Dáil debates

Tuesday, 3 July 2007

3:00 pm

Photo of Dick RocheDick Roche (Minister of State with special responsibility for European Affairs, Department of Foreign Affairs; Minister of State, Department of An Taoiseach; Wicklow, Fianna Fail)

I propose to take Questions Nos. 90, 102, 117, 128, 133, 134, 160, 278, 286 and 287 together.

I refer the Deputies to my response to Priority Question No. 86, in which I dealt with the timescale for the deployment for the joint UN-African Union peacekeeping force in Darfur and the humanitarian situation, including the plight of the displaced in Darfur. I will respond to the other points raised by Deputies on this matter.

In co-operation with our international partners, the Government is using all avenues to address the crisis in Darfur. Earlier this year, Darfur was raised by the Taoiseach in meetings with UN Secretary General and President Bush and by the Minister for Foreign Affairs in his meetings with representatives of states and organisations capable of influencing Sudan including Egypt, the Arab League and the UN. Both underlined Ireland's support for deployment of an effective joint UN-African Union hybrid peacekeeping force and for improved humanitarian access in Darfur.

The Government has also worked closely with our EU partners to end human rights abuse and improve humanitarian access in Darfur. Most recently, as I mentioned, the General Affairs and External Relations Council of 18 June condemned Khartoum's renewed bombing of civilians and stated that the EU is ready to consider further measures, notably in the UN framework, to ensure humanitarian deliveries and the protection of civilians.

Ireland has actively encouraged the UN Human Rights Council to address human rights abuses in Darfur. We supported its special session on Darfur and its decision in March this year to establish a UN group to work with Sudan on implementing core human rights recommendations in Darfur.

Lasting improvements in the humanitarian and security situations will, however, require progress in the political process. In this context, the Government welcomes the roadmap for the Darfur peace process already proposed by the African Union.

Many of the displaced in southern Sudan have been returning to their homes since the Comprehensive Peace Agreement of 2005. However, the currently slow and piecemeal implementation of the agreement threatens to disrupt progress.

The provision of food, shelter and basic medical care for those in need has been a prime focus of Ireland's humanitarian funding in Sudan. Our main partner organisations, including the UN Office for the Co-ordination of Humanitarian Affairs, the World Food Programme and Irish NGOs such as Concern, Goal, and Trócaire, prioritise the forms of engagement.

Ireland welcomes the new energy which President Sarkozy's government is bringing to consideration of the situation in Sudan. The meeting on Sudan in Paris on 25 June has reinforced international support for the AU/UN roadmap for the Darfur peace process and underlined the need for quick deployment of the hybrid force. I particularly welcome the fact that China was represented at a senior level at the Paris conference, as I mentioned already to Deputy Allen who expressed a specific interest in this area. That is a positive development.

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