The UN, Saudi Arabia and women’s rights


Sir, – No prizes for coming up with the correct answer as to why our Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade is refusing to say how it voted on the issue of Saudi Arabia’s election to the UN Commission on the Status of Women (“Flanagan will not disclose Ireland’s UN vote on Saudi Arabia”, May 4th).

This refusal clearly tells us that the trade end of the department is the tail that wags the dog. –Yours, etc,


Dún Laoghaire, Co Dublin.

Sir, – The Department of Foreign Affairs refuses to disclose if Ireland supported Saudi Arabia’s election to the United Nations Commission on the Status of Women. It does so on the basis that the State votes – clearly with little if any regard for human rights, especially of women – on these type of resolutions based on the political benefits that can accrue to Ireland on a global platform like the UN.

In Saudi Arabia, women are not allowed to drive their own cars, they are not allowed wear clothing that emphasises their beauty, they cannot interact with men, they cannot go for a swim unaccompanied, they cannot compete freely in sport and they must obtain the permission of a male guardian before they can travel outside the country, work or marry.

Apparently as a people we do not have the right to know if we supported the election of Saudi Arabia, a truly “apartheid” state, to the UN Commission on the Status of Women, and yet, in the Dáil on May 26th, 2016, Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade Charles Flanagan condemned Israel, a state where women serve in the highest echelons of the judiciary, military and medical profession with complete equality.

He stated the following on Israel’s supposed abuse of human rights: “I am deeply concerned about wider attempts to pressure NGOs and human rights defenders through legislation and other means to hinder their important work. We have raised this both at EU level and directly with Israeli authorities”.

Perhaps the Minister might like to explain to the Irish people his unhesitating public condemnation of Israel’s record on so-called abuses of human rights with his refusal to disclose how the Irish State voted in Saudi Arabia’s election to the UN Commission on the Status of Women. Or perhaps the Government believes this hypocritical stance simply does not concern the Irish electorate? – Yours, etc,


Kinsale, Co Cork.

Sir, – Of all the 193 UN member states, Saudi Arabia has one of the worst records with regard to the status of women. Human Rights Watch described Saudi Arabia’s election to the UN women’s rights body as an “affront to the mission of the commission itself, and a rebuke to Saudi women”. While the Department of Foreign Affairs has refused to say which way Ireland voted, Ireland’s Ambassador to the UN is the chair of the bureau of the women’s rights commission, which coordinates that body’s work.

The prime minister of Belgium has already been forced to apologise to the Belgian parliament because Belgium voted for Saudi Arabian membership of this UN commission. Members of the Oireachtas urgently need to make the Minister for Foreign Affairs accountable to Dáil Éireann on this important issue. – Yours, etc,


Castletroy, Limerick.