Ceann Comhairle’s views on Taiwan

 

Sir, – It was with sadness and disappointment that I read about Seán Ó Fearghail’s email to members of the Oireachtas regarding engagement with Taiwan (“TDs are warned contact with Taiwan ‘will offend China’”, News, October 25th). The Ceann Comhairle, as reported in your newspaper, warns TDs that their engagement with Taiwan, “can cause serious offence and grave concern to our Chinese friends, and has the potential to cause serious damage to Ireland’s developing relationship with China”.

What about having concern for our friends in Taiwan and its population of 25 million people? Taiwan has a been a fully democratic and open society since 1987, where its people enjoy all the rights and freedoms that we enjoy in Ireland. Even though Ireland, with the EU, has a “one China policy”, and does not have formal diplomatic relations with Taiwan, this does not preclude Ireland from developing stronger economic, social and cultural links with Taiwan.

Recently I have met many young Taiwanese who are delighted to be going to Ireland on a working holiday experience in the coming months. Unfortunately, on the international stage in recent years, China has been taking an increasingly aggressive stance towards isolating and undermining Taiwan.

As your newspaper noted, Seán Ó Fearghail has recently visited China and I believe his email to members of the Oireachtas is as a result of what was communicated to him by the Chinese authorities. I hope that Ireland, as a small island nation which also has a larger more powerful neighbour and a difficult history of one country seeking to dominate another, will use principles of fairness and justice when dealing with China and Taiwan. A better approach than taking sides in the China/Taiwan issue would be to develop strong cultural, social and economic links with China and with Taiwan, instead of trying to further undermine and isolate the 25 million people of Taiwan. Any Irish person who has visited Taiwan will attest to the Taiwanese people’s openness, warmth and hospitality as well as its vibrant economy, infrastructure and a health system accessible to all its citizens.

The next time the Irish group of TDs and Senators come to Taiwan, maybe Seán Ó Fearghail can come and see for himself Taiwanese democracy and development. – Yours, etc,

Fr SEAN O’ LEARY, CSSp,

Houli Catholic Church,

Taichong City,

Taiwan.