Dáil debates

Wednesday, 15 June 2016

Ceisteanna - Questions

International Terrorism

2:05 pm

Photo of Micheál MartinMicheál Martin (Cork South Central, Fianna Fail)
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7. To ask the Taoiseach the status of discussions at European Union Council level on tackling radicalism and terrorism outside the European Union's borders, as per the programme for Government; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [13102/16]

Photo of Enda KennyEnda Kenny (Mayo, Fine Gael)
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Over the past 18 months, there have been horrific terrorist attacks both within and outside the European Union. Even this week we have witnessed the tragic events in Orlando and the murder of a French policeman and his partner. Tackling such terrorism, and the radicalisation which fuels it, is a challenge to which the EU attaches the very highest priority.

Ireland has consistently called for a comprehensive and co-ordinated international response which addresses both the immediate effects of terrorism and its root causes. The commitment in the programme for Government to supporting the EU and UN efforts, and to working with third countries to stop the advance of brutal terrorists, comes in this context.

Decisions at the European Council in February of last year, after the January Paris killings, focused on three separate but overlapping areas of activity, namely, steps to ensure the security of citizens, including better information sharing between member states; measures to prevent radicalisation and safeguard European values, with a focus on Internet-based activity; and deepening co-operation with international partners, especially in the southern neighbourhood. This is the broad agenda on which all the EU institutions continue to work.

Following the attacks in Paris last November, the European Council reaffirmed the need to implement measures across all three strands. Developments since then include agreement on the passenger name record directive, substantial progress on Commission proposals on new directives for combating terrorism and the illegal firearms trade and agreement on an action plan against the financing of terrorism. It is all too clear however that work on all relevant issues needs to be intensified.

With regard to radicalisation and terrorism outside the EU's borders, engagement has been stepped up with partners in North Africa, the Middle East, Turkey and beyond. The High Representative of the Union, Federica Mogherini, has confirmed that a comprehensive package of assistance provided to the Tunisian Government in 2015 to help tackle terrorism will be replicated in other countries this year. Meanwhile, EU counter-terrorism experts have been posted to Turkey, Saudi Arabia and Tunisia while a comprehensive counter-terrorism plan has been developed with Turkey under the European Neighbourhood Instrument programme.

Of course, much current terrorist activity has to be seen within the context of the tragic and hugely destabilising Syrian crisis. We support all diplomatic efforts to bring peace to Syria and to counter the barbaric ideology and actions of ISIS.

The EU's efforts in the areas of counter-radicalisation and counter-terrorism are underpinned by the UN Security Council resolutions, which themselves make clear that any long-term solution to the challenge that terrorism poses must address its underlying causes.

Photo of Micheál MartinMicheál Martin (Cork South Central, Fianna Fail)
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I thank the Taoiseach for his reply. It is fair to say there is no doubt we are in middle of an age where severe threats are posed by extreme ideologies to all. The greatest victims of these ideologies are the people who belong to and live in the communities for whom groups like ISIS claim to speak. The people of Syria and Iraq are bearing the brunt of ISIS's barbarism. That is the bottom line. That is very evident from the migration patterns.

With respect to the mass shooting in Orlando, President Obama's recent speech is one that should be read by many in this country and further afield and particularly by young people. He has spoken in very measured and reasonable terms and put fundamental values at the core of his message. There is no basis for using the actions of one person to stereotype and victimise others and, equally, we should not fall for the propaganda of groups trying to pretend to have larger networks than they actually do.

Visitors to our country, no matter how senior they are, should be reminded that it is against Irish law to promote fear and hatred of a group based on religion or race and that message should go to the presidential candidate, Donald Trump. Promoting fear and hatred is not something that is in accordance with Irish law, particularly when it is targeted at groups based on their religion or their race.

Does the Taoiseach agree we should reject the idea that terrorism is caused by adverse conditions? To do otherwise would be to belittle the struggles of the countless millions in poverty who do not turn to extremism and it misses the reality that throughout history other dark and generally populist forces are more closely linked to the growth of extremism and terrorism. Undoubtedly, we have to do more to support moderate forces which want to build strong civil society and oppose fundamentalism. One of the reasons I put the question in terms of the European Council and that side of the equation is that there is a lack of more fundamental thought being put into the whole idea of the roots and origins of this form of radicalism, if it could be called that, and terrorism and they need deeper exploration. I was hoping that the European Council, along with all of the immediate measures that are required to deal with the impact of terrorism and so on, would look fundamentally at the neighbourhood countries and the Middle East itself and develop a deeper understanding of the forces at work here to inform future strategy and geopolitical strategy across the globe in terms of what has happened and what is happening.

