Thursday, 23 November 2023
Ceisteanna Eile - Other Questions
13. To ask the Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment whether an IDA Ireland business development consultant (details supplied) has been recruited; if the Government is rethinking the role in view of the ongoing breaches of international humanitarian law and ongoing war crimes committed by Israel. [51480/23]
Will the Minister indicate if an IDA Ireland business development consultant has been recruited and if the Government is rethinking this role in view of the breaches of international humanitarian law and ongoing war crimes committed by Israel? I am referring to recruitment of an IDA Ireland business development consultant to operate in Israel. I do not have to go through what is happening to the Palestinian people at this time. The Taoiseach has said we cannot continue with trade as normal, so we have to look at those things we can deal with.
IDA Ireland’s strategy of diversifying its market reach involves broadening the geographic profile of investors. This is supported by the agency’s pathfinder model, which it has used across several territories over the past number of years and involves engaging in market business development consultants on a part-time basis in markets with business potential and in which IDA Ireland does not have a presence.
IDA Ireland successfully tendered for a part-time Israel-based business development consultant during 2021, with the contract commencing in February 2022. This contract ended 12 months later, at the end of January 2023. Following the evaluation stage of a new tender competition earlier this year, IDA Ireland was unable to conclude a contract with the successful tenderer. In the meantime, my Department has been informed that IDA Ireland has taken the operational decision to cancel this tender competition and does not envisage re-tendering for the contract any time soon.
This was a 12-month contract we had in place. IDA Ireland was doing what it is supposed to do, namely, exploring new markets. That contract ended and has not been repeated. We will obviously keep this under operational review.
I welcome that nobody is in place and we are not looking to put somebody in place in Israel. That would be anathema to the Irish people, considering the slaughter and genocide the Israelis are carrying out.
I have no difficulty with the fact that IDA Ireland has a specific work to do to engender business and business connections. However, we need to look at some of the places in the world in which we are going to operate. We know the history of Israel. Gaza is an open prison and, beyond that, there is apartheid and the annexation of land, particularly in the West Bank. That is before we even get into the ins and outs of slaughter. We need to look at how we deal with Israel. The Taoiseach spoke in relation to the Israel-EU association agreement. I am not entirely sure how we can ensure our voice is heard but we need to look at Israel's abuse of humanitarian law and how we can act on that. Can the Minister provide any information on that?
I was a foreign Minister once but I am not one at the moment. I am an enterprise Minister now. Many of the issues the Deputy has raised are foreign policy issues on which I have very strong views. However, we are dealing with questions on enterprise.
The Deputy’s comments are very one-sided in many ways. As he knows, I have been a very strong voice at a European level in relation to the rights of the Palestinian people to have a state of their own and on a two-state solution, a peace process and holding Israel to account for breaches of international law. I continue to hold all those views.
I speak in the context of the human tragedy we have seen unfold both for Israelis and Palestinians in the last number of weeks. Our focus should be on the progress we have seen over the last 48 hours in moving towards a four-day ceasefire. We should be focused on trying to make that ceasefire work, last and be extended. Ireland is doing everything we can through our voice within the European Union the United Nations and making our voice heard bilaterally, both with Palestine and Israel, to try to bring about an end to what is extraordinary human suffering. Irish people want Ireland to be vocal and active in trying to bring that to an end and the Government is using every tool we have to do so.
We need to acknowledge the suffering Israelis have endured as well as the extraordinary response to that suffering in the context of what is currently happening in Gaza. We need to call out breaches of international law, as we do. Most important, we need to bring about change through robust and good diplomacy, as we saw from the Tánaiste last week when he visited the region. We have also had that from the Taoiseach in his very clear statements in this House.
I agree with much of what the Minister said in the sense that there is huge human suffering. We need to call out breaches of international and humanitarian law by everyone who engages in them. At this point, however, we can say that the power differential between Israel and Palestine has always remained static. Israel, a nuclear power that is able to pulverise a largely civilian population, has been provided cover by a large number of people across the European Union, the United States and the western world who we consider to be our friends at times. This has been an abject failure and it will create difficulties in relation to other issues in which the West is very interested.
We need to take action, as the Minister said, and some of that will involve trade. I am very glad this particular role has not been filled. We need to look at dual-use equipment that is delivered from Ireland to Israel, particularly equipment that could be used for munitions or to facilitate genocide. That would be utterly unacceptable. We need to implement the occupied territories Bill and the Illegal Israeli Settlements Divestment Bill. That could be done before we talk about the recognition of the state of Palestine, which is a commitment in the programme for Government.
As the Deputy will know, I have discussed many of these options many times. We have taken advice from the Attorney General about what we can and cannot do. We have received very clear answers from three Attorneys General in a row in relation to the occupied territories Bill. I repeat that Ireland could decide to do things that will gain the support of this House but the question we need to ask is whether it would make a difference on the ground to Palestinians. Would it protect children, women and innocent civilians who have been caught up in this war? Those are the questions we have to keep asking ourselves. How does Ireland maximise its influence in the context of bringing about peace? How do we ensure we keep communication channels open with those who are influential in bringing about peace, including the Israeli Government? Unlike some in this Chamber who would simply cut diplomatic ties with Israel, which I believe would be a mistake, the Government is trying to engage and is having the difficult discussions that are necessary to express our concern, frustration and anxiety about what is happening.
At the same time we are trying to impact how the European Union collectively responds and how Washington can continue to be influential over what is happening in Israel. We have been engaging with the Arab world as well. That is the approach we need to continue to take and it is the approach that has managed to assist in getting many Irish people out of Gaza. I hope it is an approach that can also impact on moving away from war, violence, carnage and loss, and towards a peace process that can deliver something much better in the future.