Monday 24 September 2018

'I would ask Kim Jong-Un to engage in democracy' - John Halligan wants to go on peace mission to North Korea

'Kim Jong-un and Donald Trump are a threat to bringing the world to nuclear oblivion'

Deputy John Halligan wants to discuss democracy with the North Korean government
Deputy John Halligan wants to discuss democracy with the North Korean government
Kathy Armstrong

Kathy Armstrong

John Halligan said he wants to travel to North Korea to discuss democracy and peace with officials there, saying, "we have nothing to lose."

Minister of State Halligan said that if he came face-to-face with North Koran leader Kim Jong-Un he would ask him to "engage in democracy."

Speaking on The Sean O'Rourke Show on RTE Radio One, the Waterford City representative 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 that he has written to the North Korean Embassy in London to try to arrange for himself, Transport Minister Shane Ross and Minister of State for Disability Issues Finian McGrath to travel to the country.

Deputy Halligan said: "I don't see a problem, I have had contact with North Koreans before and they have come to Ireland on numerous occasions.

"They have met politicians from Ireland and we would try to rekindle these contacts through cultural groups and talk about democracy and go to North Korea.

"I went to the West Bank a few months ago at the invitation of the Palestinian authorities, I met the Palestinian officials, I went to schools, I went to hospitals and I also met the Israeli government, that was on my own initiative.

North Korea’s leader Kim Jong-un visits the Mangyongdae Revolutionary Academy. Photo: Reuters
North Korea’s leader Kim Jong-un visits the Mangyongdae Revolutionary Academy. Photo: Reuters

"I don't think there's anything wrong or anything sensational about it, as  I say it's the greatest threat to world peace, we are a neutral country and we have had people from other countries come to Ireland to negotiate a peace treaty in Ireland.

"So, it's an initiative that we think might be worth taking, there's nothing wrong with that and there's no cost to the State - we'll pay for ourselves."

Read More: North Korea dismisses report that sixth nuclear test killed 200 people

As tensions between the North Korean government and US President Donald Trump escalate, Halligan said it's vital we try to hammer out a peace deal.

He said: "I don't know if we'll meet Kim Jong-Un himself, but we hope to meet government officials and our objective would be to talk about democracy and cultural exchanges, to talk about bringing North Korea out of this dark eclipse where they have very little contact with the west.

"Put it this way, I think we have two choices when it comes to dealing with North Korea, the choices will be will there be war or will there be peace?
"Someone has to initiate - we're prominent politicians, whether people like it or not, we're a neutral country and I've been around the world representing Ireland and we are highly respected for our neutrality.

"I don't see why we should not try and give it a go, we've nothing to lose, what is there to lose by attempting to talk peace with North Koreans?"

While he said he doesn't know if he will get to meet Kim Jong-Un himself, he did say he knows what he would like to chat to him about.

He said: "I would ask him to engage in democracy, as I would in any country, I have been to other countries that are failing democratically.

"I would try to show them that the way forward in politics and society is not rhetoric or threatening war but to talk peace, someone inevitably will have to talk peace with the North Koreans, that may well be the Americans or the EU.

"But if we don't talk then there is always the chance of increasing the risk of conflict."

Read More: Threat of nuclear attack by North Korea is accelerating - U.S. defence secretary

He said that he hasn't yet discussed the idea with Taoiseach Leo Varadkar, Foreign Affairs Minister Simon Coveney or the Department of Foreign Affairs yet as the idea is at the "very early stages", but he did say he would "consider" their advice.

He noted: "We're not going to represent the Irish government but as three politicians, I want to make that clear, do I think the government should come on board? Absolutely.

"We have nothing to lose, are we not a prominent country?

"We are not running an independent foreign policy, this is an initiative by three TDs and we are at liberty to visit any country that we want, it's not unusual either to talk politics when you're on holiday.

"We are not doing anything sensational, we're not taking the side of either America or the side of North Korea, we are trying to initiate peace talks - is there something wrong with that?"

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