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Peace and Neutrality Alliance welcomes John Halligan's request to go to North Korea to spark peace talks

The Minister of State has said that the visit, if it’s approved, will not be a government one.

Independence Alliance member John Halligan, speaks to the media.
Independence Alliance member John Halligan, speaks to the media.
Image: RollingNews.ie

Updated at 5.50pm

THE PEACE AND Neutrality Alliance (Pana) has welcomed Minister of State John Halligan’s letter to the North Korean embassy in London to request a visit to the isolated state of North Korea in an attempt to spark peace talks.

Speaking on Today with Sean O’Rourke this morning, Halligan said the ”greatest threat to peace in the world is on the Korean peninsula”.

“Kim Jong-un and Donald Trump are a threat to bringing the world to nuclear oblivion,” he said.

In recent months, Pyongyang has sparked global alarm by conducting nuclear tests and test-launching missiles capable of reaching the US, while Trump and the North Korean ruler Kim Jong-un have traded threats of war and personal insults.

Pana and the Irish Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament recently held a protest outside the US Embassy in Dublin to “highlight concerns about a nuclear conflict in the region”.

Roger Cole of Pana welcomed Halligan’s attempt to “rekindle Irish neutrality” and has called on the Department of Foreign Affairs to “support this emergence of not just an independent voice but actual action for world peace”.

‘Engage with democracy’

When asked what he would say to the North Korean leader Kim Jong-un if he met him, Halligan said: “I would ask him to engage with democracy.”

Halligan, who’s the Minister of State for Training and Skills said that Minister for Transport Shane Ross and Minister of State for Disability Finian McGrath would also travel to North Korea. He insisted that the visit would not be a State one and would be paid for by the three politicians, taken during their own free time.

Halligan said that he hadn’t discussed the issue with Taoiseach Leo Varadkar or Foreign Affairs Minister Simon Coveney.

We’re not going as members of the government, we’re going as three politicians.

“Any TD is at liberty to go to a country and visit, we’re not doing anything sensational, we’re not talking sides, we’re trying to initiate peace talks.

“[But] I do think the government should get involved,” he added.

He said that something similar was done during the height of the tensions between Israel and Palestine last year. Halligan said he paid visits to both sides to encourage dialogue, and the same was required here.

“I think there’s an inevitability [about it],” he said. “We’ve two choices, will there be war or will there be talks, will there be peace? We are prominent, neutral politicians, and we’re highly respected [around the world] for our neutrality.

We’ve nothing to lose? What is there to lose by attempting to talk peace with North Korea?

When asked if there were any military marches or events during the prospective visit, Halligan said that he wouldn’t attend.

Minister of State for European Affairs Helen McEntee later gave her reaction on Sean O’Rourke that the trip was news to her. She said that any mission of this kind would have to go through the Department of Foreign Affairs and run past the Taoiseach, which Halligan admitted he had not done.

“Anything as sensitive as this would have to go through to the Department of Foreign Affairs [and he] would have to, at very least, talk to Minister Simon Coveney. And that’s what needs to happen now.”

She said Ireland is at the fore of peacekeeping missions but added: “This is something completely different here.”

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Many people listening to the Minister of State said they were in disbelief at the thought that Halligan could sort what many others have so far failed to do.

Other listeners pointed out that Halligan and Ross have other promises that they’ve yet to deliver on.

“He can’t even bring a full-time cath lab for Waterford, and now he wants to bring peace to North Korea,” one listener texted in to the show.

Elsewhere, the National Bus and Rail Union’s Dermot O’Leary expressed his surprise that the minister would seek “to pander to a missile-toting megalomaniac” while rail unions are coming under pressure to “take the nuclear option” of striking over the Christmas period over pay conditions.

“I thought listening to the radio that I had fallen into a deep sleep and had woken up on the 1 April,” he told TheJournal.ie.

The suggestion, in the middle of a major rail dispute, that Minister for Transport Shane Ross would go off to North Korea in a bizarre attempt to establish relations with a regime that has an appalling record on human rights… is nothing short of dumbfounding, and is a clear demonstration of how much Ross and his Independent Alliance colleagues are out of touch with what is happening on their own doorstep.”

With reporting by Hayley Halpin

Read: Donald Trump’s Twitter account was deactivated by a Twitter employee on their last day

Read: Halligan to tell Israelis to treat Palestinian people ‘in a more humane way’

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