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Department dismisses Fianna Fáil criticism of "hands-off" Gilmore

Fianna Fáil’s Niall Collins says Irish citizens in Tokyo have been forced to turn to other embassies seeking advice.
Mar 18th 2011, 2:12 PM 1,232 0

THE DEPARTMENT of Foreign Affairs has dismissed criticism from a Fianna Fáil’s defence spokesman Niall Collins, after the Limerick TD claimed its minister Eamon Gilmore had been a “hands-off” minister in Japan’s time of crisis.

Collins this lunchtime said Irish citizens in Japan had been “left in limbo” by Gilmore’s perceived silence on the Japanese situation, adding that Irish citizens were being forced to turn to other embassies to seek advice and assistance.

“The silence from this government on this crucial issue is stunning,” Collins said, “and suggests that [Gilmore] does not view the Department of Foreign Affairs in the way that he should – one of great stature and of huge importance to Irish citizens abroad.”

A Department of Foreign Affairs spokesman, however, told TheJournal.ie that it had been in constant contact with Irish citizens remaining in Japan, assisting with “any reservations or making travel arrangements” whenever an Irish citizen expressed a desire to leave the country.

Neither the Embassy nor the consular crisis centre in Dublin has been informed of any citizen who wishes to leave the designated areas being unable to do so,” the spokesman said. “The Embassy [in Tokyo] remains in contact directly with those Irish who are still in Japan.

“People who want to leave have been able to leave, either on a commercial flight or one being operated by our fellow EU member states.”

The spokesman added that it had not been necessary to organise a national charter plane because no citizens had been unable to secure their own private transport out of the country.

Ireland’s ambassador to Japan, John Neary, had travelled to Sendai this week – the city hardest hit by last Friday’s tsunami – to meet with Irish citizens there and assist them in departing the area.

Eamon Gilmore is currently in New York, where he this afternoon meets Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, but told RTÉ Radio’s News at One that the Department and Embassy had been advising all Irish citizens to leave Japan where possible.

“Our Embassy there has been in very close contact with Irish citizens who are in Japan – we acted immediately following the tsunami and moved immediately to make contact with people.

“We have now given advice to people that they should leave… we will work with people in assisting that they do that.”

Irish citizens in Japan can reach the embassy in Tokyo at 00 81 3 3263 0695, or by email at tokyoembassy@dfa.ie.

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Gavan Reilly

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