficulties, is democratic, committed to human rights and at peace with itself for the first time in its history.
I am not saying we should be starry-eyed in our approach. There will be a tension at times between our national policies and EU commitments. We should argue our case forcefully and always work for agreement, because if there is agreement the EU can carry great weight in international negotiations. We have generally found that member states are flexible and willing to accommodate national positions where vital interests are at stake.
These are likely to be testing times for the EU. There has been progress about the financial and banking crisis but the result and effects of what we have gone through have tended to divide the union and weakened the solidarity that was characteristic of an earlier time and from which we have benefited. The concept of free movement is being questioned in some countries because of migration from eastern European countries. New parties have taken an essentially disruptive approach and they could do well in the European Parliament elections. There is the significant issue of what the UK will do regarding its membership of the EU. Even the lead-up to the proposed referendum there could cause difficulties because of the need to negotiate and the question of how far we should go to accommodate the UK's remaining in the EU and worries that we might diminish the fabric we have created in the Union.
While Oireachtas committees have done a great deal of good, we probably need better scrutiny of European legislation. I sometimes wonder if the Seanad, which we have voted to retain, might not have a role. Perhaps there could also be a revision of the system of election and nomination and something done to bring in expertise. We seem to always need to have referenda because of decisions of the Supreme Court. That is difficult when dealing with a treaty which can be necessarily complex. It is healthy too that people have a feeling of ownership of our Constitution and that they are asked to discuss and debate our membership every so often. If and when there is a new treaty I would like there to be a clear explanatory memorandum, of the kind that we get with Irish draft legislation, drafted by the secretariat of the Council, the legal services, and perhaps even approved by the European Court, which would have authority to say in plainer language what the treaty means.
On security and defence, I do not wish Ireland to join NATO or any military alliance. If that is what neutrality means, I am all for it. However it would be healthy if we had more of a debate about the content and meaning of neutrality. It is not helpful to understand neutrality solely in terms of the Hague Convention of 1907, although some aspects are relevant. We have commitments under the UN Charter. We have to impose sanctions if the Security Council so decides and, in principle, we could be called on to provide troops if the Security Council decided on enforcement action. That has not happened in practice and is unlikely but is there as a principle. In 1946 Eamon de Valera, in proposing to the Dáil that we join the UN, brought out very clearly what we were committing ourselves to. We have also the commitment to the common foreign and security policy of the EU, which has been endorsed in successive referenda. The Irish people are proud of what the Irish Defence Forces have done in so many peacekeeing operations under the aegis of the EU and otherwise and would want it to continue. I doubt if all these activities would be seen by the old-fashioned statesmen of the late 19th century as compatible with the kind of neutrality they were talking about in 1907.
I understand the triple lock, I sympathise with it and it is important to have the legitimacy of the UN mandate, but I sometimes wonder if the way we have tied ourselves into that might not be loosened just a little. It is possible to imagine that where there is a block in the Security Council, but where everybody here thinks a contribution to an EU peacekeeping operation would be desirable, we could have a rule that it would require a two-thirds majority in the Dáil. A two-thirds majority would be substantial. Without being facetious, Article 28.3.1o seems to envisage that a simple majority in the Dáil could allow the State to declare war. God forbid that we should ever come to that.
There is strong public support for the United Nations. The UN is a product of a war time alliance and was originally intended to maintain the alliance and enforce the peace in the post-war years. The record is very patchy because the Security Council was divided for nearly half a century. The UN has grown into something very different. It is now a universal organisation of states, the first in history. It brings some degree of order and is the nearest thing we have to an international authority in a world which would otherwise be anarchic. We have a network of specialised agencies around the UN. We have conventions and agreements on human rights which the member states which have ratified them regard as binding. We have UN peacekeeping operations. Above all we have the UN Charter, a core document of international law, a code of conduct for relations between states, which they all accept even if they do not always observe.
Ireland has always been committed to that kind of international organisation. On 11 April 1919, before the League of Nations was established, the first Dáil passed a resolution declaring Ireland’s readiness to enter a world League of Nations and accept the responsibilities that went with it. We have played our part in the Security Council, the Human Rights Council and through our Defence Forces.
We have a review of Irish aid and international development from last year and it is very important. The Tánaiste has said he will take account of that in the review of foreign policy. It might be asked why, at a time when Ireland has to borrow to fund a deficit, we should run a development aid programme at all. There are several answers one might give. By comparison with much of the world we are still quite prosperous. When we were poorer, in the 1950s and earlier, the altruism and emotional sympathy of the Irish public was channelled into missionary and educational effort across the world. That same kind of feeling finds an outlet in voluntary aid agencies and our Government's international development programme. The public wants that to continue. We have chosen not to end the deficit all in one go but to try to carry on the normal functions of government such as welfare, education and so on. We should also try to maintain our attempts to try to alleviate the absolute poverty in certain areas. I do not need to dwell on all this because it is dealt with in this document, One World, One Future, which I highly commend.
I refer to our embassies, foreign services and economic interests. Although I am no longer connected with foreign affairs, I am slightly biased because I spent my career there, so I was glad to hear members of the committee and the Tánaiste say nice things about some of our embassies. The name of the Department of Foreign Affairs and this committee have been extended to include trade, and that is right and good and I hope a good deal is being done in that area. However, our economic interests go beyond trade and our embassies can do much more in other economic areas. Our embassy in Washington will always be very active if issues arise on Capitol Hill, taxation or otherwise, which affect our interests. From personal experience I know our embassies provide facilities and status sometimes for events hosted by the IDA or exporters. That is a broader aspect.
Our embassies do work in the EU countries in following events, economic developments and positions of governments in their countries and reporting home, which all goes into helping our Ministers when they come to the Council where those same governments are represented. Our embassies have done much to restore Ireland's reputation over the past few years. It has been quiet work under the direction of the Government in their respective countries. The detailed work of an embassy will depend on the nature and character of the state to which it is accredited. In an authoritarian country with a very state-directed system it may be necessary to use the embassy as such. In a country such as the UK or the US, exporters often prefer to do their own thing but can get encouragement from the embassy.
I should like to conclude because I have gone a little over time but I would like to give some general reflections since this is a year when we look back to events in 1914 which, first, ended an era and second, after two world wars and a prolonged cold war, led to the very different world we live in today. Before 1914 a small number of European powers, through their colonies, ruled a large part of the world – by one estimate more than half its surface area and half its population. The principle of self-determination worked out through the 20th century has turned this into a world of approximately 200 territorial states, each insisting on its own sovereignty. We have a network of relatively weak international institutions designed to promote co-operation but no overall authority which might impose peace, justice and order.
This century differs from any previous era in one respect. We have become conscious of the limits of our globe. We live on a small planet - the only place that we know of in the universe where life exists. Its living species are interconnected, we are changing its climate in ways we cannot foresee, and the global population has increased to approximately 7 billion, almost three times what it was in 1950, and it continues to increase. In this world, states such as Ireland will naturally continue to advance the interests of their people but there is a new requirement on all of us, which was well put by Kofi Annan in the millennium year 2000. He stated: "In addition to the separate responsibilities each state bears towards its own society, states are, collectively, the custodians of our common life on this planet". I hope this will not sound too high flown but I hope that in its foreign policy, Ireland, small as it is, will always show some awareness that we too share in this new responsibility for "planetary management’".
I thank the Chairman. I also thank Deputy Smith for giving way.
