A DELEGATION OF TDs and one senator on the Oireachtas Foreign Affairs and Trade Committee is to visit Iran later this week.
The mission will focus on “building relations with Iran again” according to committee chairman Pat Breen. While details of the trip are still being finalised, Breen said all going well he will be accompanied by three TDs and one senator on the trip.
He told TheJournal.ie that the delegation is expected to hold meetings with senior Iranian ministers, including those responsible for agriculture and foreign affairs, with a focus on trade.
The country’s nuclear programme and the current human rights situation in the Islamic republic are also planned, with the delegation set to hold talks with chambers of commerce, opposition politicians and human rights groups.
Breen, a Fine Gael TD, is expected to lead the delegation but said a family matter may prevent him from joining TDs Eric Byrne (Labour), Maureen O’Sullivan (independent), and Seán Crowe (Sinn Féin). Fine Gael senator Deirdre Clune is also due to travel.
The delegation will depart for Tehran on Thursday, arriving on Friday and returning next Tuesday. The committee is covering the costs of four of the delegation with Crowe paying for himself.
“The purpose of visit is an opportunity to get back into Iran again given what has been happening in relation to nuclear programme, particularly since the Geneva 5 talks,” Breen said, citing last year’s deal that will see Iran rein in its nuclear programme in return for sanctions relief.
He said that concerns about the human rights situation, particularly capital punishment, will be raised but said the focus would be “building relations with Iran again” and added that it could lay the foundations for future trade missions by senior government ministers.
An Oireachtas spokesperson said that the visit is “primarily aimed at bolstering trade links between Ireland and Iran”.
Meetings will take place over the weekend as Friday is traditionally a rest day. A request to make a courtesy call on the Iranian president Hassan Rouhani has been made, but Breen said he is not sure if it will be granted.
The government closed its embassy in Iran in February 2012, a decision which was announced at the same time as the controversial closure of the Vatican embassy as part of efforts to make savings in overseas missions.
Ireland had had an embassy in Iran since 1976, three years before the Iranian revolution which brought about the fall of the Shah and the rise of the Islamic republic which remains to this day.
At the time the closure was announced, the government cited trade volumes which had ‘fallen short of expectations’ and pressures on public finances as the reasons for its closure.
The visit will begin just as the Taoiseach Enda Kenny and Jobs Minister Richard Bruton conclude their trade mission to three Gulf states with talks taking place in Saudi Arabia, Qatar and Iran this week.