Dáil Éireann - Volume 427 - 02 March, 1993

Ceisteanna — Questions. Oral Answers. - Trade Sanctions.

16. Proinsias De Rossa asked the Minister for Tourism and Trade the countries against which this country operates trade sanctions; the nature of the sanctions in each case; if his Department intervened to prevent negotiation of a possible contract for TEAM Aer Lingus to service eleven Libyan civilian aircraft on the grounds that it could breach international sanctions; and if he will make a statement on the matter.

Mr. McCreevy: Mandatory United Nations trade sanctions are currently in operation against Iraq, Libya, Serbia-Montenegro and South Africa. In accordance with its international obligations, Ireland, along with our European Community [166] partners, has taken steps to give effect to these sanctions.

There is a total trade embargo in effect against Iraq with the exception of medical goods, foodstuffs and certain goods for essential civilian use. There is also a trade embargo against Serbia-Montenegro which affects all sectors other than medicine and food. In the case of South Africa, UN sanctions remain in force in relation to the supply of military goods and services. In addition, there is a complete embargo on the supply of arms to Somalia and Liberia.

United Nations Resolutions No. 748 of March 1992 prohibits the export to Libya of arms and aviation equipment and services including the provision of engineering and maintenance servicing of Libyan civilian aircraft.

At no stage did my Department have any discussions with, or contacts from, TEAM Aer Lingus concerning the negotiation of a possible contract to service Libyan aircraft. The question of intervening to prevent such a contract simply never arose, therefore. In this regard I would also draw the Deputy's attention to the statement issued by TEAM Aer Lingus on 15 February which pointed out that any suggestion that the company was being so prevented was inaccurate and “utter nonsense”.

Proinsias De Rossa: May I ask the Minister if there is any procedure for reviewing the sanctions we participate in against any or all of the states concerned and will he outline to the House what precisely that review procedure consists of?

Mr. McCreevy: This is a matter for the Minister for Foreign Affairs.

Proinsias De Rossa: In view of the fact that the sanctions concerned directly affect the ability of this State and companies within it to trade with other companies, surely the Minister's Department must have an interest in the effect of such embargoes and sanctions. Are there any procedures in the Department for main taining contact with the Department of Foreign Affairs with regard to reviewing [167] these matters? Will the Minister indicate to the House whether there is correspondence from the trade section of his Department, which I understand has been transferred from the Department of Industry and Commerce to this section, with Mr. Grimes concerning a proposed contract with TEAM Aer Lingus to service civilian Libyan aircraft? Will the Minister confirm that that is the case and that his denial that his Department had any knowledge of this matter is not quite true?

Mr. McCreevy: I have already answered a question about the review of sanctions. We are party to various UN treaties and it is a matter for the Government to decide on these matters at any time. My Department has had correspondence with the aforementioned Mr. Grimes but as I pointed out in the reply the correspondence with Mr. Grimes implied that he was dealing on behalf of TEAM Aer Lingus and there was a contract in their remit. As the TEAM Aer Lingus statement of 15 February pointed out, there was no contract whatsoever. They said that the fact that the Government was preventing them from dealing in this matter was utter nonsense. I have some very interesting correspondence from the aformentioned Mr. Grimes — I will refer to some of it which might give an idea of the type of approach being adopted by that gentleman. As I said in my reply, TEAM Aer Lignus had no negotiation concerning a possible contract to service Liyban aircraft. Therefore, how can Mr. Grimes purport to be acting on their behalf? They said he was not, and that the matter had nothing to do with them.

Mr. J. O'Keeffe: On the question of information and from the point of view of protecting the Minister's interests, I take it that somebody is servicing these civilian aircraft from Libya? Does the Minister or the Department have any procedure for monitoring the breaches of these sanctions by other countries, particularly when it is possible that we may be [168] losing contracts because of our adherence to the UN sanctions?

Mr. McCreevy: The Deputy will appreciate that we have enough to do looking after what is going on here, without trying to find out what is happening in other jurisdictions. I am satisfied that we comply with the UN resolutions which prohibit exports to Libya of arms, aviation equipment and services, including the provision of engineering and maintenance servicing of Libyan civilian aircraft.

