Seanad debates

Tuesday, 25 September 2012

4:05 pm

Photo of James HeffernanJames Heffernan (Labour) | Oireachtas source

I welcome the Minister of State back to the House. I strongly welcome the information he gave the House towards the end of his statement regarding the initiatives being taken today by the Arab League and Russia. This conflict has dragged on for 18 months and has claimed 20,000 lives, and violence continues to spread to more parts of the country. In August alone, 100,000 people fled Syria. The initiatives by Russia and the Arab League are a chink of light in what has been a period of utter desperation for the ordinary, innocent Syrian population. I hope the new peace envoy, Mr. Lakhdar Brahimi, will have a more successful mission than his predecessor, Mr. Kofi Annan. Both sides in Syria have until now rejected any type of compromise and the international community has been deeply divided. Mr. Brahimi said recently that the support of the international community is indispensable and urgently required. I hope, as a result of what has happened today, we will see some progress.

Last month's flood of refugees is certainly not a coincidence given that Bashar al-Assad appears to have upped the ante, to use a crude phrase.

His regime controls the skies, although I do not believe it has control on the ground, and it uses this advantage to indiscriminately bomb towns and villages, schools, hospitals and homes with absolute impunity. As a result of this bombardment, according to an article in The Washington Postyesterday, most people now sleep in the fields at night. While that option was viable in warmer temperatures and while food was plentiful, cushioning the blow somewhat for the displaced, the arrival of near freezing winter temperatures will mean greater suffering and a deepening of the crisis. Last winter was bad and this winter will be worse, in my opinion. Last winter people had savings and food but the situation is now completely different because those savings are exhausted. While food might be plentiful in the north of Syria, it is not affordable for many.

The Minister of State acknowledged Ireland's response. I wonder, however, about the humanitarian aid hub that was mooted for Shannon Airport some time ago. Perhaps a project like this would give a shot in the arm to the region and we could see it speeded up or realised during our Presidency of the European Union.

Following the European Union lead recently, the United States today has agreed to delist from a terrorist database a group styling itself the People's Mujahidin of Iran. As far as I can gather, this group is considered suspect and has styled itself as a government in waiting. Will the delisting of such a group by the United States have a destabilising effect on the region?


No comments

Log in or join to post a public comment.