Oireachtas Joint and Select Committees
Wednesday, 24 June 2015
Joint Oireachtas Committee on Foreign Affairs and Trade
Business of Joint Committee
Apologies have been received from Deputy Olivia Mitchell, Deputy Seán Crowe, Deputy Dan Neville and Senator David Norris. Draft minutes of the meeting of 17 June 2015 have been circulated to members. Are the minutes of that meeting agreed?
The committee has received correspondence from the family of Ibrahim Halawa. Amnesty International is returning to the committee to talk about its annual report and also the discrepancies between what we have been told by the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade and information that the Halawa family have given us regarding the torture of Ibrahim and the lack of medical treatment and assistance that he has received, and also conditions in the prison. I know that the Chairman has asked the Egyptian authorities if the committee can visit him. Is there an update on that? It is concerning that a Canadian national has been released having been put on trial and then not found guilty.
I would ask the Chairman to get a brief on the fact that the Canadian national has been released on bail. He has been released on bail terms that he must remain in Egypt. He is still in Egypt. He cannot get a passport.
There is another item on the minutes about Justice for the Forgotten and Relatives for Justice and whether or not we will have a joint meeting with the Good Friday Agreement committee. The Kingsmill massacre was brought up in the Dáil yesterday and I congratulated the Taoiseach, who was over in London, on releasing the files and information that we have on it. We still want the British Prime Minister to hand over files on the Dublin-Monaghan bombings. We do not seem to be any nearer to getting to the truth of that issue and we do not know whether we will get the files at all, despite resolutions from all parties.
There are two issues there, Senator Daly. I do not want to have an in-depth discussion at this stage because it is in the correspondence. On the Halawa case, as Senator Daly knows, we have had no updates since last week. We have been on to the Department and we have met the Egyptian ambassador about this request which was put forward by this committee. We have had no correspondence since but we will follow up on it before the next meeting. Is that okay?
On the question of Relatives for Justice, I understand that the Joint Committee on the Implementation of the Good Friday Agreement is meeting tomorrow and will discuss it then. It is the main committee for this. We hope to have something back tomorrow. As requested, this committee has expressed an interest in this so we will discuss it with the members of that committee tomorrow after they have discussed it at their meeting.
I have always agreed that we would work jointly with them on this but I contest the statement that it is the main committee. It is not. This is an issue between the Irish and British Governments so it is a matter primarily-----
It is a matter primarily, in my opinion, for the Joint Committee on Foreign Affairs and Tradeand I concur with my colleague Senator Daly - it is a scandal. I compliment the fact that we have dealt with the Kingsmill documents but it is a disgrace that the British have hidden documents. This means that they are still participating in collusion. If they continue to deny documentation and conceal evidence with regard to atrocities and terrorism - and this was state terrorism by the British - they are a participant and are as guilty of collusion as those who participated in the actual bombings. I think we should be unequivocal about this. There is a unanimous decision of Dáil Éireann with regard to this issue, which has been ignored by the British now for some ten years. It is totally unacceptable.
No one doubts the Senator's sentiments, but we had agreed that we would let the members of the Joint Committee on the Implementation of the Good Friday Agreement discuss this first and we would talk to them about it. They are meeting tomorrow. The two clerks will meet and we will discuss it then. Does Deputy Byrne have something to add?
That is no problem. We need to be careful because there are two committees and we do not want to overlap or to go down the same road as they are going down on the same issue. That is all I am saying to Senator Walsh. We will have written correspondence from the clerk tomorrow.
We have to examine the remit of that committee and what it discusses. If that happens it happens but if it is not anxious that we get into the issue and it wants to discuss it the Senator can attend a meeting of that committee. I will not rule anything out until we see what happens at its meeting tomorrow.
This refers to the work in which another committee is engaged. While this committee has some common ground with that committee it does not have the right to dictate to that committee the matters it should discuss or we should discuss. With due respect to the speakers, I suggest that we wait to see what the Joint Committee on the Implementation of the Good Friday Agreement has to say and what its intention is in this matter. It would be entirely without precedent to overreach the work of another committee, regardless of whether we have common ground. That is a standing practice in the House.
That is all I am asking Senator Walsh to do, wait and see what happens at that committee’s meeting tomorrow. We do not want to be at loggerheads with that committee on this issue. I have no problem putting it down for discussion next week but I ask the Senator to wait and see what happens tomorrow. That is what we had agreed and it is not meeting until tomorrow.
I do not accept that. The written request was to this committee. It is an international matter between two sovereign governments. We referred it to the Joint Committee on the Implementation of the Good Friday Agreement so that it would not feel we had ignored its remit. Primarily it is a function of this committee. We referred it on the basis that we would meet jointly with that committee if that was its wish and if not that we would meet on it ourselves. I am looking for it to be on the agenda next week so that we do not have a debate like this under the minutes heading next week. It is more important than that. I ask that we have that issue on the agenda next week.
There is no problem putting it on the agenda but out of courtesy we need to talk to our friends on the other committee, study its remit and see what it is doing. We get requests all the time from people who want to meet us but as Deputy Durkan said, they might not be matters for our committee, for example the Transatlantic Trade Investment Partnership, TTIP, which is a matter for the Oireachtas Joint Committee on Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation. We have to distinguish what each committee does.
If the Joint Committee on the Implementation of the Good Friday Agreement wants to debate this jointly we will see about that and I will respond to the Senator next week. We will put it on the agenda. There is no problem with that.
Dáil and Seanad motions have been passed about the release of the files on the Dublin-Monaghan bombings. It might be appropriate to have a joint meeting with the other committee with those who have made programmes on RTE and for "Panorama" and others.
When the Chairman and the clerk meet the Chairman and clerk of the other committee they might consider that the two committees go to the appropriate committee in Westminster to raise our concerns and demand the release of those files. We have passed motions but have heard nothing but platitudes from the British Government. It is time that the Members of Parliament, MPs, heard about their government’s involvement with the files.
It is going to be on the agenda next week. We will discuss it then. It is an important subject and nobody is dismissing it but we need the appropriate forum to deal with it and see what is the remit of each committee.
I know that. It is an international issue between Ireland and Britain. I could argue the case, but will not, that it has nothing to do with the Joint Committee on the Implementation of the Good Friday Agreement. I will be very happy if we deal with it together but I will not be happy if this committee is not involved.