Written answers

Wednesday, 26 January 2011

Department of Foreign Affairs

International Trade

7:00 pm

Photo of Michael D HigginsMichael D Higgins (Galway West, Labour)
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Question 60: To ask the Minister for Foreign Affairs if his attention has been drawn to illegal business practice being conducted by Irish companies in Western Sahara; if he will, similar to the Norwegian Government, condemn such practice and request any Irish companies operating there to immediately suspend their business until such time as the Saharawi people benefit from the presence of international companies in their country. [4167/11]

Photo of Brian CowenBrian Cowen (Taoiseach; Acting Minister, Department of Foreign Affairs; Laois-Offaly, Fianna Fail)
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I refer the Deputy to the reply to Question 317 answered on 25 January, which is outlined as follows. The Government has consistently supported the right to self-determination of the people of the Western Sahara. Ireland has not taken a position on the future status of the territory, so long as that status is decided in a genuine exercise of self-determination.

At present, the Western Sahara is a non-self governing territory. Under international law, the economic resources of a non-self governing territory may only be exploited for the benefit of the people of the territory, on their behalf or in consultation with their representatives.

The Government has consistently made clear its view that any exploration and exploitation activities that proceed in disregard of the interests and wishes of the people of Western Sahara would be in violation of the principles of international law applicable to natural resource activities in non-self governing territories. The Government would expect that any Irish company operating abroad would have due regard to the principles of international law and the rights of the inhabitants of the territory.

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