I am grateful to Mr. Dorr for his contribution. I would like to hone in on two areas, the first of which is Northern Ireland. I have always felt that partition was a blight on this country and the people who were most adversely affected by it were Unionists. It has made them insular and they feel under threat as a result of which they are defensive. I do not say that sectarianism is a product of partition but it is maintained by it. For those of us who subscribe to the reunification of Ireland, should that be a central part of our policy? It tends to be left in the background. I have reservations about aspects of the Good Friday Agreement. I acknowledge it was a compromise and like all compromises, it was not perfect but the construction of an all-Ireland economy, to which we aspire, would benefit people in the North and in the Republic. I was struck over the years engaging with Unionist politicians, particularly DUP members, who conceded privately that in many economic areas their interests lay in merging with us rather than being attached to England. They dare not say that in public obviously because politically it would not have been prudent from their point of view. Should it be part of policy? What should we do to achieve that?
My experience is that by speaking openly with people as to where I come from politically I am respected more than if I give a different impression. I recall a number of Unionists saying to me in the 1980s that they had much more respect for Charlie Haughey who stated clearly his position than for Garret FitzGerald who they felt shared the same objective but had a different approach. I spent two or three hours in Glasgow one night with one of the current Northern Ireland DUP Ministers. He knew where I was coming from politically and at the end of the night he said, "Look, Jim, I'd have much more in common talking to you tonight than I would with somebody from any part of England." There is an opportunity to build in this regard without, at the same time, putting Unionists in a position where they feel a great threat. How we deal with that threat is an issue.
I am a member of the British Irish Parliamentary Assembly and currently we are examining the issues the Haass report tried to deal with, including the parades. We met people from both communities to deal with the flags and so on. There are great concerns about what is going on with the UVF in east Belfast and the UDA in County Antrim. There is a failure of political leadership to put the interests of Northern Ireland ahead of the interest of political party promotion. I acknowledge the same could be said of the politics in the Republic as well. How do we get beyond that to break down these artificial barriers in an inclusive way?
The second area is the EU. Mr. Dorr mentioned the vision of Jean Monnet, Robert Schuman and Seán Lemass. I was a strongly committed supporter of the Union. I was chairman of the south east European movement committee many years ago and I supported every European referendum but, like many people, I am reappraising my position in light of the troika. The IMF was far more empathetic to the concerns and challenges Irish people faced as a consequence of this depression. The same empathy was not shared by the European Commission or the ECB. If there is no deal on the banking debt, for example, which was a consequence of both domestic and European regulatory failures and policy deficiencies, and if the burden is not shared and a small population such as ours has to bear the full brunt of that without the Community acknowledging its part in the downturn and making a tangible acknowledgment of that through sharing the burden imposed on the people------
My comments would be echoed my many people. What is Mr. Dorr's opinion on that? What should we do as a country or a Government to ensure in a future referendum there will be sufficient support for it to pass because I detect at the moment it would be impossible to do so?
I will begin with the conclusion of Mr. Dorr's contribution. I liked his comments about Kofi Annan's vision and his own vision of Ireland in the context of planetary matters. We are a small country and our history and so on are significant positives no matter where one travels in the world. When we met the Iranians, I pointed out that as a small state we do not have a hidden agenda like many other states. Whether it is in Asia, Africa or elsewhere, people accept that Ireland does not have the same agenda as other countries.
I think people accept that Ireland does not have the same agenda as many other countries. We are not trying to dominate or undermine their system of government and we are certainly not trying to exploit their people, which is a major positive factor in the area of trade. The Department used to just cover foreign affairs and human rights and so on, but it is now covering the whole trade aspect of it. Is that a positive development? People have concerns that the paths instead of crossing often go in opposite directions.
One of the witnesses mentioned the slow progress in the North. Earlier I was asking the Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade questions on the failure of the Haass talks which ended with a document on which all the parties had to compromise. Unfortunately the Unionists did not feel they could step up to the plate in that regard. Part of the difficulty is that rather than working towards a shared future - the witness is right about sectarianism - there does not seem to be any agreement between parties in the North on basic things such as tackling poverty, bad housing and inequality. There is no agreement on the past and there is certainly no agreement on how we tackle the future. There seems to be a lack of vision there. One of the difficulties seems to be the insecurity of Unionists and their future on this island. They seem to be more interested in the politics of the next election.
Am I going on too long?
The Deputy may proceed. However, I encourage members not to get involved in specific areas. We are discussing a general review of foreign policy. Mr. Dorr does not have to answer questions on specific items on Northern Ireland or wherever. We are dealing with general foreign policy. I would prefer if members did not ask on specific areas because Mr. Dorr does not work for the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade now.
Regarding agreements made in the past - the Good Friday Agreement and the St. Andrews Agreement - the witness referred to slow progress. If anything will kill the potential of what came out of those agreements, it is slow progress.
I have some disagreements with the witnesses' assessment of EU developments. Many key EU personnel, most recently Viviane Reding, the vice-president of the Commission talked about a true political union and creating a united states of Europe. That is a big issue coming out of Europe and how we are moving forward. Like many Irish people, I believe there was a lack of solidarity within Europe in this regard. I believe that many people in Greece, Cyprus and Portugal would have a similar view.
I welcome what the witnesses said about Ireland's neutrality and not joining NATO. However, it is worrying that a recent European Council meeting solely discussed defence and security issues. I would conclude that the EU is moving increasingly towards creating a European army to work alongside and co-operate with NATO.
The witness spoke about the referendums. Many of us have a view on what was promised in the referendums. What came out in the documentation was at odds with that. I agree with the witness on European scrutiny. I believe there is broad agreement across the committee. I believe there should be a greater role for the Seanad in that. How can that be developed? Should that scrutiny role be taken from this committee? If we are not talking in terms of reforming the Seanad, we will have much of the same and I do not know how we can implement that greater scrutiny role.
Even on the First World War issue, there is disagreement on whether the shots fired in Sarajevo were the trigger. They were fired a couple of months before the outbreak. Even on huge issues like that, historians, politicians and people who are fond of history can have difficulties.
One of the key signals that people are stepping back from Europe is shown in a recent survey of European parliamentarians. It found that a tiny proportion of people recognise their own Member of the European Parliament and did not even know who they were. That in itself shows how people are disengaging from the European process, which is of concern. In free news sheets one sees articles about the activities of individual MEPs. How can we increase the acknowledgement of the work MEPs are doing?
I apologise for going on for so long.
I welcome Mr. Dorr. We have known each other for a long time. As always he has interesting and provocative views, which is no harm. I welcome the changes in foreign policy. I believe they will involve all Departments at all times and through the embassies the Department will feel a greater responsibility for ensuring that they are playing in the national interest throughout the world on a full-time basis in a way that was not expected of them before because they were restricted totally to diplomatic issues. Now they are involved in the trade area also, which is important. Does Mr. Dorr agree with that?
The international scene has changed considerably. Mr. Dorr mentioned that the world population had increased threefold since the 1950s and our population has almost doubled since the 1950s when it stood at approximately 2.56 million. This is a worldwide phenomenon and we will need to make changes. Does Mr. Dorr believe we have the capacity to change and adopt new policies capable of dealing with the emerging situation of worldwide strife, starvation and international aid? Have we developed the skills to be able to deliver in a precise way and do so quickly?
Northern Ireland and Anglo-Irish relations are important and it is no harm to mention them in this context.
I do not agree it should be part and parcel of our daily bread and we should spend our time moaning about what we have not done. We spent 800 years moaning about what was happening and about our relationship with our neighbours. A great deal has been achieved. It is true everybody should continue to work on what has been achieved and try to develop it further. To what extent does Mr. Dorr think all avenues are being explored at present with a view to bringing the agreement and peace to a new level, taking into account the need for the Governments in the UK and here and the respective parties in Northern Ireland to recognise the importance of the achievements so far, the need to ensure there is continuity and follow up, and that the island as a whole needs to benefit, as it is doing to my mind, from the agreement already reached? This does not in any way minimise or belittle what has been achieved because it has been colossal. We amended our Constitution to facilitate the structures now in place.
