Monday 27 May 2019

Time to let in the light on Ireland's UN votes

Foreign Affairs Minister Charlie Flanagan. Photo: Damien Eagers
Foreign Affairs Minister Charlie Flanagan. Photo: Damien Eagers


We have been here in various guises before. Ireland is accused periodically of pursuing national interests with some questionable regime to the detriment of human rights. The pragmatic clashes with the idealistic.

Often it is hard to be too dismissive of a pragmatic world view. It's a very big bad world out there - Ireland must do business in a global economy. If we do not someone else will - and it is always possible to make clear Ireland's long-established views on the importance of human rights at many other levels in the international political sphere.

But this time there are some important variants in the classic scenario. Saudi Arabia has successfully secured membership of the UN Commission on the Status of Women, of which Ireland has been chair since March. It is quite likely, though not fully proved, that this happened with Ireland's vote.

There may, or may not, be good reasons for such a controversial move by Ireland. It is true that Saudi Arabia's record on women's rights has been lamentable and, while progress has occurred in very recent years, it has been very slow and at kindest estimate incremental. Thus, including Saudi Arabia in the UN Commission to promote women's status is nothing short of a mockery.

Against that, some UN diplomats will argue that it is only by inviting a country into the process that you have a real chance of influencing change. Making a transgressor on human rights into a pariah is a self-fulfilling prophecy.

However, the real frustration with the current situation is the refusal of Foreign Affairs Minister Charlie Flanagan to even reveal how Ireland voted on this issue. In a modern democracy it is no longer acceptable to hide behind the secrecy of the UN ballot. It's time to let in the light.


ASTI convention is good opportunity to rethink

The school year is coming to a close and, with it, signs that significant numbers of secondary teachers also want to draw the curtains on two lengthy disputes.  

Industrial action arising from the ASTI’s rejection of the Lansdowne Road Agreement (LRA), and a separate campaign of resistance against junior cycle reforms, have caused considerable disruption in schools.    

ASTI members are suffering: losing out on improvements in pay and conditions that flow from acceptance of the LRA. Newly -qualified teachers, the very cohort for whom those who have driven the no-compromise stance claim to be fighting, are making the biggest sacrifices. ASTI teachers have also shut themselves out of professional development opportunities,.

The ASTI is haemorrhaging members, with even more threatening to go if there is no early resolution. 

There is no one winning here, except those who want to keep the war with Government going –, even when the price is very high.

Throughout these disputes, ASTI members supported the recommendations of union leaders, but there is growing disillusion at where they now find themselves. Other public servants are looking ahead to the upcoming pay talks.

ASTI president Ed Byrne has confirmed that a special convention, demanded by more than 1,300 members, to consider a suspension of all industrial action will be held. It’s time to talk.

Irish Independent

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