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'You must be joking': Higgins criticises Taoiseach over Gulf visit

Socialist Party TD Joe Higgins raised the issue of human rights during an Oireachtas committee meeting this evening.

Enda Kenny before the Oireachtas sub-committee examining his department's budget this evening.
Enda Kenny before the Oireachtas sub-committee examining his department's budget this evening.
Image: Screengrab via Oireachtas TV

TAOISEACH ENDA KENNY has defended his handling of human rights issues on his trade mission to the Gulf last week, saying the forum for raising such matters is the UN Human Rights Council.

Kenny said that in a meeting with Saudi’s deputy prime minister, Crown Prince Salman, he pointed out that the country had been a “moderate voice” in the region in the pursuit of peace in the Syrian conflict.

Socialist Party TD Joe Higgins, who had raised the issue, interrupted to say “you must be joking” adding that the Saudis had “funded the Jihadis” in Syria.

Kenny, who was speaking at an Oireachtas sub-committee examining the 2014 budget for his department, said “you may well laugh” but that the UN Human Rights Council is where such issues are raised.

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The Taoiseach congratulated Saudi on its election to the UN Human Rights Council on his visit to the country last week.

The government would not say if he raised specific human rights concerns with politicians in Saudi, or in Qatar or UAE which he also visited.

The visit to the region largely concerned trade and Kenny said he would “make no apology” for the 87 Enterprise Ireland companies who accompanied him on the mission and who came away with commitments on job creation both there and in Ireland.

Damien Kiberd: So what if Kenny and Bruton didn’t lecture Middle East on human rights?

Gilmore insists: ‘Ireland always raises human rights issues’

Read: The human rights issues which aren’t being discussed on Taoiseach’s Gulf visit

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Hugh O'Connell

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