I would love to see a debate on neutrality in the modern context. As Mr. Dorr pointed out, neutrality does not mean the same thing it did in 1939. Some refer to Ireland's neutrality as the traditional position, but there was no traditional position until 1939 when, to my mind, it was the right decision for good tactical reasons. I am sure the former leader of Fianna Fáil will forgive me for agreeing with them in this context. Traditionally Irish people had been involved in wars throughout the world, in this continent and in others. It was nothing new to the nation to be involved in what one might now call peacekeeping.
Another issue is emerging, and I particularly ask that it be dealt with. Since the 1950s we have developed unique skills in the area of peacekeeping in a way very few other countries have. We have done it successfully and our Defence Forces have achieved a huge degree of respect throughout the world for themselves and the nation. They have done things which would not have been expected of us 25 or 30 years ago. They have always stood their ground honourably and have earned a great deal of respect for this. To what extent can we expect to use our diplomatic and peacekeeping influence in the emerging world of today, whether in Europe, wider Europe or worldwide? Should we move to a second level?
NATO has been mentioned and I have long been of the opinion the UN has done a good job but it has limited capabilities in terms of deployment, logistics and the rapid delivery of heavy armaments when required, a case in point being the war in the Balkans when the UN was unable to deploy quickly and effectively in a supportive way which was necessary at the time. Lessons must be learned from this and perhaps some consideration should be given to a means of trying to ensure whether it is sufficient for a country in Europe to be neutral and to state in the event of an outbreak of hostilities that it will remain neutral and will not get involved. What happens in the event of such a country being attacked itself?
I will not mention Irish Aid other than to state I believe we have done a very good job and the Irish people have shown over many years their commitment and concern. They have led by example in a way which other nationalities could follow.
There is much in the report, but something which stood out was the reference to Ireland's role in promoting peace, order, justice and human rights. What is Mr. Dorr's opinion on how we can reconcile human rights and trade? Must we forget about human rights when it comes to trade? Can we be a voice to insist that workers' rights are included in economic trade agreements?
How effective or ineffective is the UN when we consider the world in which we live? It was stated we would never again see what happened in Bosnia and Rwanda but we are seeing it again and seeing it increasingly. How can countries have confidence in the work of the UN when there are so many glaring failures in its ability to bring about resolution? The latest is what is happening in the Sudan.
My next point is with regard to coherence in our foreign policy. Ireland contributes to eliminating hunger and Irish Aid does an amount of work on this issue. While it is doing this on the one hand, on the other hand Irish policy is not progressive enough when it comes to the issue of biofuels. We give aid to eliminate hunger but we contribute to productive land being taken away from people to satisfy the biofuel needs of the developed world.
What is Mr. Dorr's opinion on our current leaders when it comes to foreign policy? Whether he agrees or disagrees with the politics of Frank Aiken, Conor Cruise O'Brien or Harry Boland, does he see a more cautious approach now when it comes Irish foreign policy?
I welcome Mr. Dorr whom I have never met but whom I hear on radio all the time. I have nothing but sincere and deep admiration for his comments. I have done my best to absorb his full contribution and I have several questions. I am not sure how to present a review of foreign policy and external relations in six or ten bullet points so that foreign policy is changed. How one actually influences change is obscure. What changes do we want? I agree 100% with most of what is in Mr. Dorr's paper but I am not quite sure how the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade will take on board what we will speak about as a change of policy.
I must confess I feel slightly embarrassed as an Irish European when I see terrorist organisations running campaigns and destabilising parts of Africa such as Mali, Mauritania and northern Nigeria. There is also the lawlessness and ruthlessness of those who kidnap for ransom human beings and ships on the high seas. I am embarrassed to see the French going in after the terrorists ostensibly to protect human life and possibly governments. We are happy for others do the dirty work while we as Europeans fall back on the easy soft bed of roses of our neutrality. The paper is provocative in so far as Mr. Dorr mentions he does not want to see Ireland join any military alliance but he also discusses the triple lock and argues for a less rigid interpretation of our neutrality. How does he argue we would create this balance between loosening up the definition of neutrality while avoiding breaching our constitutionality?
Having spent quite a while abroad I must state the Irish police force and Irish Army are phenomenal in whatever country they enter in a peacekeeping or peace enforcement role.
Irish troops and citizens in aid organisations are held in high esteem. Should we not be proud that when some troops were pulled out of the Golan Heights or the Sinai Desert, Irish troops went in? Consider the Lebanese villages where Irish troops are warmly welcomed as peacekeepers when other troops would not be. How do we build on this situation? I am not sure what element of foreign policy we must change so as to engage further in world conflicts, particularly in Africa. We should be proud that the Army is playing a leading role in Somalia. How do we become greater participants in the human struggle for fairness without conflicting with the Constitution and the neutrality clause?
I agree with Mr. Dorr in many respects. I will conclude by saying that the British and their media were outrageous. There is a strong anti-European slant, as mentioned in this paper. The Romanians and Bulgarians were highlighted as people who would swamp Great Britain, notwithstanding the fact that when Ireland allowed the free flow of labour 12 months or two years ago, there was no flood or conflict. Those who came here are happily settling in. How can foreign policy change nations' negativity, which is basically racism? For this reason, I agree that the EU is a phenomenal club of nations working collectively as best they can.
I will tease out a final matter. The negative developments - in Mali, the Central African Republic, southern Sudan, parts of northern Nigeria and so on - were mentioned, but while there has been retrenchment in some areas, we should applaud what has been achieved elsewhere - for example, economic growth in many African countries. Someone mentioned trade. The African ambassadors, who sit as a collective of seven in Ireland, argue forcibly for trade, not charity. From their point of view, there are benefits to developing trade links.
I will be provocative about Northern Ireland. It is a sectarian state, notwithstanding the Good Friday Agreement. There seems to have been a terrible divvying out of power to two sectarian forces, the Unionists and the republicans. People in the middle are being squeezed. For example, can one imagine recruiting to a police force on the basis of religion or needing to declare one's self a Catholic? Where does this leave the dissenter, the middle ground and normal, healthy democracy? Having spoken to some former paramilitaries in the North, I know they feel betrayed by the Unionists. On the Nationalist side, funding drawn down from Europe, Britain and Ireland is being dispersed throughout the Nationalist community. Does this not reinforce the divisions that created problems previously?
Could we evolve a new formula for engagement? Ukraine, Moldova, Georgia and Armenia are the Union's peripheral countries. We were led up the garden path and told that everything would go smoothly in Ukraine and that it would sign agreements with the EU. What sort of intelligence units are operating in the EU that could get the situation so badly wrong? Armenia had already pulled out of the relationship, yet there was no early warning sign. In terms of the EU, with Baroness Ashton and so on, can Ireland as an independent nation in the Union make bilateral forays into these conflict areas with a view to intervening diplomatically in support of ordinary people in Ukraine, Moldova or Georgia?
I welcome Mr. Dorr's presentation. He stated that most books on international relations were written from the viewpoint of larger states. Many of our higher education colleges and universities provide courses in international relations. Professor Tonra will address the committee later. Is Mr. Dorr familiar with the courses provided in our universities? Are they framed from a similar point of view?
I am broadly supportive of Turkish accession, but we occasionally receive correspondence outlining people's concerns about it and EU enlargement in general.
The architecture of the UN has not been changed in many decades and does not take account of the changing status of many countries, particularly in Asia. Does Mr. Dorr foresee any change in that architecture, particularly the membership of the Security Council?
I wish to put an issue regarding Northern Ireland on the record. Considerable progress has been made. The peace process is relatively new and we must maximise the potential of the Good Friday Agreement. As to Deputy Byrne's comments, policing is one of the success stories of Northern Ireland. Chris Patten devised a good, ambitious programme. Thankfully and importantly, both communities have bought into it.
