Sunday 19 January 2020

Global stability is at stake in Qatar dispute

Aside from our concerns for Irish people in Qatar and the region, global stability is also at stake here in this standoff. Photo: GETTY
Aside from our concerns for Irish people in Qatar and the region, global stability is also at stake here in this standoff. Photo: GETTY
Editorial

Editorial

The country with the highest per capita income in the world is in its own year of living dangerously.

Qatar is a tiny country on the Arabian peninsula. In our part of the world, it would perhaps be best comparable to Monaco.

This tiny monarchy is wealthy beyond any comparison as a result of its enormous oil and natural gas reserves.

And the Qataris have found this money can buy influence. The small nation will host the 2022 World Cup after controversially being awarded the prestigious tournament by Fifa. The country has been ruled by the al-Thani family since gaining independence in 1971, up to which it was a British protectorate.

However, now its sovereign status is under threat as tensions mount with its Gulf Arab neighbours over support for Islamist movements that emerged from the Arab Spring.

The Gulf's worst diplomatic dispute in decades has resulted in Saudi Arabia and its allies issuing a threatening 13-point ultimatum to Qatar as the price for lifting a two-week trade and diplomatic embargo of the country,

The Saudis and the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain and Egypt claim the Qatari royal family had licensed the funding of terrorism across the Middle East for decades.

Qatar insists it does not fund terrorists, and claims the embargo is a punishment for following an independent foreign policy more sympathetic to the principles of the Arab Spring.

In a tinderbox region of the world, the dispute is disturbing and there is a danger of spillover.

The EU has called on Gulf countries to de-escalate the tensions and to engage in direct dialogue.

Aside from our concerns for Irish people in Qatar and the region, global stability is also at stake here in this standoff.

Junior minister says what others can't on Garda chief

Is that a deliberate change of tack from the Varadkar administration towards Garda Commissioner Nóirín O'Sullivan?

The previous cabinet, under Enda Kenny, was warned against even entertaining thoughts about supporting calls for the Commissioner's resignation.

The argument from then attorney general Máire Whelan was any such rhetoric from a cabinet minister could be viewed as tantamount to constructive dismissal.

While Cabinet ministers have a collective accountability role, enshrined in the Constitution, it can't be argued that this extends to ministers of State.

When a newly appointed junior minister said the Commissioner "may well have to resign", it was suggested he had broken ranks with the Government.

Local Government Junior Minister John Paul Phelan also said some of the things that have emerged were "appalling", seemingly referring to revelations at the Dáil Public Accounts Committee (PAC).

Mr Phelan said the outcome of the forthcoming PAC report, Charleton Inquiry and Garda audit can't be pre-judged, while adding "it may well be that she has to go".

The Fine Gael minister is a close supporter and confidante of Taoiseach Leo Varadkar.

Rather than a slip of the tongue from an inexperienced minister, his comments can easily be viewed as expressing views on the Garda chief others in Government cannot.

The Commissioner's position is becoming untenable.

Irish Independent

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