Dáil debates

Thursday, 12 July 2018

Topical Issue Debate

Human Rights

5:10 pm

Photo of Catherine ByrneCatherine Byrne (Dublin South Central, Fine Gael) | Oireachtas source

I thank the Deputy. Unfortunately, the Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade cannot be present and I was asked, just in the past 15 minutes, to take this matter and I ask the Deputy to bear with me.

The question of where the Moneypoint plant sources its coal is a matter for the ESB and the Deputy may wish to pursue this matter further with the Minister for Communications, Climate Action and Environment. We understand that there have been complaints from non-governmental organisations, NGOs, regarding private sector activities in the Cerrejón mine and we are aware of the negative publicity that has surrounded the mine for some time.

We would certainly be concerned at reports of mining activities having a negative impact on local populations or on the environment, as well as reported abuse of workers. Ireland does not yet have an embassy in Colombia although we will open one there shortly, but the EU delegation in Bogotá has been active on behalf of member states in this area. The EU delegation has been monitoring the situation closely and the EU head of delegation has visited the Cerrejón mine to hear stakeholders' views on the allegations and to assess the situation on the ground. Several follow-up meetings took place with representatives of trade unions and other civil society organisations.

In addition to the continuous monitoring of Colombia's mining sector, the EU has been carrying out a number of activities in the framework of the implementation of the trade agreement between the EU and Colombia. The EU has been actively promoting a dialogue between Colombia's civil society organisations in the environmental and labour sectors and the Government. Several meetings were organised in which the EU delegation to Colombia facilitated contacts between civil society organisations and the Colombian Government.

More specifically on mining and the allegations around the Cerrejón mine, the EU has been maintaining contacts with the sectoral trade union and is in contact with environmental organisations. As the Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade has explained previously in response to parliamentary questions on the matter, the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade has an ongoing commitment to support peace and human rights in Colombia and the transition to a post-conflict society.

The Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade engages with the Colombian authorities at governmental level and with human rights defenders and civil society leaders in Colombia, including those working in communities most impacted by the recent conflict. The Department provides funding directly to the Office of the United Nations High Commission for Human Rights in Colombia to support its work in promoting and protecting human rights, including in some of Colombia’s most isolated and challenging regions, as well as to the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights, which provides protection measures to community leaders and activists operating in Colombia and elsewhere in South America.

While Ireland does not yet have an embassy in Colombia, officials from the embassy of Ireland in Mexico, which is accredited to Colombia, frequently visit the country and maintain regular contact with partners there, including to receive updates on the issues affecting communities. Pending the opening of an Irish embassy in Colombia, we will continue to monitor developments in the country as closely as possible.


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