Wednesday, 9 May 2012
Review of White Paper on Irish Aid: Statements, Questions and Answers
Joe Costello (Dublin Central, Labour)
Senator Brennan made a point about President Banda. I do not see why we could not invite her. She has a good track record and has been a strong human rights activist in the past. Two months ago I was in Malawi where there are human rights problems but I believe she will do a good deal. She has already stated that she will address these issues.
I should have referred to that matter and to the good work being done by Louth County Council. It is something we do not always hear much about. Many county councils and groups work quietly without any fanfare away from the public eye. They carry out tremendous work. Senator Brennan noted that €400,000 has been given by Louth County Council towards education. Many county councils are engaged with individual projects in individuals countries. This could be encouraged in all local authorities throughout the country. They could twin with another town or get involved in a project. That would be interesting. We will take all of that on board as part of the review of the White Paper.
Senator Walsh asked a question about abortion. We are not involved in any way in respect of abortion, as Senator Walsh knows well. Our country's position is clear in this respect. We are involved in upholding human rights and the dignity of the person. One cannot be involved in trying to help the poorest of the poor without having respect for the person and his or her dignity. From this point of view, human rights must be central to what we are doing. We are supportive of human rights across the board. The Charter of the United Nations is our starting point as well as the various United Nations conventions. We have made this clear from the beginning everywhere we go. This is one of the things encountered by Ministers not only in Irish Aid countries but in other countries throughout the world. It is one element of our agenda if countries are infringing human rights and we always articulate it. Sometimes this approach is not well liked. I recall the first three quarters of an hour with the receiving Minister for Foreign Affairs during the visit to Malawi. We almost had a showdown on human rights and some of the legislation passed there. I will not go through the agenda but eventually we came round to what we had done in Ireland to address some of the issues. He was very pleased to hear about some of our work. I promised to send him some statistics from Dáil and Seanad debates and he was pleased to get these. I am unsure whether he is still a Minister following the change in Government.