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Dublin: 14 °C Tuesday 30 September, 2014

Government won’t say if Taoiseach has or will raise human rights concerns with Gulf states

Enda Kenny has acknowledged Saudi Arabia’s election to the UN Human Rights Council, but the government won’t say if concerns about human rights issues are being raised with leaders there or in Qatar and UAE this week.

Enda Kenny with HRH Crown Prince Salman bin Abdul Aziz al Saud, Saudi's deputy prime minister, in Riyadh yesterday.
Enda Kenny with HRH Crown Prince Salman bin Abdul Aziz al Saud, Saudi's deputy prime minister, in Riyadh yesterday.
Image: Photocall Ireland/Government Information Service

THE GOVERNMENT HAS declined to say whether Taoiseach Enda Kenny has or will raise specific concerns about human rights issues with leaders in the Gulf states of Saudi Arabia, Qatar and UAE where he and other Irish officials are on a trade mission this week.

Kenny met with senior Saudi politicians in Riyadh yesterday, including deputy prime minister Crown Prince Salman. Kenny is reported to have congratulated him on the country’s election to the UN human rights council and also praised “their leadership in terms of moderation”.

TheJournal.ie submitted detailed questions to the government asking if any specific concerns in relation to human rights issues in Saudi Arabia, Qatar and UAE have been or will be raised with leaders.

In response, a statement from the Government Press Office said: “Ireland has a very strong track record on human rights issues.

“The Taoiseach noted Saudi Arabia’s recent election to the Human Rights Council of the United Nations for the period of 2014 to 2016, of which Ireland are also members.”

Kenny is in Qatar today on what is principally a trade mission to the region with Jobs Minister Richard Bruton and companies affiliated to Enterprise Ireland accompanying him. He has met with Qatari Prime Minister of Qatar Abdullah Bin Nasser bin Khalifa al Thani and the Emir of Qatar Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad.

Exploitation of migrant workers

The country will host the 2022 World Cup an event which has been the subject of controversy after an investigation by The Guardian and major report by Amnesty International found that migrant workers involved in building soccer stadiums for the tournament are being exploited.

Amnesty International’s executive director in Ireland, Colm O’Gorman, said there are “very, very grave issues in relation to the treatment of migrant workers” in Qatar with wages being withheld and workers being prevented from leaving the country.

He said the government has a responsibility to raise concerns about human rights in these countries with officials and leaders that they meet.

He said: “We always call on the Irish government to raise human rights issues in dialogue with other states. Indeed Ireland has a clear responsibility to do so and often that’s the case. So we would be urging the Taoiseach and indeed all Irish government ministers who are on missions to Gulf states to raise issues.”

O’Gorman admitted that Amnesty did not have a chance to speak to the government ahead of its mission to the Gulf as it did not know it was happening, but did note that “Ireland has a long and frankly a good tradition of championing human rights issues”.

He said that the organisation has concerns in relation to Saudi Arabia’s treatment of women and the death penalty. Women in the largest Arab state in western Asia are not allowed to drive or travel abroad without a male companion.

Kenny and the Irish delegation are due in Abu Dhabi and Dubai tomorrow and Thursday where meetings are planned with the United Arab Emirates’s prime minister, Sheikh Mohamed al Maktoum, and the country’s foreign affairs minister.

O’Gorman added that his organisation has concerns about the dentention and conviction of political activists in the UAE as well as its use of the death penalty.

“Ireland has a responsibility to raise human rights concerns and issues as part of normal bilateral relations with those countries,” he said, adding that it plans to correspond with the government when the trade mission conclues.

Read: Taoiseach and Jobs Minister kick off Gulf trade mission in Saudi Arabia

Read: Football bosses told to worry about Qatar workers – and not just players

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