Statement by the Minister for Foreign Affairs, Mr. Brian Cowen T.D. regarding the USA situation Part 1
A Cheann Chomhairle
Last Thursday evening, I stood on Ground Zero in Lower Manhattan, New York. Up until three weeks ago, this had been the site of one of the great landmark buildings of the world; a centre of global enterprise with an international workforce; a commercial United Nations. What I saw, through the hazy smoke of the fires which still burned below ground, was an enormous mound of twisted steel and broken rubble under which were buried the bodies of over 5,000 human beings. It was for me a traumatic, emotional and deeply saddening experience. Nothing could have prepared me for the sheer immensity of the destruction to property. But even far more shocking was that on this spot, on that terrible Tuesday morning, thousands of innocent people going about their daily business had been slaughtered in the name of an evil hatred.
More than three weeks on from the attacks, the scale of the devastation is still only being guessed at. Estimates of the number of people killed in the World Trade Center are still imprecise. The figures are being revised downwards, but sadly not by much.
The number of Irish casualties is still not known precisely. My Department currently lists five confirmed Irish fatalities with eight people still missing. Sadly, there may yet be other Irish citizens, not yet notified to us, who may have been caught up in the tragedy.
There were, tragically, very many Irish-American casualties of this atrocity. The human aspect of its impact on the Irish-American community was brought home forcefully and poignantly to me last Sunday when I attended the memorial service at the Holy Trinity Church on Manhattan's Upper West Side. The congregation, made up of Irish, Americans, and those who are proud to be both, was united in its grief as the names of the dead and missing were individually called out in the Church by their families and friends. I have never felt the bonds between our two countries more strongly, and I assured the congregation, on behalf of all of us, that Ireland stood solidly with them at this terrible time.
Throughout my visit to New York and Washington, I was particularly touched by the heartfelt appreciation of the immense and ongoing efforts of the staff of our Consulate-General in New York, our Embassy in Washington and Consulate General in Boston to assist Irish citizens caught up in the terrible events. I had the opportunity to thank them in person on behalf of the Government and I know that the House will wish to join me in acknowledging their contribution which is in the best tradition of the Irish Public Service.
A Cheann Chomhairle
What happened in the United States on 11 September 2001 has truly global implications which affect each and every one in one way or other. At the most immediate level, we have the sense of living in a less secure world. Nobody can guarantee that the terrorists will not attack again. Nobody can say with any certainty where any future attacks would be targeted. Nobody can predict what means of attack the terrorist might use. The fact is that those who appear to be behind the attacks of 11 September have struck at targets in a number of different countries, with no regard to the number or nationality of those who they murdered.
We are already beginning to feel the tangible economic impact of what took place on
11 September. Business confidence has been shaken, international travel has fallen off, and here in Ireland, the tourism industry has experienced the direct impact of the atrocity. Hopefully, and given the commitment of the United States and its friends not to give in to terrorism and give comfort to those who would seek to terrorise them, they will show the necessary resilience in bring things back to normality as quickly as possible.
But there is a less obvious but more fundamental implication for what has happened. The international community has experienced a direct assault on the universal freedoms and values on which our increasingly global society is based. The terrorists who struck on 11 September exploited many of these freedoms - freedom to travel, freedom to seek employment, freedom of financial movements - to build up their networks - for their attack on the free world.
The international community has no option but to respond to this challenge to our security, our prosperity and our fundamental freedoms and values. In doing so, we must seek to uphold these freedoms and values and, thereby, bring stark relief to the differences which divide those who uphold our values and those, hiding in our midst, who would seek to destroy them.
The Government will ensure that Ireland plays a part commensurate with our commitment to an international order based on liberty, justice, respect for human rights and the rule of law. This carries a particularly direct responsibility during October when we hold the Presidency of the UN Security Council. My primary purpose in travelling to Washington and New York last week was for detailed discussions, in advance of our Presidency, with members of the Council and others on how we can address the urgent challenges which presently confront us.
Yesterday, when I addressed the General Assembly of the United Nations, I argued that the fight against international terrorism needs to take place on three levels. First, we must, as member States of the United Nations, do all we can, in accordance with Resolution 1368, to bring to justice the perpetrators, organisers and sponsors of the attacks of 11 September and to prevent further such atrocities. Secondly, we must combine in a longer-term initiative to defeat the monster of international terrorism; by choking off its funds, by cutting its supply of munitions and technical support and by denying it the bases from which it plans and prepares its actions. Thirdly, we must redouble our efforts to put an end to the many conflicts and injustices, which, while they can never, ever justify the horrors of 11 September, are exploited by the terrorists to garner support for their warped philosophies.
As I said in this House on 18 September, we must restore the primacy of the concept of compromise. Where compromise is absent, conflict, violence, misery and death occurs. I am convinced that no other way offers us the potential to make significant progress in the many disputes which plague our world, be they in the Middle East, the Balkans or in African countries such as the Democratic Republic of Congo and Burundi. This search for a spirit of compromise is at the core of our approach to conflict resolution.
Since 11 September, we are now situated in a different world. The political, economic, financial and humanitarian impacts are already being felt worldwide. There are few certainties anymore. We have been challenged as never before to produce a new and better world. A world where our guiding principles of justice and peace have surely been reinforced, albeit through a tragedy of appalling proportions. And we must now focus, in common and collective action, on the fight against the scourge of terrorism. And already, as I have said, the Security Council moved quickly and effectively to respond to these challenges, through its Resolutions 1368 and 1373.
During my visit to the United States I met many determined people. From political leaders and diplomats to firemen and police officers. I took great comfort and strength from their determination. If the international community can find the collective resolve, we can use this opportunity to reinvigorate the system of international cooperation. We can bring about just solutions to the conflicts which scar our world and bring justice to those who struggle to maintain their very existence.
The European Council which met on 21 September gave a clear political impetus to confronting the challenge of terrorism. Urgent work is underway in various Council formations to evolve concrete measures for consideration and adoption by the European Council in Laeken next December. The EU dialogue with the US is being intensified.
We are ready, with our partners, to take whatever action is necessary to ensure international peace and security. In this regard, the Government has already decided to accelerate work on the signature and ratification by Ireland of existing international anti-terrorism conventions.
A Cheann Chomhairle,
My meeting with the Secretary of State Colin Powell on 26 September primarily focused on actions to counter terrorism in the aftermath of the attacks on the US, particularly through our joint efforts in the Security Council. We also reviewed the situation in the Middle East and in Iraq. I took the opportunity to update the Secretary on the Northern Ireland peace process and to express appreciation for the strong and continuing support of the United States. We both agreed that there is an urgent responsibility on all sides to live up to their obligations and to ensure the full implementation of the Good Friday Agreement.
Secretary Powell expressed his appreciation of Ireland's solidarity and support, reflected in the National Day of Mourning, and in the Government's offer of overflight and other facilities. He offered his condolences in respect of Irish victims of the terrorist attack. Top