Ministers should raise human rights concerns during visits, says diplomat

Right to put Irish position across, says Dorr

 Noel Dorr: raising such matters required a well thought-out approach as it would be wrong for a visiting delegation to make their hosts feel as if they were saying: “We’re better than you.”  ,

Noel Dorr: raising such matters required a well thought-out approach as it would be wrong for a visiting delegation to make their hosts feel as if they were saying: “We’re better than you.” ,

Thu, Jan 16, 2014, 01:00

Ministers on trade missions should raise concerns about human rights abuses when visiting states where such issues exist, but only to a point their hosts will not find offensive, a veteran diplomat has said.

Noel Dorr, a former secretary general at the Department of Foreign Affairs, yesterday told the Joint Oireachtas Committee on Foreign Affairs said it was a “difficult thing” to do, but that it was right to carefully put across the Irish position on such matters.

“It is right that [Ministers] should express the Irish concern when there are issues to be expressed on human rights, but not to an extent which [their hosts] find offensive, but to an extent where they will listen,” he said, in response to a question from Independent Dublin Central TD Maureen O’Sullivan.


‘Grave concern’
Amnesty International last week expressed “grave concern” when it emerged that Taoiseach Enda Kenny and Minister for Jobs Richard Bruton did not raise concerns about human rights during their political engagements on a trade mission to Gulf states including Qatar and Saudi Arabia.

Asked about the issue, Mr Kenny said Ireland had always raised human rights issues through the European Union and United Nations.

Mr Dorr said raising such matters required a well thought-out approach as it would be wrong for a visiting delegation to make their hosts feel as if they were saying: “We’re better than you.”

Mr Dorr was addressing the committee as part of a foreign policy review being undertaken by the Department of Foreign Affairs. The review is designed to ensure Ireland gains maximum benefit from the resources it commits to international engagement.

The committee will today hear submissions on the subject from deputy editor of The Irish Times Denis Staunton, and Graham Butler, a PhD fellow at Copenhagen University.