If possible, will Mr. Dorr comment on a concern of mine regarding the Haass-O'Sullivan proposals? Good work was done and I welcome the fact that the Alliance Party, the SDLP and Sinn Féin have taken a positive approach, unlike the two Unionist parties, which is unfortunate. In every major breakthrough that brought a new dispensation to Northern Ireland the two sovereign governments were active participants in the talks, not bystanders. I hope that the Haass-O'Sullivan talks will be brought to a successful conclusion, but the two sovereign governments need to be involved. The Downing Street declaration, the Anglo-Irish Agreement and the St. Andrews Agreement were driven by the two sovereigns with the co-operation and support of the political parties in Northern Ireland.
Mr. Dorr mentioned climate change. It does not get the attention it deserves in foreign policy. Will he comment in this regard?
I hope that Britain will not leave the EU. We in this country are not exercised enough about the matter. Any change in Britain's EU status would cause us significant difficulties.
The Department's name was changed, but it was given relatively little additional responsibility. Mr. Dorr rightly pointed out that the Irish Embassy network works in all of the country's interests, not just foreign relations and trade. Ireland's lead Minister at the World Trade Organisation talks is the Minister for Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation. Should the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade be the lead Department? A world trade deal that is ambitious and balanced is badly needed, particularly for poorer countries.
Chancellor Kohl and President Mitterrand provided leadership in the 1980s when changes were occurring in eastern Europe. In particular, Chancellor Kohl provided a great air of authority, vision and commitment to all of Europe. Should such leadership be provided at Commission President or European Council President level? As Mr. Dorr mentioned, vision and leadership have not been offered to the EU in recent years.
With regard to the Middle East, the US Secretary of State John Kerry has been doing Trojan work in trying to achieve a framework agreement but the Israelis have announced the construction of 1,400 new homes in Jewish settlements in the West Bank and east Jerusalem. Is Mr. Dorr concerned about the two-state solution? Some make the point - although I do not share it - that it is impossible. I had hoped that Mr. Kerry's initiatives earlier this month would prove fruitful.
There have been many statements but there are some questions as well. I will not ask Mr. Dorr to get into comprehensive answers; otherwise, he could be here until tomorrow evening. Will he touch on most of the questions? There will be another contributor afterwards.
Mr. Noel Dorr:
It would be conventional to say I am happy to respond, and I am. I would be happy to engage in longer discussion but it would be hard to fit it all in. I am not sure I have captured all of the questions. If I miss anything, please forgive me. Senator Walsh spoke about low morale, and there is low morale in the European Union. He spoke about the troika and I agree with those comments. I harked back to 1914 to try to lift our eyes a bit, as we can contrast the Europe of today with the Europe of history, and particularly the horrors of the 20th century. In the paper I wanted to try to lift us from the understandable disarray or bad feeling we might have about certain things to a larger level, and I hope that will happen.
Senator Walsh spoke about the question of unity and attitudes to it. Of course we would all like to see a united Ireland agreed in peace where we would work together. During my time as an official in the Department dealing with foreign affairs, I was at the Sunningdale conference and I was also there when the then Taoiseach met Mrs. Thatcher for the first time. I was involved in the negotiations for the Anglo-Irish Agreement of 1985, I attended the talks under Sir Patrick Mayhew at the beginning of the 1990s and I was there for the framework document of the Downing Street declaration. I had retired before the Good Friday Agreement was made. All the time there was a question of consent from the Unionists. As I tried to indicate in the paper, the old Irish question had two complex aspects which interacted, the question of relations between Unionism and Nationalism on the island and, in turn, the relations between the two islands. These matters interacted and in a way that was bottled in the narrower ground of Northern Ireland, where it was left as a subject of contention, which it still is to a degree. The question was how to agree, and eventually Ireland and Britain, with the parties and people concerned, reached the 1998 Good Friday Agreement. We ratified it, including conditions for change, and we put it into the Constitution. The power of two referendums, North and South, was very great, and we hope that has given scope to the aspirations to persuade each other and stop the contention between the two agendas. Although there is hope for the future, the other point I tried to bring out was that we wanted the people of Northern Ireland to feel they had a shared future, and that if they worked together the institutions for co-operation would gradually produce a positive effect. It would be great if one day we could reach unity in Ireland but I am not sure how helpful it would be to emphasise right now.
I am not directly involved so I cannot really judge either with respect to Northern Ireland or with respect to what is happening, but I have the feeling that for Unionists the old fear of Dublin is now much less and they seem to be willing to come to Dublin to attend events and so on. There is still the question of relations between the two communities in Northern Ireland, or the shared-out future. I hope and believe that we in this State are not seen as a threat any longer, and over time we hope and aspire.
Deputy Crowe spoke about the Haass talks and the fact that Unionists did not compromise. I am dependent on press reports and that seems to have been the point. He indicated that there was no agreement on basic issues such as the economy, the narrative and so on. That is sad and true. We had all hoped that normal politics on normal political issues would begin to work in Northern Ireland but there is still an underlying tension and competing narratives, and progress has been slow.
The Deputy spoke about Europe and possible political union in a united states of Europe. I have always thought it wrong to think of Europe in those terms. The argument I tried to make in the paper and which I strongly believe is that something new is emerging in Europe, which is a union of states and people. It amounts to more than any international organisation we had before, as those organisations have regard to state relations to each other. This reaches to the public and the system of law that the European Union establishes. It should not aim to be a federal state, as the phrase "a union of states and of peoples" is important. The Lisbon treaty brings out the point that the people have the power to elect the Parliament, with the states represented in the council.
There was a point about the lack of solidarity, and again I indicate that I was trying to lift our eyes to the larger picture over the past century since what happened in Sarajevo. It is true that we focus on the shots fired by Gavrilo Princip on 28 June 1914, as it is a nice symbolic event to mention. The events that followed changed the world, not the shots. We are commemorating the centenary this year, which is why I referred to it.
I was also asked about the Seanad and how my suggestion in that regard might develop. It is not for me to tell parliamentarians what kind of reforms they should make in their structures. My idea is a basic argument that the Seanad could be put to good use, and that would clearly be part of some kind of larger reform. Perhaps some thought could be given to the system of election and the ways in which expertise is brought into the Seanad. I would not like to try to prescribe that in detail, as it was simply a suggestion.
The Deputy indicated that MEPs are not recognised, which is true. The European Parliament has been given a very important role in recent treaties, particularly the Lisbon treaty, as there is now a role of co-decision with the Council. It is a joint legislator in that regard in matters of European law that deeply affect all our lives and go right down to the individual in the State and not just the relations between governments. It is understandable in a very large constituency that there may be more focus on the smaller national constituencies and it is a pity there is not a greater understanding of the role the European Parliament can and should play.
Deputy Durkan mentioned changes in foreign policy and how they are to be implemented. He spoke of embassies following and promoting the national interest, which they do and should do. It is not a matter of a luxury to have a diplomatic service; it is meant to work for the nation, which it does. It is not holding a state to an emphasis on trade and so on, although that was always part of the process when I was in the area; I can remember that vividly from when I was the ambassador in London. As I indicated in the paper, business people may prefer to do their business in London without the embassy being there but it may be different in a country such as China, as the embassy could be necessary from the perspective of local authorities. In London we had regular dinners at the behest of IDA Ireland in order to bring in people who were interested in investing in Ireland. We also had receptions for An Bord Bia and so on, with an effort to co-operate with Irish State agencies and individual exporters. That was in the 1980s, and I hope our embassies will always continue to do that.
