By Sean Ryan - 07 September, 2017
Catholic Aid Agency Trócaire has called on Taoiseach Leo Varadkar not to forget human rights as he plans to double the country’s diplomatic service abroad by 2025.
Mr Varadkar’s idea would see new Irish embassies opened in countries where Ireland has never had a presence, and existing missions given new resources to fight for overseas investment. It is understood he hopes to open new embassies in New Zealand and Mumbai, India. The current cost of running Ireland’s embassies is €95m, according to the most recently released figures. Mr Varadkar wrote to Foreign Affairs Minister Simon Coveney last week, asking him to “double our global footprint by 2025”.
Speaking in Canada recently, Mr Varadkar said, “In part we need it as response to Brexit. Because of Brexit, Ireland needs to get out there in the world a bit more, expand our markets, let other parts of the world know about our culture”.
Commenting this week, Julian Waagensen, Trócaire’s Human Rights Policy Advisor, said that while this announcement “carries positive potential benefits in terms of investment and trade, it is crucial that the proposed increase of Ireland’s diplomatic presence is not solely focused on these areas, but is also clear on making Ireland a leader in promoting responsible business practices anchored in strong respect for human rights and the environment. This core value has long underpinned Ireland’s foreign policy and must continue to do so”.
He added: “As Ireland seeks election to the UN Security Council, a reputation for principled human rights can have trade benefits as an added value for those who want to do business with us. An increase of diplomatic staff, embassies and agencies should enhance this proud tradition, not marginalise it.
“Increasingly, governments around the world put economic gain and self-interest first and the State fails to protect human rights within the business sphere. Furthermore, widespread impunity compounds this practice and ensures human rights violations continue without accountability”.
Mr Waagensen concluded “It is essential that we not only strengthen our commitment to improving diplomatic relations but we must also demand greater accountability for human rights violations and attacks against civil society. If the Taoiseach wants to discuss ‘Ireland’s place in the world in the years ahead’ and wishes to cast his announcement as a ‘major statement on Ireland’s future foreign policy’, this should include a strong commitment to maintaining Ireland’s proud tradition of a foreign policy based on equality, human rights and solidarity with those suffering from poverty, hunger and disadvantage”.