Address by Minister Micheál Martin to the Diplomatic Corps on the National Day of Commemoration
Remarks by the Minister for Foreign Affairs
Mr. Micheál Martin T.D.
to the Diplomatic Corps
Dublin Castle, 13th July, 2008
Your Excellency, Dean of the Diplomatic Corps
Your Excellencies, Heads of Diplomatic Missions, Ladies and
I warmly welcome all of you here today, particularly those of you who have travelled from overseas.
While I have only been Minister for Foreign Affairs for the past two months, I have already met with a number of my counterparts and I look forward to meeting with many more in the coming year.
I also look forward to working with you to enhance the excellent
bilateral relations which we have with all of your
Your work as diplomats, through your contacts and specialised knowledge, greatly helps to enhance the relationships between our countries.
I am pleased that so many of you could join us on this day when we honour all of the Irish men and women who died on service with the United Nations or in past wars.
Ireland has a long tradition of commitment to the United Nations and this year marks the fiftieth anniversary of the first time Irish Defence Forces personnel undertook UN peace-keeping duties.
As the Taoiseach remarked recently at the celebrations to mark this anniversary, we take pride that many Irish men and women have served this country, the world community and the cause of peace with great distinction.
Our commitment to the United Nations and to international peace-keeping remains extensive, with 836 Defence Forces and Garda personnel participating in fourteen different missions throughout the world. During the past year we have had the command of a sector in Kosovo.
We are also of course participating in the EUFOR mission in Chad, under the operational command of an Irish General, Pat Nash. This important EU-UN mission is making an invaluable contribution to providing a safe and secure environment for humanitarian assistance to some 400,000 refugees and displaced persons.
The first Irish peace-keepers fifty years ago were deployed to serve with the UN mission in Lebanon. Nowhere does the search for a sustainable, lasting peace continue to be more urgent and important than in the Middle East.
Having just returned on Friday from a visit to Egypt, Israel and the Occupied Palestinian Territories, I am encouraged by the commitment to pursuing the current dialogue under the Annapolis process. The recent ceasefire in Gaza is also a positive development.
But there are still many obstacles to an enduring peace, including
very difficult conditions on the ground.
There is a need to step up current efforts, if there is to be genuine progress towards the ambitious but essential goal of a negotiated two-State solution.
Within the EU and UN Ireland will continue to work intensively for the defence and promotion of human rights and democracy around the globe. Over the past few weeks and months, the attention of the world has been focussed on the dire situations in Zimbabwe and Burma.
Civilised opinion everywhere has been appalled by the widespread violence and sheer thuggery which attended the recent run-off vote in Zimbabwe. The Burmese Government’s tardy and cynical response to the natural disaster of Cyclone Nargis was also appalling.
We cannot be indifferent to the actions of governments, such as those in Zimbabwe and Burma, which so flagrantly abuse the outward forms of democracy while ignoring its essence, and which add to the already intense suffering of their people.
It has been encouraging to note the growing international consensus, including among some of Zimbabwe’s African neighbours and recently on the part of the G8, rejecting the results of the 27 June election in Zimbabwe and holding that Robert Mugabe’s government can no longer be regarded as legitimate.
The UN Security Council’s unanimous expression of deep concern in advance of the election was important and welcome. That is why Friday’s failure to agree on a Security Council resolution was particularly disappointing and regrettable.
I believe that appropriate targeted sanctions are quite compatible with a genuine commitment to mediation and dialogue. I am glad that the EU is continuing to work on strengthening its own restrictive measures.
The Irish Government has been, and continues to be, very strongly supportive of the negotiating efforts of the African Union, led by President Mbeki of South Africa, and passionately wishes to see an early and positive outcome from this critical process.
The long suffering people of Zimbabwe simply cannot be asked to wait much longer for the delivery of their basic human and democratic rights. I believe all our governments expect no less and will accept no less.
Our own experience of conflict and desire to share the fruits of our peace process has been the motivation for the establishment of the Conflict Resolution Unit within my Department.
I am pleased at the progress which has been achieved over the past year, with our first Roving Ambassador, Nuala O’Loan, having made a successful visit to East Timor in May. I remain convinced that Ireland can make a distinctive and valuable contribution in the area of conflict resolution.