Deputy Durkan also asked if we are capable of adopting wholly new policies to deal with world problems. The big question is whether the world will be able to handle that. I have used the term "planetary management" and although it may sound a bit rhetorical, it is becoming more literally true. We are one world, which we have realised over the past 30 to 40 years, and this was greatly symbolised for us in the famous photograph taken of the earth from the moon.
We suddenly realise that this is the only place we have, the only place where life exists as far as we know. Now, we have reached a type of limit. People used to talk in the old American west about the closing of the frontier. If one wishes to use that type of language, the global frontier has closed now. We see the limits of resources, climate and so forth all interconnected. It is a huge problem and whether our institutions and the UN, weak as it is, will be capable of handling it is the big question. While we talk all the time about our national interests, and rightly so, we must also have that other thing in mind. That was the reason I ended as I did, by raising larger questions.
I have talked about Northern Ireland. The Deputy asked about neutrality and said that Irish people had fought in wars all over the world. He talked about new peacekeeping skills and whether we could use them. I was very impressed with our Defence Forces, when I had contact with them from time to time in the past, and, from speaking to people in the Curragh and so forth, with the way they have developed and adapted their approach to peacekeeping. We all are very proud of what they do. Certainly, the questions the Deputy raised are precisely the questions I would hope we would debate when we talk about neutrality. What worries me is that when it came to each EU treaty, it was almost like a pantomime with people saying, "Oh yes it is" and "Oh no it is not". It was always that type of debate about neutrality. What we must do is talk about what exactly we are doing and what we mean by it.
In some of the debates on referenda there was a tendency to say, "Hello EU, goodbye UN". That is not the case at all. My experience was that the UN was anxious for the European Union to try to help and provide peacekeeping facilities and so forth. At the broader level, that is the reason we are co-operating with our partners and joining in the joint training and the like. After all, the other three main neutral states we always mention in Europe - Finland, Sweden and Austria - find it possible to take part fully. We can co-operate with them.
Deputy Maureen O'Sullivan raised four questions. One was about human rights and trade. That is a vexed and difficult question. The United Nations is universal and there are all types of governments there, some we like and some we very much would not like. If one reduces it to the people we would like, it becomes more like an alliance or the European Union. In the world we have today we need a universal organisation. At the same time there is the issue of commitments to human rights and how we recognise the two. The Deputy is right to raise the problem.
On the specific matter she mentioned, trade agreements and workers' rights, we could certainly do things in that area, but on the general question of Ministers visiting other countries to promote trade and the like, that is always a difficult matter. There might be some countries, such as South Africa in former times under apartheid, that we just did not want to deal with, but generally we deal with the world as it is and our Ministers go on trade missions. It is right that they should express the Irish concern when there are concerns to be expressed on human rights, not to an extent which is found offensive but to an extent where people will listen and be influenced. I have been with Irish Ministers and, as an official, one was working on the type of thing a Minister might say which expressed something with some integrity but at the same time was not offensive and was listened to. It is very hard to prescribe that in general, but that is what I believe our Ministers should do. We cannot just come to the country and say, "We are better than you and this is it". It is not that type of thing. We carry a certain influence and people will listen sometimes, but it must be done carefully and properly.
The Deputy asked how effective the UN is. She talked about Bosnia, Rwanda and so forth and asked how we can have confidence. We cannot. The UN mirrors the world. It is a universal organisation and it is the world reflected in a certain way. All we can do is hope to make it more effective. It is ineffectual in some respects but if it did not exist, I believe it would be necessary to reinvent it, and it would be almost impossible to reinvent it in today's world. I emphasise that it has changed its character. It is not terribly effective on what it was supposed to do from the beginning, which is enforce the peace. That was the alliance idea. However, it has developed a network of relationships around the world which civilise the world a little and make it a little better. We can hope to change it over time, but we cannot really have confidence. That is the challenge ahead. It has lasted for nearly 70 years, and that is significant.
The Deputy talked about coherence in our foreign policy. I worked for a long time in the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade and in the beginning of my presentation I tried to say that foreign policy is very diverse. What has the Minister for Finance or the Minister with responsibility for trade been doing? They are all involved in foreign policy. There is a phrase used in the international development aid paper I talked about, "One World, One Future", which was published last year, about whole-of-government action. In a way, foreign policy is whole-of-government policy. Obviously the Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade has a lead role, along with the Minister of State, Deputy Joe Costello, but it has to involve coherence as far as possible on the part of the Government.
I think the Deputy asked my opinion on the current leaders, but I would prefer to give an opinion on Frank Aiken and Conor Cruise O'Brien rather than on the current leadership. However, I will make a general point. As a very junior diplomat, I was at the UN with Frank Aiken and I worked under Conor Cruise O'Brien. I admire and respect them and, indeed, have written a little about them. However, the Ireland of that time was an individual, isolated, small state. It was not admitted to the UN until 1955, although we had applied in 1946. When we spoke in the UN, what we said was respected but, to a degree, we were small and seen as small and not connected with anything. In today's world, we are part of the European Union which is, in a way, the largest and most coherent and effective area. I will not compare it with other areas, but it certainly plays a role at the United Nations in concert on its foreign policy. It cannot always agree but when it does, it plays quite a powerful role.
Ireland is respected as a member state of the EU and, of course, we speak for the European Union when we hold the Presidency. That gives weight to what we are saying. On the other hand, it is inclined to inhibit the degree to which we make ringing speeches. If one takes the effort to get agreement into the pre-meeting concertation among the EU member states, where one might persuade the EU to go softer on something or to do something, one's speech might have to be tempered a little to the common position at that point. There is a certain tension there, but I believe we carry very considerable weight as a member state of the European Union. Of course, we are small and I do not wish to exaggerate our role, but we are respected at the UN. I served for three years as the Irish representative there.
Mr. Noel Dorr:
I will finish quickly. I will respond to Deputy Eric Byrne's question about how we change foreign policy. It is a big question. As I just said, there is the whole-of-government aspect. There is also the role of this committee. I am sure the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade and the Minister will listen to what is said here in this review; I hope they will.
The Deputy talked about other European nations doing things in Mali and so forth and referred to what I said about the triple lock and how I interpret it. I am suggesting that we open a debate on all of these issues. I tentatively put forward the idea about the triple lock. It is our own decision how we restrict our participation and there might be an argument for making a super majority in the Dáil the deciding factor in certain matters. It will not happen often. I believe it is a matter for debate, and that is my best answer to that.
The Deputy talked about Irish troops and how they are welcomed. I believe that is true.
The Deputy also referred to migration from eastern Europe and, again, talked about Africa. He is right that Africa is developing. It is no longer, perhaps, the poorer continent. There is much promise there and also a great deal of conflict.
The question of fundamentalism across the whole centre of Africa, spreading from the overthrow of Gaddafi, is quite dangerous. I attended and was involved directly in a conference last year on the changing face of Africa where ambassadors spoke. I was very impressed by what I heard and I participated in the conference.
I wish to comment on two final points made by the Deputy and then I will finish. One point he made was on the UK and the EU. That is a very serious matter ahead for us. It would be a really serious issue for us if the UK was to leave as we would have serious choices to make. Even in the negotiation - the UK wants a renegotiation of aspects of the European Union - the question is how far it would fray the fabric of the Union to get the UK to stay. These are very serious issues.
The Deputy talked about who should lead the World Trade Organization. I will return to the point that I would hate to see contention between the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade and the Department of Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation or any of that and would always emphasise a holistic approach to government. I do not want to see interdepartmental trade being bounced between Departments or something like that. I do not know where it would lead and it would depend on a decision by Government at the time, but I would hope that all Departments would co-operate.
