Oireachtas Joint and Select Committees

Thursday, 20 October 2016

Joint Oireachtas Committee on Foreign Affairs and Trade, and Defence

Foreign Affairs and Trade Issues: Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade

9:30 am

Photo of Seán CroweSeán Crowe (Dublin South West, Sinn Fein)
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I welcome the Minister. We all welcome the eight-hour humanitarian corridor that has been established in Aleppo but there are already reports in the media that it has broken down. Will the Minister join me in demanding that all these allegations of war crimes are investigated? What is the view of the Irish Government on the allegations of war crimes? Are we doing, saying or proposing anything different to address the allegations of war crimes coming out of Syria and Iraq? On Saturday, 8 October, the UN Security Council highlighted its structural dysfunction, when two resolutions on Syria were defeated. The draft resolution by Russia, which did not include a bombing halt, was rejected and so too was the other motion. There is a view that sustained and repeated pressure is required to ensure the war in Syria is stopped. What proposals are coming from Ireland in this regard? What are we doing with like-minded states outside the EU? What states are we working with? There has been some suggestion that a no-fly zone be put in place to end the aerial bombing of Aleppo. Does the Irish Government have a view on that? Who would enforce it? Would it be Russia, the Turks, or the US? That is the big difficulty with that suggestion. If one talks about the human casualties in Aleppo, one must bear in mind that what is happening in Mosul is similar and there is probably a bigger population. There are difficulties with that. At the end of the day, people want to come up with resolutions that will actually work.

CETA and the proposals resulting from it were discussed yesterday. Does the Minister share my concerns that neither the Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade nor the Dáil had any real input into the discussions on it? With many of these trade agreements, the only opportunity Members have to discuss the deal is at the end. Does the Minister or his Department have a view on that?

There is some concern about Article 29.5.2° of the Constitution, which states: "The State shall not be bound by any international agreement involving a charge upon public funds unless the terms of the agreement shall have been approved by Dáil Éireann." CETA will introduce an investment court system for the first time in Ireland which could place significant charges on public funds. Has the Minister any concerns about that? There is some suggestion that the Government's support of the provisional application of CETA without Dáil approval violates Article 29.5.2° of the Constitution. I am interested in the Minister's response to that.

The issue of refugees has been mentioned by all contributors. Only 69 Syrians have come to Ireland from Greece. The Minister mentions in his note that the figure will increase to 80 per month very soon. What has changed to allow for this increase? Can the Minister give us a separate note on the difficulties being experienced with regard to the issue of refugees?

We are constantly being told that there are difficulties, but I have no sense of what they are. This information would be useful for us. Going through it in this format would be difficult, but I would appreciate it if we could be given a sense of the problem. There is general support across the House regarding the refugee crisis. It is important that we be informed so that we can inform our electorates, including those who have concerns.

Italy, one of the front-line states, has been mentioned. Why is no one coming from Italy? What is the difficulty? More than 6,500 people were rescued in one weekend by various international naval services. It puts the small number that we are accepting in context.

I am concerned about the situation in Yemen. The Saudi-led coalition stands accused of war crimes. On a Saturday, there was an air strike on a funeral hall that killed some 150 people. There has been mention of the use of cluster bombs and so on. Does the Minister support an international and independent investigation into these suspected war crimes by the Saudi-led coalition?

I have mentioned the civilian population of Mosul in Iraq. The UN is preparing for what could be the largest man-made humanitarian crisis of recent times. How will the Department help with that response? We have been fairly good to date.

The difficulties in Turkey have been mentioned. Is the Minister aware that 60 party activists of the leftist and pro-Kurdish People's Democratic Party, HDP, and the Democratic Regions Party, DBP, were recently arrested? I have concerns about this. Does the Minister support the notion of a dialogue? Will he join me in calling on the Turkish Government to grant immediate access to lawyers and families for those accused? I call on the Turkish Government to end its campaign of arrests.

I will revert to the Minister with some other questions.