Oireachtas Joint and Select Committees
Wednesday, 9 April 2014
Joint Oireachtas Committee on Foreign Affairs and Trade
Business of Joint Committee
Unfortunately I was delayed at a Senate CPP meeting and I had a matter down about inviting the Dalai Lama. I gather it was decided not to go ahead with that. I must accept that, of course, but I believe that was because of the financial arrangements between the People's Republic of China and this country, and the sensitivities arising from that. In my discussions with the Dalai Lama's representative in London, Mr. Thubten Samdup, he made it absolutely clear to me that the Dalai Lama would not wish in any sense to cause difficulties and if there was controversy, he would not wish to come. That shows an admirable sensitivity, but personally I find it appalling that a man of peace should not be welcome, and this is happening all over the world. The UN had a meeting of world religious leaders, and the atheist Chinese Government managed to prevent the Dalai Lama being there. I think that is this country's loss.
Some years ago the Green Party proposed to Dublin City Council to grant honorary citizenship of Dublin to the Dalai Lama, and some of the other parties got into a snit about it, because they thought it should have been them who did it, so the motion was defeated on a technicality. They have no idea of the visionary power of this man and the importance of his message. I want to put it clearly on the record that it was indicated strongly to me that if there was any difficulty, he would not want to complicate the situation, either for Ireland or for China. That shows the calibre of the man and it is a reproach to this committee for its lack of vision.
I suggested that the Dalai Lama and his entourage were big enough to be able to make whatever political approaches they wish to any politician throughout the world. I doubted that he needed the intercession of Senator Norris to convey his views. The record stands that this committee is always open to requests to receive delegations, and they will be treated with due respect and diligence should they arrive.
The second last item of the minutes refers to the correspondence on the Sahrawi refugee camps in Tindouf. It stated that it was agreed that this subject would be considered further by the joint committee. I would like to keep this issue alive. It is a very important issue in light of the report we got last week, which explains that 60% of the occupants of three refugee camps in Tindouf in Algeria are minors. After 40 years, that is something shocking. The committee should take this on board and pursue it as best we can. The minute reads that it was agreed the subject would be considered further by the joint committee, so do I take it that it will be next week?
We note the points that have been raised about the Dalai Lama. The secretariat is aware of that and if it is possible to do something further to address the issues, it will be done. The same applies to the situation in Western Sahara. Is that agreed? Agreed. As there are no other issues arising from the minutes, I now propose to go to the main business of the meeting. I remind committee members and those in the Visitors Gallery to ensure that their mobile telephones are switched off completely for the duration of the meeting as they cause interference. Item No. 2 is the meeting with Mr. Francis M. O'Donnell.