The Deputy spoke about the two state solution in the Middle East which has been a long-term aim. Many Israelis saw its importance because as population grows, they may have to face a terrible dilemma for them, between the character of Israel and a growing population of Palestinians who would have to live in a repressed state. It is an issue for Israelis. The late Ariel Sharon may have seen some of it when he decided to pull out of the Gaza Strip after all of the other things that he was involved in that I shall not go into in detail. It is getting harder to see the two state solution as the settlements continue, and that is a serious issue. All I can say is that we hope Secretary of State Kerry will produce something but it is very difficult to be hopeful. I thank the Chairman.
I thank Mr. Dorr for his interesting and wide-ranging ideas. His attendance today is very important to us and will benefit the committee when we prepare and make a submission and compile a report. I thank him for his comprehensive written report and oral discussion today and wish him well in the future.
I ask Professor Tonra to approach the podium or desk. We went a little over time and I apologise to him for the delay. We are delighted to have him here. He has an excellent curriculum vitae from the school of politics and international relations in UCD. Most members will be aware of his work as it includes research, writing and teaching. I know that he has spent some time in Wales, Washington and other areas and he has tremendous experience in the area of international relations.
The format will consist of a presentation by Professor Tonra that will be followed by questions by members rather than statements. I call Professor Tonra to make his presentation. He is very welcome.
Professor Ben Tonra:
I thank the Chairman and thank the committee for the invitation to speak on the review of Irish foreign policy. I also thank the committee staff for their courtesy.
I have supplied a written statement and I will not go into it in any detail in the ten minutes allotted to me. If any member wishes me to respond bilaterally at any stage, I would be more than happy to have any kind of dialogue they like on some of the issues I will raise.
I will outline two quick points of context before examining six issues that are worthy of analysis and that the committee will perhaps raise in the context of this contribution to the review. The first point is the notion of Ireland as a small state. There is no doubt that we all agree that Ireland is a small state and that its smallness has implications for what we can and cannot do. The second point of context is the international context within which we are operating that is, oddly enough, very facilitative and positive for states such as Ireland. Lastly, I will examine some specific issues.
In terms of small states like Ireland, let us bear in mind that most states are small in the international system. As somebody has said, the academy tends to focus on larger states and that does not benefit or lead to an understanding of how international relations work. There has been a lot of debate on what defines a small country. My favourite definition of a small state is that the notion of a small country seems to be reserved for large countries with small populations, small countries with large populations, small countries with small populations and, sometimes, small countries that just mind their own business.
Smallness is relative because, regardless of its definition, small does not mean insignificant because there are things about small countries that often give them greater power than they possibly even think they have. In my paper I go into some detail and talk about areas where I think Ireland has additional power. In the field of international relations we talk about soft power, that is, the power to attract and persuade. There are areas, as I say in my paper, that I have examined such as the diaspora, Irish culture, Irish history, the power of attraction of our ideas and the values that underpin Irish foreign policy from history. All those elements cumulatively give us potential and possibility, and we have seen this done successfully in the past. I will use the cliché that Ireland can punch above its weight in certain sectors in certain areas at certain times, and there is great potential.
The second point of context is the examination of where small states fit in the international arena. It may seem slightly counter-intuitive and odd to say that the international system has never been better for small states. We have never had as much potential for small state action in the international system in history as we have today. International law, multilateral institutions and norms of international behaviour all contribute to the possibility of small states making a significant contribution.
Nowadays we also have much less violence internationally than we have ever had before. A number of serious analyses have been published in the past four or five years that examined the hard numbers. Even in the post-war environment there is less conflict, violence and war today than there has been since the end of the Second World War but, as Members will be aware, we had a huge spike in the early 1990s.
The international system, in a sense, is very positive for and conducive to small states wishing to make a contribution. That has led to a reappraisal of security or foreign policy for security. We talk in academic terms about human security, critical security, development and gender. We talk about things now, in the context of security, that we have never talked about before. We have concepts like responsibility to protect, which challenges some very old fashioned notions of what state sovereignty is about.
There is great potential in the international system and academics talk about international security in a very different manner, but there is a proviso. It is very easy in a European context to make the argument and talk in that way. However, if one is in a central African republic, China and many other parts of Asia, security is still very much red in tooth and claw and war still matters. Many people would argue that, in a European context, we live in a bubble and that the security bubble in Europe is paid for by others. Many would argue that the United States and the NATO alliance allow us in Europe to talk about security in a new way. All I am saying is that there is an argument about the matter. If one accepts the argument that international security has changed, that the world is changing and that small states have greater potential in this world, then Ireland is ideally placed. There are things about Ireland's foreign policy that place us in pole position to make the kind of contribution to the kind of international system we think is out there.
In terms of Irish foreign policy - which I outlined in detail in my paper - we privilege the force of law over the law of force, we are committed to the UN as a central structure and we are comfortable with ideas of shared or pooled sovereignty. Ireland has had a very difficult history but it has grappled successfully with issues of conflicted identities, peace processes and resolutions that are not finished, and we have experience we can share. Ireland also has a great record in supporting development in the global south. It is for all those reasons Ireland is well placed, in principle, as a small state and, in practice, in terms of where we are both in Europe and the world.
I would like to put six things on the committee's agenda in terms of its contribution to the White Paper. That was a Freudian slip and I meant to say the strategic review.
The first is about communications and the way diplomacy must communicate in a different way. Social media is an obvious one. We see lots of foreign ministers using social media, including Twitter, in an effective way but it requires thought and appreciation and one cannot use Twitter like a fax machine to issue press releases. People who are good at it are good at it for a reason so one needs a strategy behind it.
We also need diplomats to communicate more effectively with civil society. My paper also details the idea of a virtual embassy. This is not a shop window but something with real functionality for people to get services and consular help through the window of the embassy. Another option is a consular app on a mobile phone. If someone is in trouble overseas, one can push a button and be in contact with someone in Dublin or be directed to services in the country the person is in. We should think more imaginatively about the way in which technology can help us to communicate.
Another item on the agenda is the use of languages. We suffer from the benefit and the curse of being native speakers of English. It can make us lazy in terms of our diplomacy because lots of other people speak English as a second or third language but we lose things if we are speaking to someone's second or third language. The capacity and the ability of our diplomats to learn languages must be thought about carefully.
The political and economic reporting from Irish embassies is the added value of Irish diplomacy. Nothing can replace a good diplomat in post who can give one a feel for the conversation in the country, the arguments in the country and what its policies are. We need to think about the nature and extent of our diplomatic network. It is extraordinarily small. The size of our missions is extraordinarily small and it is not good enough to say that we are under-represented in Asia so we can close a few embassies in Europe and open them in Asia. As long as there are votes in the European Council of Ministers, we need people in every European capital providing intelligence and information on what is going on and the nuances and sophistication of arguments in those countries. We need to think about the diplomatic network in a more serious way than we have to date.
We can be more imaginative about staffing our missions. We can use secondment and short-term contracts and we can be more imaginative about who we send out to our embassies overseas. We must address the fundamental question of the ridiculously small size of our diplomatic network. We can also use the diaspora in more imaginative ways. One of the examples to which I refer is the attempt to set up a virtual network of foreign policy experts. I know 30 people working overseas, in the UN, in think tanks and in universities, who would love to be part of a network that can contribute to Irish policy development and foreign policy dissemination. We could do that simply through an existing social media platform without having conferences or expenses. We must also think about the European External Action Service. It has not had a good couple of years and has been slow in development. When it was being set up, we talked about sharing premises and resources and piggybacking on the European External Action Service. We should think about that again, despite the weaknesses, difficulties and problems that have been raised frequently. We must think more imaginatively and invest in the human capital of Irish diplomacy over the bricks and mortar of Irish diplomacy.
