STATEMENT BY THE MINISTER FOR FOREIGN AFFAIRS MR. DERMOT AHERN TD ON THE EUROPEAN PARLIAMENT’S RESOLUTION ON EXTRAORDINARY RENDITION
The Minister for Foreign Affairs, Dermot Ahern TD, said today he was disappointed that the European Parliament Temporary Committee on Extraordinary Rendition had failed to act on his call for a review of the regulation of civil aviation and the system of flight classification.
“This Committee missed an opportunity to drive real change. If the Committee was less obsessed with political point scoring and more interested in trying to ensure rendition does not happen, it should have taken on board my suggestions regarding amendments to the Chicago Convention which deals with regulation of civilian aircraft.”
Commenting on the adoption by the European Parliament of a Resolution following the Report of its Temporary Committee, Minister Ahern said he intended to pursue a review of the Chicago Convention – a 60 year-old agreement which provides no requirement for the supply of information on passenger, crew or cargo if a transit flight. The Minister said he had already received a favourable response from both Spain and Portugal for a European-wide review of the Convention. “I intend to continue to pursue this reform at European Council level,” the Minister said.
Minister Ahern said that the Committee’s key outcome is the clear implicit recognition that at no stage were prisoners transferred through Irish territory as part of an extraordinary rendition operation.
"The alleged figure of 147 supposedly-suspicious flights is grossly inflated. It compares to only three suspicious flights identified by the Council of Europe, and I understand that a number of members of the TDIP Committee—including from Fine Gael—were deeply uncomfortable with this finding. The work of the Committee began with the template that two and two equals five and went steadily downhill after that.”
“The European Parliament process, with which I fully engaged when I met the Temporary Committee in Brussels on 30 November 2006, has effectively vindicated the Government’s policy of early and effective engagement with the US authorities on this issue. I was one of only two EU Ministers for Foreign Affairs to meet with the Committee and I note that the European Parliament has warmly acknowledged this”.
“Between the publication of the final draft of the Report last month and today’s vote, Seanad Éireann has examined the issue of extraordinary rendition again, for the third time in the past year. The Seanad agreed that a Parliamentary Committee of inquiry is not warranted by the situation in Ireland. The Seanad debate, as well as regular Parliamentary Questions, reflect the close scrutiny paid to this matter by the Houses of the Oireachtas which I very much welcome.
“My own concern about the whole issue of extraordinary rendition is reflected in the fact that I was the first Minister to raise the issue bilaterally with the US authorities and to get a clear and categoric assurance from them that no extraordinary rendition had taken place through Ireland. I was also the first Minister to raise the issue at EU level, following which the President of the Council took the issue up formally with the US Authorities, and the first to call for an examination of the Chicago Convention in this context.”