Looking to the period ahead, I have already made clear that a major priority will be the enactment of legislation to enable Ireland to ratify the international convention on cluster munitions successfully negotiated in May here in Dublin and which will be formally opened for signature next December in Oslo.
I want again, through you, to thank all the Governments which contributed so constructively to the successful conclusion of the Croke Park conference.
Ireland remains profoundly committed to the European Union and its goals of peace, prosperity and sustainable development. I believe that there should be no doubt about the broad support of the Irish people for the Union.
The Government has strongly supported the Lisbon Reform Treaty as a means to allow the Union to work more effectively in the interests of people of all the Member States, including Ireland.
However, the Government has of course made it clear that it accepts the result of last month’s referendum. We are now committed to working for the best possible solution to the difficulties in which the Union finds itself, one that will serve Ireland’s and Europe’s interests in the years ahead.
In the first instance we will be carefully analysing the factors underlying the outcome of the referendum and consulting both at home and with our EU partners. These processes are now under way.
Here on the island of Ireland, we are living in a new and exciting era, one full of promise and potential for Northern Ireland and the island as a whole.
In the past year - as we marked the 10th anniversary of the Good Friday Agreement - we witnessed the realisation of that landmark document’s full potential and vision.
It is important to remember that these huge advances were achieved through compromise, dialogue and agreement, with each tradition and community retaining their legitimate political aspirations.
It was in this spirit that Dr Ian Paisley and Martin McGuinness led the Executive through its first year.
I am confident that the recently appointed team of First Minister Robinson and Deputy First Minister McGuinness are equally committed to working in partnership and cooperation to ensure a better future for the people of Northern Ireland.
With each passing day, the politics of Northern Ireland become less about rhetoric and more about real life. Education, employment, healthcare and infrastructure are to the fore in newspaper headlines – another welcome sign of a changing society.
This is not to say that our work is done. There are still challenges to face before society is fully normalised.
The devolution of policing and justice powers is a key objective and I welcome the fact that the DUP and Sinn Féin are now engaged in meaningful discussion on this issue. We are committed to working together with the Executive to ensure that the peace we have built together on our shared island will endure.
A feature of our foreign policy over the past number of years has been our growing and very substantial commitment to development. Today Ireland is the sixth largest donor per capita in the world. Despite the budgetary decisions earlier this week, we remain confident that we will reach the target set for this year of spending 0.54% of GNP on development which will keep us on track to meet the UN target of 0.7%.
While we are committed to sustainable long-term development, it is also essential that we deal with immediate humanitarian crises.
It is important that we do everything we can to protect the poorest and most vulnerable communities around the world from the effects of rising food and fuel prices. Developing countries are affected most by these issues and yet they are least able to cope.
We are directly contributing to international efforts to tackle rising food prices and increased food insecurity.
I look forward to the publication in the autumn of the report of the Hunger Task Force established by the Government on foot of the White Paper on Irish Aid.
We have also greatly enhanced Ireland’s contribution to international emergency and recovery efforts following humanitarian disasters including by launching the Rapid Response Initiative last year.
The Rapid Response Corps of professional volunteers available for deployment at short notice to emergency situations has expanded considerably this year and this has greatly enhanced our ability to quickly provide the skills required to respond to emergencies.
While we face more uncertain economic times, Ireland will continue to ensure that the focus of our official aid programme is on the needs of the poorest and most vulnerable communities.
Health, education, governance, gender equality and the environment
will continue to be priorities as these are areas which have most
impact on the marginalised.
Now, more than ever, we have a moral obligation to respond to the challenges of global development.
Promoting Ireland Abroad
As a small open economy we are also fully aware of our nations’ inter-dependence and the importance of global solidarity if we are to build long-term stability and prosperity.
While the current economic environment, both internationally and domestically has become difficult, Ireland, with its strong base of modern industry, its commitment to education, its highly skilled and flexible workforce and pro-business culture is well placed to tackle the challenges ahead.
Through the implementation of appropriate policies, the Government remains committed to the improvement of national competitiveness which will position the country to take advantage of a future upswing in the global economy.
I am determined that our diplomatic missions will continue to assist Irish business in competing effectively on the international stage.
I know that you in your own work will also contribute to the development of mutually benefical economic interaction between our countries.
In conclusion, I would thank you all once again for joining me here today to mark the National Day of Commemoration.
I would now like to offer a toast to the Heads of State represented here todayTop