The fifth item I talk about is peacekeeping. There has been a Green Paper and there will be a White Paper on defence tackling this issue directly. Peacekeeping has given real muscle to Irish diplomacy. Credibility comes with commitment and the commitment we have shown through peacekeeping has given Irish diplomacy and Irish foreign policy an international credibility it would not otherwise have. We must think about it and about its deployment more seriously. Mr. Noel Dorr talked about the triple lock and I make the point in my paper. We never talked to one another about our respective contributions. We need some kind of a fail-safe, not just in the case where there is overwhelming international consensus that the peacekeeping force needs to be there but one permanent member of the Security Council selfishly goes against it and vetoes an operation, which is a real possibility rather than a theoretical one. What if Irish citizens abroad are in difficulty, there needs to be a military mission to protect them and someone says "No" or the UN is unable to make a decision in that respect? Are we seriously saying that we would refuse to participate because the Chinese ambassador at the UN Security Council raised a well-manicured hand and vetoed the operation? We need the fail-safe of a two-thirds Dáil majority or some other mechanism.
Finally I refer to thematic policy, which has been mentioned over and over again. We have a real profile in certain areas of foreign policy. I would not overstate it or over-egg it but we have a profile in development, human rights and, increasingly, gender, politics and disarmament. We have been strong individually but I am asking about putting it together in some way and providing a theme or a name. I hesitate to use the word "brand" but we need some identification of what Irish foreign policy is all about. We need some phrase that encapsulates our approach to the world within which these niche areas can be situated so that they can speak to one another and we can be more constructive and coherent about the way we present these issues to the rest of the world.
I would like to conclude quickly because I would love a deeper conversation about this. The presentation does not offer a map for the contribution of the committee to the White Paper. I am asking the committee members to think more creatively, imaginatively and bravely about how Ireland can contribute to the world. We can make a contribution.
I welcome Professor Tonra. Mr. Dorr mentioned that most books on international relations are written from the viewpoint of larger states. I hope the courses in our universities and third level colleges are not framed from that point of view. I hope there is the independence needed in providing courses and curricula.
With regard to the architecture of the United Nations, I do not know what adjustments are made in respect of different committees since its establishment decades ago. The membership of the UN Security Council has not changed and does not take account of the changed world we have, particularly over the past decade or two. What importance does the OSCE have and why was there a need to establish it when we had United Nations as the body with constituent members from most sovereign states?
Professor Ben Tonra:
Mr. Noel Dorr and I and two others edited the first book on Irish foreign policy. It is used in many Irish universities and we had contributors from universities across the island of Ireland. Within the university sphere and in my school, the focus on states other than the large states is a clear view of what we do and how we do research.
In terms of the UN architecture, we have had a debate about the composition of UN Security Council. It was a creature of the winning combination at the end of the Second World War. We have had many debates, panel reports and discussions about amending and extending its membership but one can see no prospect of that occurring. The attributes of the UN Security Council, as it is, are that it has the kind of credibility and authority that Mr. Dorr was talking about. However, that credibility and authority ebbs away as we see how unbalanced the UN Security Council is but I see no prospect of the political deal to change that in the short or medium term.
The question about the OSCE is very good. It comes down to the fact that the OSCE is an early warning network. If people do not hear about it, it is working well. It is the prevention side of diplomacy for states around a table to raise questions about security, to have diplomatic missions and to have negotiations in a more low-key framework. The OSCE has a role and it comes out of the Cold War but it has a contemporary role. We see an enormous amount of activity on the part of the OSCE in central and eastern Europe and elsewhere. Its value is less well-known than it should be, even though when security gets very difficult we turn off into the United Nations, NATO or the European Union.
I find myself concurring with many of the opinions expressed so I will keep my contribution short. We pay lip-service to the diaspora. The Gathering was one thing but I mentioned my embarrassment at having to rely on the French to go in and do humanitarian work in Africa.
I mention my embarrassment as an OSCE short-term oberver - as a citizen and not as a politician - seeing countries which this committee is forever condemning, such as the Ukraine or Albania, being able to facilitate their citizens, through their embassies, in voting in elections. We pride ourselves on having such a large diaspora but perhaps our embassies would not be capable of handling that. Perhaps the resources of the embassies would be insufficient to cater for areas in which there is a large concentration of the Irish diaspora. However, we must make a start. If we are to change anything about our foreign policy, it must be our attitude to the role and involvement of the Irish diaspora.
War was mentioned and I ask Professor Tonra to express his opinion on whether my interpretation of something is correct. I may be biased, having just returned from Iran, but it seems to me that most of the wars currently being waged are largely in the Islamic world. The major international conflicts are among those seeking power and influence over a region, be it Iran or Saudi Arabia. Both countries have conflicting religious bases, namely, Shi'ite Islam in Iran and Sunni Islam in Saudi Arabia, and that is having a ripple effect across the Muslim world. It has consequences for world peace as well as for Christians in Nigeria, Sudan and other areas where the borders of the Christian and Muslim worlds meet. If all these areas are in conflict - I mention the slaughter in countries such as Syria - and they centre on the power bases of Saudi Arabia and Iran, does Professor Tonra see a role for Ireland in any of this, given that we are based in the West and are a Christian country? Is there any way we could evolve our foreign policy to allow us to engage in a progressive and constructive way?
I will conclude by posing a question similar to the one I posed to Mr. Dorr earlier. I am fascinated by the Ukraine, a huge country which is enormously important to world peace. To see it split 50:50 between those who have a western inclination and those who have an eastern inclination is worrying. Does Professor Tonra think Ireland can play an independent role in the diplomatic field and engage with countries like the Ukraine? Sometimes the West sees the Ukraine as a highly divided country with something like apartheid. I am amazed at how wrong the EU's interpretation of the Ukraine is. How can Ireland, tiny as it is, extend its influence into these strange and wonderful Islamic countries? Do we have the requisite respect to be able to do that?
I will conclude by saying that I agree that our diplomatic corps is absolutely first class. However, the problem is that we have had to close several embassies on economic grounds. Will we ever have the economic wherewithal to support a further expansion into these new emerging markets all over the world? Will we be able to expand into China, with its growing middle class, and into Latin America and South America? How can we invest in the diplomatic corps to achieve the desired outcome?
I will expand on Deputy Byrne's question. Professor Tonra emphasised the importance of the diaspora. The diaspora is very important, given that there are 70 million people of Irish origin worldwide. How important does he believe the role of the Global Economic Forum is? As Deputy Byrne asked, are we making best use of our diaspora abroad? One should look at Israel, a small country similar to Ireland, and the use it makes of its diaspora, in particular in regard to attracting foreign direct investment into its country. It has a minister for the diaspora. Could we do more in that area?
Professor Tonra spoke about the embassies and the important role they play. Deputy Byrne referred to the lack of resources and the fact we have had to close some embassies. Hopefully, we will be able to change that in the near future after this review. We talk about Ireland being small but so many of our embassy networks abroad are small also. They are one-man operations with maybe one local staff member. Is it better to have presence in a country rather than have no presence? I am thinking of the success of our consulate general's office in Atlanta, which is a one-man operation with one local staff member. We have three embassies in South America. Maybe we should have an embassy in Chile and in other countries in South America. Should we have a more extensive network in these areas also?
Professor Tonra mentioned the important role of honorary counsels. I have travelled a bit and made use of honorary counsels. For instance, the committee was in Jordan earlier this year where we have an honorary consul, Mr. Ramsey Khoury, who has done tremendous work for Ireland. It was as if he was Irish given the importance he attaches to his role of honorary consul. Professor Tonra spoke about giving them extra resources. Would a way around the resource issue be to give more resources to the honorary consuls to play an important role? Social media should be used more also. They are some ideas on how we can use the network abroad. We are looking at Indonesia, a place where there are tremendous opportunities for Irish companies, but we have no embassy there. Should we be more focused? Should we follow trade? Should we have a more extensive network like Denmark, for example? It has a huge network of embassies all over the world and it is a small country also. Obviously, that has a major effect on its industries, in particular the dairy industry. We have a thriving food industry.