Mr. J. O'Keeffe: Does that indicate——

An Ceann Comhairle: Order, Question Time has almost concluded.

Mr. J. O'Keeffe: Can I ask one follow-up question? Does the Minister's reply confirm that in so far as we are concerned, we blindly accept the sanctions and that we take no steps at all to monitor what is happening under the sanctions so that we can be in a position to take advantage of those contracts when the sanctions are lifted?

Mr. McCreevy: We look after our affairs in this State and will continue to do so.

Mr. J. O'Keeffe: Obviously you are not looking after the possibility of international contracts, Minister. That is your job.

An Ceann Comhairle: Deputy Proinsias De Rossa, a final question, please.

Proinsias De Rossa: Can I take it that what the Minister is saying is that his Department has no means of monitoring or reviewing the application of the sanctions, trade sanctions in particular, as they affect other countries and as they affect trade in the State? I put it to the Minister that one of the reasons for the virtual panic evident in the TEAM statement has as much to do with the restrictions which the US itself places on its [169] manufactured aircraft as it has to do with UN sanctions, because it states quite specifically in its statement that all its aircraft types are US, and that if it does not comply with US regulations as regards dealing with Libya, it simply cannot trade?

Mr. McCreevy: As I said already, my Department had no discussions with or contacts from TEAM Air Lingus concerning the negotiating of cost for contracts to service Libyan aircraft.

Proinsias De Rossa: You are not answering the question.

Mr. McCreevy: It is obvious that before this question was put down Deputy De Rossa was in contact with the Mr. Grimes to whom he has referred. I would like to give the Deputy some advice which he can take on board, if he so wishes.

Proinsias De Rossa: I do not care about Mr. Grimes.

Mr. McCreevy: Yes, you did——

Proinsias De Rossa: What is the position with regard to trade between this country——

(Interruptions.)

An Ceann Comhairle: Let us hear the Minister's reply.

Proinsias De Rossa: ——and the countries against whom we have sanctions? Can the Minister answer the question I am putting, and leave Mr. Grimes out of it?

Mr. McCreevy: I will quote the kind of stuff my Department got from Mr. Grimes, as follows:

Let me explain to you that if you don't mind your own business then we will consider publicly naming you on all the bus timetables — we print the latest scandal and name erring civil [170] servants on the bus timetables on the bus stops — and let the public know who is aiding and abetting the removal of jobs in Ireland. We will consider issuing a press release announcing that we have the Ministers approval for the jobs — which if he denies, will embarrass him as he will then be seen to be against employment — and should any members of the Gardaí appear out here at our overhaul factory then we will make sure they get ejected and notify the Press and TV to show how stupid Dublin civil servants are. No Garda of any kind will enter our overhaul factory, your orders, court orders or anything else. If we find any member of the Garda inside in our factory they do they will be ejected unceremoniously in full view of the press and you can consider the consequences of that. Face facts. You cannot stop it so you might as well give in with a good grace and stay out of it. Its a good job that it is possible to monitor correspondence between your department and the Gardaí so we know what you get up to.

I seriously advise Deputy De Rossa to take that kind of correspondence into account when he is dealing with Mr. Grimes again.

(Interruptions.)

Mr. J. O'Keeffe: As the Minister referred to a very prominent member of my constituency——

(Interruptions.)

An Ceann Comhairle: This matter will have to be followed up at another time and perhaps in another way.

Proinsias De Rossa: Can I ask the Minister to tell us how, earlier today in relation to this question, he denied any knowledge of this matter but now he is able to read a letter he got from Mr. Grimes?

An Ceann Comhairle: The time for [171] dealing with questions today is exhausted.

Proinsias De Rossa: It is improper to interfere with questions like this. Could the Minister tell us what steps his Department is taking to monitor and apply sanctions in relation to——

An Ceann Comhairle: That disposes of questions for today.

Proinsias De Rossa: On a point of order——

Mrs. Owen: On a point of order——

An Ceann Comhairle: Question time has expired.