Irish Presidency of EU: Discussion with Amnesty International Executive Director, Mr. Colm O’Gorman.

I, too, welcome Mr. O’Gorman and Ms McGowan. Like other speakers, I hugely admire the work and objectives of Amnesty International and its notable successes around the world. One shudders to think of what might happen in the absence of Amnesty International. I apologise for not being present to hear the presentation but I was making a Second Stage contribution in the Dáil. I believed it was important to attend the meeting to register my support for Amnesty International and my admiration for what it does and its objectives. I have a couple of reasons for doing so. As a citizen, member of this committee, public representative and leader of the Irish delegation of the Council of Europe, I am aware of the clear overlap between what Amnesty International does and what the Council of Europe does. Obviously, we have shared objectives. I take this opportunity to affirm the work of Amnesty International and, in particular, Mr. O’Gorman.
There is much work being done at Council of Europe level on the issue of violence against women. I have taken part in plenary sessions in that regard. Considerable work is being done, as should be the case. I agree with Mr. O’Gorman that a subset of violence against women is FGM. It is an issue much discussed at the Council of Europe. Perhaps Mr. O’Gorman would in his response be prescriptive in terms of what he believes can be done by particular countries. It is difficult to enact legislation that reaches into sub-cultures. I agree without question about the barbarity of the practice and so on. However, how one polices such practices in communities and so on is difficult. I would be interested in hearing Mr. O’Gorman’s response in this regard.
I am also interested in hearing with Mr. O’Gorman’s response to my question on domestic violence. I agree with Senator Ó Clochartaigh’s fundamental point that we should sign up to all international charters on the matter. Perhaps the Chairman will enlighten us in this regard. I am interested in hearing Mr. O’Gorman’s response to the following. In my view, our record in dealing with domestic violence here is good. Perhaps I am wrong but I believe that to be the case given the various levels of intervention here in that regard. The Women’s Aid charm campaign is running in my constituency and is hugely successful. There is also a great free legal aid support system in my constituency and a shelter in Navan. My personal experience has been that our response to domestic violence is very good. However, I am open correction.
Islamophobia is an issue that often comes up for discussion. At the last plenary session of the Council of Europe I spoke about the issue of discrimination against religious groups, in particular the Coptic Christians in Egypt and Tunisia. I also spoke about Islamophobia, which is currently a huge problem in Europe. It arises out of the current economic position we are in and particular events, including 9/11. All of those events have had an adverse affect on the lives of ordinary people and feed into Islamophobia. We need to do something about this. I accept it is not within the remit of Amnesty International or us to comment on the politics of a neighbouring country. The local election results in the UK are disturbing and alarming in terms of one-quarter of all votes going to one particular political grouping with links to Islamophobia and so on
The point about the Roma is well made. I was not here for Mr. O’Gorman’s initial contribution but I read his submission. It is a difficult issue but it needs to be addressed. It is great that Amnesty International is here and it is important for us to publicly affirm its work. At the risk of being repetitive, it is also important that we put our shoulders to the wheel on the issues raised. I have immense admiration for what Amnesty International does.
Reference was made to direct provision and the treatment of refugees. I would be interested in hearing Amnesty International’s perspective on this. I would think we deal very well with cases and provide a reasonable level of sustenance and accommodation. We cannot do much more in these circumstances.

Senator Joe O'Reilly representing Cavan & Monaghan 2010. | An ExSite website