Speaking in Foreign Affairs on the undocumented Irish and the voting rights for the Irish overseas and the Diaspora

Foreign Affairs and Trade Issues: Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade

Tuesday, 11 November 2014

Senator Mark Daly:  I welcome the Minister to the committee. I will follow on from what Deputy Byrne said about Colombia. We have a Euro-Med trade agreement with Israel which contains a human rights clause. It is entirely unenforceable, however, and does not have any trigger mechanism or review process. It simply does not work. We know that because following the last six attacks in Gaza there has been no triggering of the Euro-Med agreement’s human rights clause, despite attacks on UN compounds. I would ask, therefore, that before Ireland signs up to any trade agreement with Colombia, we would ensure that the human rights clause for which Ireland fought is actually workable and includes trigger and review mechanisms.

I also wish to ask for an update on the situation of undocumented Irish in America. President Obama is about to sign an executive order concerning his powers and what he can do for the 50,000 undocumented Irish people. Perhaps the Minister would consider pushing for a humanitarian visa not only for the 50,000 undocumented Irish but also the 12 million others residing in the United States who cannot leave and return. A humanitarian visa should be part of the executive order, which would allow them to leave in time of bereavement and distress to their families at home while being able to return to the United States. The Government should push for that.

I would like to get the Minister’s views on votes for the Irish diaspora overseas. The Minister of State, Deputy Deenihan, has been talking about this matter, but having it solely in presidential elections is simply not enough. There are only eight countries in the world that confine votes for their diaspora to presidential elections, and all of those have executive presidents with powers similar to those of President Obama. Perhaps the Minister would consider expanding that option for the Irish overseas and those living in Northern Ireland to vote not only in presidential elections but also in Seanad elections.

Is it possible to upgrade our mission in Ramallah to embassy status, thus taking a step towards recognition?

At some future date, could we have a joint meeting with the Joint Committee on the Implementation of the Good Friday Agreement? I know the Minister is very much engaged in the process at the moment, but it is one of the biggest and longest-lasting conflicts in Europe. We are hoping that it is at a permanent peace but because of the historical legacy and issues over flags and parades, it has the potential to come back with a vengeance at any time. I ask the Minister to addresses this matter in his reply, including how the situation is progressing and how he sees it evolving.

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