We talk about the Ireland House concept. We should have one in Japan and in other countries, as we do in New York. Is this the way we should be going forward, making better use of resources and the non-governmental agencies, and working together to build up that network and to be able to compete with the big countries like Germany and France which have extensive networks?
Professor Ben Tonra:
I will start with Deputy Byrne's questions. I agree there has been a lot of hot air expressed about the diaspora but as a product of two diasporas - my father emigrated in the 1950s and I emigrated in the 1980s and managed to get back - the formal rights, such as allowing them to vote in Dáil or presidential elections, miss the point because very often all one is looking for when one is abroad is a link to have some kind of acknowledgement one is there. The idea of virtual networks, embassies or the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade promoting those kinds of networks to make those linkages between Irish people in different places and capitals in different countries would be a huge benefit and would cost very little. I appreciate the logistics of having some kind of a central repository is a lot to ask but much can be done informally using social media and technologies, which were not available to us before. That can be formalised. We could have a Minister for the diaspora, as in Israel or in France. That is a sort of higher level political engagement which is possible but, in practical terms, it is much more difficult to achieve.
Deputy Byrne asked about where Ireland can make a contribution and he spoke about the Middle East and the Ukraine. We have to keep our powder dry. Small countries need to be focused. We need to have a very clear idea of the core values and core issues we need to pursue.
We cannot do everything and cannot be all things to all men and all women. We cannot contribute to the resolution of every problem in the world. However, through our membership of the European Union, we are in a very privileged position. The recent bilateral agreement between the EU and the Ukraine has brought to the fore the fact that Putin is playing an entirely new geo-strategic game in Europe. The European Union is very much on the back foot with respect to that. We have access to levers of power and influence that most other small countries in the world would give their right and left arm to have and we could use that much more effectively and dynamically. Through the UN, the OSCE and the profiles we can develop in niche areas, we can exert an influence that would not be otherwise possible. We must stay focused but there are mechanisms through which we can exert influence.
Regarding the Chairman's question on the global forum, it is very expensive and logistically difficult to run but it is like a brand leader. It signifies the fact, in a very serious way, that the State is at least interested, if not entirely serious about, engaging with the diaspora. That must be leveraged in a smart and intelligent way. It does not mean replicating the model every six months or across different policy sectors. It shows that the State is interested, is willing to engage with the diaspora and is open to ideas from the diaspora. Israel is very different. The State of Israel faces an existential crisis. If one is Jewish and-or Israeli, that takes pre-eminence in one's mind. There is nothing comparable with the Irish case in that regard. However, we can look at how the Israelis, the French and others have engaged with their diasporas and learn lessons from that.
In terms of the embassies and our diplomatic network-----
I apologise for interrupting, but could the witness elaborate on the US embassy network and the geographic area covered? We have only consular general offices in Boston, New York, Atlanta, San Francisco and Chicago. It is quite difficult to cover an area like the US with the small network we have there. Should we expand and open up more consular general offices in places like Texas, which is the size of France? We have no presence in Texas. It is difficult for a consul general to cover that kind of ground.
Professor Ben Tonra:
It is impossible for one individual or two individuals to cover that kind of territory. We have to think smarter. We can use, for example, honorary consuls and secondments or short-term contracts to increase the size of our missions. We can use social media and the idea of a virtual embassy to do much more with less. Expansion does not have to mean building consulates and staffing them with full-time diplomats. There is a danger here, though, in that we do not want Irish diplomacy to be run by amateurs. However, as long as we have the network well-constructed, with clear lines of responsibility, we can be more creative and imaginative in terms of how we staff our missions and increase their overall number. We could use the European External Action Service, EEAS, as a platform on which to build a network overseas. We could open an office in an EEAS building somewhere in the first instance, and if it takes off, we could open a separate office or embassy. It is about being smarter, thinking more imaginatively and taking advantage of technology and other opportunities we have not had the time or the chance to develop yet.
Professor Tonra mentioned France in passing. Should we advocate for a position in our national parliament similar to that held by Hélène Conway-Mouret in France? Would there be benefits to that? She lobbied for votes for the French diaspora and is now sitting at Cabinet.
Professor Ben Tonra:
We are faced with certain limitations in terms of the number of Ministers and Ministers of State we can have. I do not know whether we should create a ministerial post. We could consider an office of an ombudsman for diaspora affairs, linked to the current Ombudsman's office so that we are not creating a new quango. We could have a small team of people who liaise with our embassies and honorary consuls. They could do a lot of the travelling that is necessary to engage with the diaspora. As someone who has worked overseas for many years, I know that just to be asked and acknowledged is enormously important for those who have had to leave their native country.
We visited Brussels last year and met David O'Sullivan, who believed we could use the offices of the EEAS. However, there are logistical difficulties with that, according to the Secretary General of the Department. On a very basic level, a lot of the buildings would simply be too small. We would need purpose-built accommodation so the EEAS is a non-runner as I understand it. I do not want to be negative about this but we must move forward. I ask Professor Tonra to elaborate on his point about new ways of doing things.
Professor Ben Tonra:
No disrespect to the Secretary General, but if one approaches an issue by first identifying the problems with it, one is starting off on the wrong foot. One must approach issues from the other direction and ask what is possible, likely or doable. One must be more imaginative. In terms of the use of the embassies, we could have two or three person embassies with one or two other members of staff who are not full-time diplomats but are on secondment for two years from think-tanks, the IFA, Government Departments or other organisations. We could have the leadership of the formal diplomatic service with other people there to engage, do work and make a contribution to the mission without incurring the long-run costs of pensions, career development and so forth. A mission of two or three could easily become a mission of five or six.
Professor Ben Tonra:
I think there is huge enlargement fatigue in the European Union. Reference was made earlier to British politicians and the media waiting at airports for the first flights of 2014 from Romania. That was an obscene situation to witness and some of the commentary has been grossly offensive and bordering on racist. However, it exemplifies the fact that there is an antipathy towards immigration and EU enlargement, also evident in the rise in populist parties in many parts of Europe. I am a big supporter of enlargement to include Turkey. We may have missed the window on that because the political dynamic in Turkey is shifting in a fundamental way now. We may have missed that boat but I would still be very positive and supportive of Turkey joining the EU. It is important, in the context of Turkey, to recall the basis for the European project. The European project came from a reconciliation between France and Germany, an historic continental reconciliation which laid the foundations for two generations of peace and security. If we are talking about resolving the problems in the Middle East or making a contribution to their resolution, having a predominantly Islamic country in the European Union would blow out of the water the entire idea of the EU being part of a crusade, being part of Christendom or being oppositional to the principles of Islam. To have a large secular Islamic country within the European Union would blow those arguments out of the water and could contribute to a fundamental change in the dynamic of conflicts within the Middle East.
I must apologise to Professor Tonra. We had an afternoon of near-continuous votes in the Seanad so I missed his presentation. Since my arrival, the professor has been talking about our embassy network and the number of Irish missions. Looking at where we have our embassies at present, if Professor Tonra was advising the Government on how to address gaps in our diplomatic network, where would he suggest we look at most urgently?
I would agree with Professor Tonra on that. Countries like Thailand and Indonesia are very important. I hope the Department will take that into account when it conducts its review. I thank Professor Tonra for coming here this afternoon.
Both Professor Tonra and Mr. Dorr gave very different but important perspectives that have been very useful to us in putting together our report for this review. We look forward to working closely with them in other areas in the future.