In many respects, the migration from Syria is because of the conflict there, the appalling war and the appalling approach of Assad to his own people. There is no doubt that if the conflict could be resolved or if a proper framework, in terms of a peace process, could be put in place, it would have a huge impact on that migration story. There have been some horrendous stories emanating from Syria and Iraq of decent ordinary people who have had to flee their land and some of those people have arrived in Ireland by themselves. In one case, a young teenager, who had relatives here, made the long trek here. On the last occasion I spoke on this, I instanced a brilliant article by a Norwegian journalist, entitled The Wetsuitman. For anybody who wants to get a proper understanding of what migration is all about, it is not what Trump, or the scaremongerers, would have us believe. This was the harrowing story of two young people from aspiring families in Syria who wanted to pursue third level education and ended up falsely believing they could swim the English Channel. They purchased swim suits to do that and one ended up off the Norwegian coast and the other one ended up off the Dutch coast. That is the reality of migration and we should take away the ideology and the politics from this. That is what is actually happening and that is what demands a humanitarian response from Europe and societies like our own. We need to start fighting back against some of rhetoric that has been going on, which is only fanning the flames of racism and scaring people unnecessarily. Europe has to stand up for its values. President Obama did the international global community some good by his measured speech yesterday in response to what has been going on.

2:15 pm

Photo of Gerry AdamsGerry Adams (Louth, Sinn Fein)
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In the first instance, I agree with the Taoiseach that the crisis in Syria and other parts of the region, including Iraq, Libya and the Middle East itself, has seen fundamentalist groups thrive in a dreadful humanitarian situation. We have seen recently, as the Taoiseach and the Leader of Fianna Fáil noted, ISIS attacks in France and Belgium. In recent days, we have had further attacks in France and then Orlando where the worst mass shooting in US history took place. That is where it is playing out. However, the UN revealed this week that more than 10,000 people have died attempting to cross the Mediterranean since 2014. It is a huge number of people. Tens of thousands are, even as we speak here, trying to make their way across in what are essentially coffin ships. Since the start of the year, 206,000 refugees have arrived in Europe. These are all linked. The people in Orlando, France and Belgium are all entirely ordinary, innocent civilians. As such, we must assert that religion. gender, colour and nationality are no excuse and that racism, injustice and sectarianism must be challenged. However, we must also apply ourselves to the treatment of the Palestinian people, which must be confronted. That is at the core at a lot of this instability. I put it to the Taoiseach that the recognition by this State of a Palestinian state would make an invaluable contribution.

Sinn Féin is totally opposed to the EU approach of deporting vulnerable people back to Turkey where there is not only a risk but a probability that their human rights will be violated once again. Last year, the Government announced we would take in 4,000 refugees. Can the Taoiseach confirm how many of these refugees have actually arrived?

Photo of Enda KennyEnda Kenny (Mayo, Fine Gael)
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I agree with Deputy Martin's comments on the speech by President Obama. I listened to the speech, which was clear, well measured and has been a stabilising influence. People should read it. I also agree with Deputy Martin in respect of comments which have been made in America that engender fear and hatred in people. This is contrary to Irish law and not acceptable. The Deputy made a very valid point about radicalisation and the threat for so many people arising from this. I understand that the way that this operates now, it can happen online and that those who may be radicalised or driven to murderous activities may never have to visit the country from where that comes in the first instance. I agree and have said at the European Council on many occasions that all of the problems which have afflicted many European countries are a result of the root cause of the Syrian conflict and the external issues to Syria in Iran, Iraq, Turkey, Kurdish areas in five nations and that these are issues which are often not explored in the depth one might like at the European Council due to time constraints. One relies on reports from the High Representative and different countries. We can all understand the implications of the entire populations of Munster and Connaught dropping everything in the course of any one week and walking to Derry or Belfast to get a boat to England, Scotland or wherever. The arrival of so many people who conducted ordinary lives before that brings to light the point the Deputy makes about what forced emigration really means. We have tried to play our part in that while we are not a member of that formal protocol.

Deputy Adams mentioned the relocation and resettlement programme. We had a number of statements in the House about that previously. We have called consistently for an approach which addresses the root cause of this. The Minister of State, Deputy Stanton, will deal with it in some further detail. Under Protocol 21, Ireland can choose to participate in any justice and home affairs measure under Title 5 of the relevant treaty. We chose to put a figure of 4,000 in terms of people in need of international protection. It should be noted that the programme was due to run until the end of 217, but it will be extended because of delays in the arrival of people. Our immediate priority is to implement the measures in regard to relocation, which relates to people who are currently within the European Union, in particular Italy and Greece, and resettlement, which refers to refugees or asylum seekers who are currently outside the European Union. As such, one has relocation and resettlement. Progress on resettlement has been reasonable. We have already taken in more than half, or 273, of what we pledged under this and are on course to reach our target of 520 refugees by the end of the year. On relocation, progress has been very slow, as it has been for all other partners, for reasons outside our control, including operational and administrative difficulties.

Photo of Seán Ó FearghaílSeán Ó Fearghaíl (Kildare South, Ceann Comhairle)
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Thank you, Taoiseach, the time has elapsed.

Photo of Enda KennyEnda Kenny (Mayo, Fine Gael)
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I will finish it in 30 seconds if I can, a Cheann Comhairle. We have already received the first family of ten and a further 31 Syrians have been security cleared whose arrival in Ireland from Greece is imminent. An additional pledge of 40 people was made to Greece on 22 April and these persons are expected to arrive in Ireland towards the end of July. After that, regular intakes of 40 persons every eight weeks are planned. The Minister of State, Deputy Stanton will be dealing with that in some further detail.

I will send Deputy Adams a note in respect of Palestine. The Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade, Deputy Charles Flanagan, is out there this week.