Written answers

Thursday, 8 February 2024

Department of Enterprise, Trade and Employment

Departmental Priorities

Photo of Catherine ConnollyCatherine Connolly (Galway West, Independent)
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37. To ask the Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment further to Parliamentary Question No. 45 of 23 November 2023, for an update on his Department’s engagement with the Department of Foreign Affairs with a view to developing a new business and human rights action plan and implementation body; the number of meetings held to-date by the stakeholder forum; the dates of same; the terms of reference of the stakeholder forum; the expected timeline for the new national plan on business and human rights; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [5478/24]

Photo of Dara CallearyDara Calleary (Mayo, Fianna Fail)
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I recognise the importance of businesses having a focus on human rights. It is now expected by society that businesses consider how their operations can impact on human rights. Businesses have reacted well since Ireland launched its first National Plan on Business and Human Rights (2017 - 2020) towards the end of 2017.

Ireland became the 19th state in the world to develop a National Plan. In December 2021, a review of the implementation of the Plan was brought to Government. It found that over 91% of commitments under the Plan were achieved, with plans to implement the remainder.

Stakeholder engagement is an important part of developing the second National Plan. In advance of the initiation of the new stakeholder forum, the Department of Foreign Affairs and my Department launched a public consultation last summer seeking the opinions of interested stakeholders to inform the development of the second Plan. Eleven submissions were received, from business representatives, trade unions, human rights organisations and academia.

The stakeholder forum has met once since it was convened, on 14 December 2023 without any terms of reference. It brought together representatives of Government, civil society, trade unions and business, including officials from my own Department. The purpose of this initial meeting was to draw out common themes that emerged from the public consultation process, and to seek clarification on or elaborate certain recommendations, with a view to establishing the likely scope and content of the new National Plan.

This forum will meet again in the coming months to discuss a working outline of the second plan, along with also meeting officials from other relevant Government Departments. The working outline of the second plan is currently being prepared by officials.

The new Plan is expected to cover a multi-annual timeframe as was covered in the first Plan. It is intended to build on the achievements of the first National Plan, while reflecting new developments in the international understanding of business and human rights, including new EU instruments. It will also align with the commitment in the Programme for Government to ‘ensure that the Action Plan on Business and Human Rights is further developed to review whether there is a need for greater emphasis on mandatory due diligence’. The ambition is to finalise the new plan this year.


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