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Sunday 5 February 2023 Dublin: -2°C
Alamy Stock Photo Coveney has said we need to have embassies in countries that we disagree with.
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Coveney stresses value of 'diplomatic channels' amid row over Tehran embassy
Opening an Irish embassy in the Iranian capital is being kept under review.

A NUMBER OF Fine Gael politicians, including a former minister for foreign affairs, has written to Foreign Affairs Minister Simon Coveney calling on him to stop the reopening of the Irish embassy in the Iranian capital of Tehran.

The coalition Government has faced criticism after it announced in March 2021 that it wanted to reopen the embassy in the Iranian capital next year.

It was closed in 2012 as part of cost-cutting measures.

Since then an Irish team has been operating from the German embassy in Tehran.

Coveney said he is “not ploughing ahead” with the reopening of Ireland’s embassy in Tehran, adding that the decision is “under review” and that if the Government decides to go ahead with the reopening of the embassy in the Iranian capital next year it will be because it “makes sense” to have diplomatic channels open with a country it has “concerns” about at present.

At the Fine Gael parliamentary party meeting this evening, Coveney told TDs and Senators that Ireland’s criticism of Iran have been made “crystal clear” on the international stage, including at the UN Security Council.

It is understood that Coveney said that the Government was proceeding with caution on the issue.

Coveney told the meeting that diplomatic relations were “extremely important” and it allows channels to exist for harsh criticism of other countries.

A letter to the minister seen by The Journal is signed by TDs such as former minister Charlie Flanagan, TD John Paul Phelan and Senators Regina Doherty and Mary Seerey Kearney.

The politicians express their concerns regarding the embassy reopening, citing a variety of reasons. 

“For a variety of serious reasons ranging from human rights violations by state actors such as rape, torture, and murder, and the beatings and killings of dissidents, we feel [the reopening] is completely inappropriate and is majorly in conflict with our stated objectives on our support for international human rights, women’s rights, and the rule of law,” reads the letter. 

The letter also mentions the crisis that was sparked by the death of 22-year-old Mahsa Amini in police custody and how a special investigation was instigated by the UN into the matter. 

“In light of these developments, we must insist that all plans to reopen an Irish Embassy be halted until the outcome of the UN investigation is determined or cancelled altogether,” said the letter. 

UN week meeting

It is understood that during his time in New York for UN Security Week in September, Coveney met with the Iranians and raised in person his concerns about the death of Amini and the circumstances surrounding it.

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Speaking on RTÉ’s News at One, Senator Doherty said she was asking the reasons why Ireland would open an embassy in Iran when there is only a small number of Irish people living there and no trade links between the two countries.

“To my mind, it should be about sending a very clear message that we do not agree with their human rights record,” she said. 

Coveney has pointed out that opening an embassy in a country is not a reward.

He told the Irish Examiner that we need to have embassies in countries that we disagree with.

When questioned why she would agree with Ireland having an embassy in Saudi Arabia or China, given their human rights records, the senator said Ireland already has embassies in those locations and there are significantly more Irish people living in those jurisdictions. 

“We need to use the embassy to make sure that those people know and I actually don’t think we do so effectively enough, but we need to use the embassy to make sure that people know of our displeasure or disgust probably more importantly at their activities,” she said. 

She said the opening of an Irish embassy would be used as propaganda but the Iranians to downplay the protests currently taking place in the country. 

It was also put to Doherty that perhaps having an Irish ambassador in Tehran who could make just those points about misinformation forcefully and directly to the Iranian government should be welcomed. Doherty said she disagreed.

Iran has been gripped by protests that erupted over Amini’s death on 16 September, three days after her arrest for an alleged breach of the country’s strict dress code for women.

The protests were fanned by fury over the dress rules for women, but have grown into a broad movement against the theocracy that has ruled Iran since the 1979 revolution.

Additional reporting by Rónán Duffy

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