Written answers

Thursday, 4 December 2014

Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade

Diplomatic Representation

Photo of Brendan SmithBrendan Smith (Cavan-Monaghan, Fianna Fail)
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161. To ask the Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade his views on the need to review the Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relations with particular reference to the need to ensure the rights of workers contracted to provide services to embassies and the employment rights of those working in embassies; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [46587/14]

Photo of Charles FlanaganCharles Flanagan (Laois-Offaly, Fine Gael)
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The Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relations of 1961 is an international treaty that provides a framework for diplomatic relations between states. To date, it has been ratified by 190 countries. The Convention provides for privileges and immunities for diplomats and certain other persons working in embassies. Under the Convention, it is the duty of all persons enjoying diplomatic privileges and immunities to respect the laws and regulations of the host State, including any applicable labour laws. Consistent with the State’s obligations under the Vienna Convention, my Department works to ensure that the law is upheld and my Department will assist, as appropriate, in any investigation being undertaken by the relevant Irish authorities. Persons working for embassies – i.e. foreign governments – may in certain circumstances bring legal proceedings in relation to their employment against that government, subject to the rules of state immunity, also known as sovereign immunity. State immunity is not regulated by the Vienna Convention. However, a distinction must be drawn between individuals working for embassies and those working for individual diplomats as private domestic workers. Any legal proceedings brought by a private domestic worker against their diplomat employer will be subject to the rules set out in the Vienna Convention. Although an international review of the Convention is not envisaged at this point in time, Ireland as well as many of our EU and OSCE partners keep under on-going consideration how best we can meet our international and national obligations.

My interest in the promotion of best employment practices led to my introduction last September of new guidelines for diplomatic staff who intend to employ private domestic workers. These guidelines set out clearly expectations regarding such matters as payment, working hours, employment records and health insurance. Upon publication of the guidelines, my Department arranged a briefing for all resident diplomatic Missions and followed up in writing with those Missions. My Department continues to monitor the implementation of the guidelines closely.

While I believe that the majority of diplomatic staff in Ireland already follow good practices, it is my view that the obligations as set out under the Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relations combined with the effective implementation of best practices in the form of these new guidelines provide the best way forward to ensure the protection of domestic workers employed by diplomats in Ireland.


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