Written Answers Nos.149-155
Dáil Éireann Debate
Written Answers Nos.149-155
150. Deputy Noel Grealish asked the Minister for Health if his attention has been drawn to the fact that approximately €24,000 has been spent by the Health Service Executive for consultants to come up with a name change for the West-North West Hospital Group; if this got ministerial approval; the person that approved this decision; the total figure for the changing of this name; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [40698/14]
151. Deputy Richard Boyd Barrett asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade in view of the Government of Iraq’s recent call for a global ban on depleted uranium weapons, the Houses of the Oireachtas past support for an Irish domestic ban on the weapons, and the European Parliament’s recommendation to the Council of Ministers this year that member states seek a common position in favour of both a ban, and assistance to states affected by contamination, if he will ensure that Ireland advocates for progress towards just such a goal at the United Nations General Assembly this October; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [40619/14]
Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade (Deputy Charles Flanagan): Ireland does not possess, and has never possessed, any weapons, armaments or ammunition containing depleted uranium. It is the firm policy of the Government that depleted uranium munitions will never be used by the Defence Forces. Research carried out to date by the relevant international organisations, including by the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), the World Health Organisation (WHO) and the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP), has concluded that depleted uranium does not pose a significant radiological risk. Other research has consistently returned inconclusive results. Ireland has voted in favour of the four resolutions on depleted uranium taken at the United Nations General Assembly since 2007, most recently in December 2012 when General Assembly Resolution 67/36 was supported by 155 States. These resolutions requested the UN Secretary-General to seek the views of member States and relevant international organisations on the effects of the use of armaments and ammunition containing depleted uranium. I have instructed my delegation to again vote in favour of the resolution at the General Assembly this year.
Following consultations with the Department of Defence, Ireland provided a national report to the UN Secretary-General in 2009. Ireland’s submission confirmed that while there is no practical method of testing people that may have been exposed to depleted uranium, thorough medical examinations are carried out on all Defence Forces personnel returning from deployment overseas. These include tests intended to detect signs of those disease processes most likely to arise in cases of contamination with depleted uranium. To date, no evidence of an unusual incidence of disease has been found.
At present, there is no international framework or treaty relating to depleted uranium munitions and, consequently, no internationally agreed definition or prohibition. To achieve the political momentum required for implementing an international ban, a necessary condition would be to establish conclusively the negative impact of depleted uranium on human health and on the environment.
Human Rights Issues
152. Deputy Joe Higgins asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade if he will make representations to the Ambassador of the Islamic Republic of Iran about the detention of a person (details supplied); his views on outlining Ireland's position on democratic freedoms in the Islamic Republic of Iran; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [40639/14]
Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade (Deputy Charles Flanagan): The Government regularly raises human rights issues in Iran with the Iranian authorities, including in ongoing regular contact with the Iranian Ambassador and Embassy here as well as at EU level and in international fora. For the most part we do so in relation to the type of activity or human rights abuse which is of concern, rather than on specific cases. This is both because we wish our remarks to apply to all relevant cases, but also because we do not have the resources to track individual cases and confirm the basis of reports received, prior to raising them. I am aware of the case in question, but only from a single social media report which has been repeated elsewhere many times. The person involved was not previously known to my Department, and we have no information at this point as to whether she is still in custody or on what basis or charge. We have raised the issues of tolerance of civil society and freedom of expression with the Iranian authorities, as part of our ongoing dialogue with them on the need for greater respect for human rights within Iran, and will continue to do so, including as occasion allows with reference to this case if more information comes to hand.
Human Rights Issues
153. Deputy Seán Crowe asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade if his attention has been drawn to the imprisonment of a person (details supplied) in Bahrain; if his attention has been further drawn to the fact that this person was allegedly arrested for sending a tweet critical of the government there. [40677/14]
Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade (Deputy Charles Flanagan): I am familiar with the individual referred to in this question, Mr Nabeel Rajab and the circumstances of his recent arrest, including the reports that the charges against him relate to ‘publically insulting official institutions’ under Article 216 of the Bahraini penal code on foot of an opinion he expressed on Twitter. The apparent arrest, detention and prosecution of Mr Rajab for the peaceful exercise of the right to freedom of expression is of great concern. Reports indicate that his trial, which commenced on Sunday, will continue on 29 October. Mr Rajab was released from prison earlier this year, and, since then, has been continuing to act as an important voice on human rights matters in Bahrain, including, inter alia, by his participation in the work of the UN Human Rights Council in Geneva. Officials from my Department have met with Mr Rajab since his release to discuss with him the circumstances of his previous detention and the human rights situation in Bahrain more generally. In 2013, the UN Working Group on Arbitrary Detention found that Mr. Rajab’s previous detention was arbitrary. Ireland has always attached priority to safeguarding the position and rights of human rights defenders and has continually advocated that civil society actors must be free to operate in a safe and enabling environment, free from repression. Ireland’s concerns on such human rights issues in Bahrain have been conveyed regularly to the Bahraini authorities.
Ireland was one of 47 member states who delivered a joint statement expressing serious concern over the human rights situation in Bahrain at the 26th Session of the UN Human Rights Council in June of this year. In the statement, the signatories expressed their concern regarding the protection of human rights in Bahrain and called on the government to expedite the implementation of the recommendations received from the Bahrain Independent Commission of Inquiry in this regard.
At the 27th session of the Human Rights Council last month, in a national statement, Ireland welcomed the positive steps taken by the authorities in Bahrain with respect to cooperation with the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights while again expressing our serious concerns about the human rights situation, in particular condemning ‘the continuing arbitrary detention of human rights defenders, detained for peacefully exercising their human rights’. The current situation of human rights defenders in Bahrain will also be raised with the UN Special Rapporteur on this issue during an interactive dialogue which Ireland and other like-minded countries will have with him later this week in New York.
Human rights defenders, whether in Bahrain or elsewhere, should not be detained for simply exercising their rights, and all those arbitrarily detained in such circumstances should be immediately released. As noted by the spokesperson for the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, the detention of high profile human rights activists like Mr Rajab ‘sends a chilling message to other lesser-known activists of the consequences they may face for any criticism of the authorities’.
Human Rights Issues
154. Deputy Seán Crowe asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade if his attention has been drawn to the disappearance of 43 students in southern Mexico; if his attention has been further drawn to the fact that the students were supposedly abducted by local police linked to a drug cartel; and if he has directed the Irish ambassador in Mexico to raise our human rights concerns in the case with the Mexican Government. [40678/14]
Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade (Deputy Charles Flanagan): I am aware of the disappearance of the students in the incident that took place at Iguala, in Guerrero State, in Mexico recently. I wish to extend my sympathy to the families of those affected and to record my hope that the Mexican authorities will be able to resolve speedily this terrible case. In keeping with Ireland’s commitment to the promotion and protection of human rights, we address these issues on an on-going basis through our Embassy’s contacts with the Mexican government and, in particular, through their engagement with the Delegation of the European Union in Mexico City. I would like to support the statements made by the EU Delegation:
Human Rights Issues
Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade (Deputy Charles Flanagan): I am aware of the report to which the Deputy refers, which relates to a campaign in respect of Cuban citizens, imprisoned in the US, on charges connected to activities as unregistered agents of a foreign government and related offences. As this is a bilateral consular issue between the US and the Cuban authorities, the Government has no standing in the matter.
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