Dáil debates

Thursday, 8 June 2006

Criminal Justice (Mutual Assistance) Bill 2005 [Seanad]: Second Stage.


2:00 pm

Photo of Ciarán CuffeCiarán Cuffe (Dún Laoghaire, Green Party)

I am dubious about the Bill. There are significant concerns regarding Ireland's role in the wider world in addressing terrorist and development issues. Looking back 40 or 50 years, there was a time when people in Ireland could hold their heads high. We were proud of our foreign policy and people such as Frank Aiken, Seán Lemass and others could go to the UN and pledge that Ireland would be a non-aligned, strong voice in the world for developing nations.

Yet we are not meeting the commitments we should be meeting as Ireland develops. The Taoiseach makes solemn commitments at the UN and then breaks them. We are standing idly by while the US brings detainees to Guantanamo Bay and China kills thousands of its citizens every year. It is not good enough to forget about human rights concerns for the sake of our economy when we see clear and flagrant breaches of Ireland's international commitments. I will say that about the US, China, Poland or any country that is directly or indirectly facilitating the abuse of human rights, be it in Chinese labour camps, Guantanamo Bay or US prisons where hundreds of people are put to death each year.

The Government is curiously silent on these issues. The Progressive Democrats Party is also curiously silent on the human rights issues out there. The Minister for Foreign Affairs will tell us that he has mentioned concerns about Guantanamo Bay, but I can imagine him saying this under his breath at a meeting held to facilitate foreign investment into Ireland. It is not enough to mention these concerns, it is important to do something about them. We must address concerns about terrorism and we must have procedures and protocols in place to ensure the sharing of information. However, if we are doing that on the one hand, we must speak out about human rights issues on the other. I am not convinced that the Government is doing enough about these issues abroad.

There is a darker side to EU mutual assistance. Many of the European countries involved have directly facilitated the carriage of persons on extraordinary rendition flights. It is not good enough for us to state that we will share information on terrorists when other countries in Europe are directly facilitating the US in taking prisoners to countries such as Egypt and beating the life out of them. It is not good enough for the Taoiseach, the Minister for Foreign Affairs and the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform to talk about terrorism and not talk about the abuse of human rights by sovereign governments, be it the US, China, the UK, Poland or others.

The Minister for Foreign Affairs sounded great defending his record on "Morning Ireland" this morning. He was the first EU Minister to call for the closure of the prison at Guantanamo Bay and the first to raise the issue of extraordinary renditions at EU level. However, if he really believes that detention at Guantanamo Bay should be brought to an end and that extraordinary rendition is fundamentally wrong, why is he against putting in place a set of procedures to ensure that Ireland is not complicit in this odious activity?

The chairman of the Human Rights Commission, Dr. Maurice Manning, called for an urgent investigation yesterday. His call was echoed by Deputy Gormley, who said that a new inspection and monitoring system is urgently needed for military and CIA flights that stop over in Ireland. He said the only effective way of ensuring we do not become complicit in dispatching people to be tortured or ill-treated is through establishing an effective process of monitoring and inspection. However, let us look at what is happening in Shannon Airport. One week, US helicopters are in the hold of a plane being dispatched to Iraq and the next week Russian helicopters are in the hold of a Russian plane heading off to deal with a trouble spot around the world. We are wearing a blindfold when it comes to the import and export of arms and possibly prisoners. That is not good enough for the Government nor for the legacy of our early participation in the UN, when we strongly committed ourselves to safeguarding, protecting and upholding human rights around the world. The Government can hold its head low when it comes to these issues.

Every time we talk about terrorism, we feed into the so-called "war on terror", which may be the way George Bush and others see the world, but which should not be good enough for Ireland in 2006. We should be doing more to facilitate development aid. We should check aircraft that enter our airspace to make sure that they are not carrying weapons. We should do what some of our EU partners, such as Austria, are doing and make sure that military flights on the way to an illegal war are not permitted in our airspace. This is what we should be debating in this House today, rather than feeding into George Bush's overly simplistic view of foreign affairs in the 21st century.

Of course we need protocols on terrorism and we need to exchange information. My concern relates to the whimper from Government benches when it comes to facilitating a bloody, dirty war that has killed tens of thousands of civilians and that is essentially a war for oil. I want to see the Government show leadership, but I see no sign of it today. I implore the Government to join Dr. Manning in urging the establishment of a process of monitoring and the inspection of suspect aircraft so that we can meet our human rights obligations.

Senator Dick Marty called for an extended dialogue between the EU and the US on how terrorism might be fought within the rule of law, by ensuring that human rights are enhanced and not ignored. All I want to see here is for us to enhance our human rights record and not to ignore the human rights abuses of other countries.


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