Thursday 21 September 2017

Revealing Ireland's vote on Saudi Arabia UN seat 'would damage international relationships' - says minister

Calls to Government to say how it voted in election which saw Saudi Arabian official appointed to UN Commission on Status of Women

Charlie Flanagan (right) met Saudi Deputy Minister for Education Dr Nasser al Fawzan in Riyadh last November (Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade/PA)
Charlie Flanagan (right) met Saudi Deputy Minister for Education Dr Nasser al Fawzan in Riyadh last November (Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade/PA)
Philip Ryan

Philip Ryan

FOREIGN Affairs Minister Charlie Flanagan has said he would damage Ireland’s international diplomatic relationships if he revealed how the Government voted in a United Nations vote that resulted in Saudi Arabia securing a seat on women’s rights body.

Mr Flanagan refused to bow to pressure despite calls for the Government to say how it voted in an election which saw a Saudi Arabian official appointed to the UN Commission on the Status of Women.

The Independent Alliance has called on the minister to reveal how the Government voted as have opposition politicians.

Speaking in the Dail, Mr Flanagan said: “It would be very damaging to Ireland’s ability to conduct international relations successfully if we were unilaterally to move away from this established practice.

“It would be irresponsible to abandon a practice that has been in place for over six decades, observed by all previous governments and that is grounded on protecting and promoting the values of small countries on the world stage,” he added.

Mr Flanagan said all UN member states keep election votes secret in order to maintain diplomatic relationships.

“This is not a practice that is specific to Ireland or to elections for the Commission on the Status of Women,” he said.

“It relates to elections to any UN body and I am not aware of any Member State which, as a matter of practice, publicly reveals how it votes. It allows for the good functioning of the UN which is made up of Member States of very different views and political backgrounds,” he added.

“There are many countries in the world with which we have important policy differences, including in the area of human rights.  The UN provides us with an important forum to discuss these differences.  Our membership and leadership of the Commission on Women will provide us with such an opportunity. 

"We will take that opportunity.

“Ireland’s engagement on human rights at international level enables us to reaffirm our commitment to the universality, indivisibility and interrelatedness of all human rights, to accountability for human rights violations and abuses, and to the protection of those – including women and girls - who are most vulnerable and marginalised,” Mr Flanagan said.

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