Sunday 26 February 2017

Government accused of 'doublespeak' over trade with Egypt while also campaigning for Ibrahim Halawa release

John Downing

John Downing

Ibrahim Halawa
Ibrahim Halawa

Independent TD, Clare Daly, has accused the Government of “double-speak” for seeking to sell live cattle to Egypt, while also campaigning for the release of Ibrahim Halawa from prison there.

Ms Daly said the Government should have used the trade talks to promote the case of Irish citizen Ibrahim Halawa in prison in Egypt without a trial since 2013.

“I think there’s a certain double-speak in the attitude of the Irish Government,” she said. On the one hand they were seeking to promote trade with Egypt while turning a blind eye to human rights abuses by a brutal regime as cited by Amnesty.

Agriculture Minister Michael Creed accused Ms Daly of being “mean-spirited” while wrongly claiming the Government was less committed than any other party in the Dáil to securing Mr Halawa’s release. He said the Government had committed to defending the incomes of 100,000 farm families in part by promoting cattle exports.

Clare Daly
Clare Daly

Mr Creed said he could not advance Mr Halwa’s cause by having Irish agriculture officials raise the case with Egyptian agriculture officials. “You’re into building walls and cutting off contact. I’m into improving our relations with these countries and thereby bringing pressure to bear so we can achieve our objectives,” the Minister said.

Ms Daly rejected allegations that she was “mean-spirited” and she questioned the right of defending farm incomes at any cost to issues like human rights. She accepted that the Government was committed to seeking the release of Mr Halawa – but she said they were using the wrong tactics.

The Independent TD said Australia had taken a much more robust stance with Egypt on the issue of prisoners and human rights. Australia had warned Egypt on consequences for trade, diplomatic and other links, and also warned on damage to their international reputation.

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