Dáil Éireann - Volume 268 - 01 November, 1973

Ceisteanna—Questions. Oral Answers. - Rockall Island.

109. Mr. O'Kennedy asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs if he accepts the British Government's claim to jurisdiction over the island of Rockall.

Dr. FitzGerald: No.

Mr. O'Kennedy: Does the Minister propose to have this matter negotiated at the forthcoming conference on maritime law or any other level?

Dr. FitzGerald: I doubt if it would be appropriate to negotiate individual claims at such a conference. The fact is that we are not really concerned with British claims to Rockall itself which is merely an uninhabited rock in the Atlantic—an uninhabitable rock —but we are adamant in resisting any British claim to exercise jurisdiction over the adjoining seas and have made our views known on that matter.

Mr. O'Kennedy: In view of the fact that the seas surrounding Rockall are now expected to be the source of exceptionally rich oil deposits will the Minister not accept that there is a very definite difference between territorial waters over which one has sovereignty and territorial waters as defined in the Geneva Convention? In other words, if one can claim sovereignty [1199] over Rockall, one has a stronger right to exploration of the natural resources immediately adjoining it than one would have under the existing Geneva Convention.

Dr. FitzGerald: In the circumstances of this rock I do not accept that it gives any greater claim on the part of Britain. On reflection, the Deputy may not wish to press that argument.

Mr. O'Kennedy: If territorial seas are subject to sovereignty which would be the case here if Rockall was within the jurisdiction of the United Kingdom, the interest in respect of it would be very much different from what it would be if it was not the subject of sovereignty and merely within territorial waters.

Dr. FitzGerald: I do not accept that point and I would refer the Deputy back to my original negative reply to his question.

Mr. O'Kennedy: In not accepting it, I hope the Minister is right. Might I ask him to ensure that any deposits that may be found there will not accrue as of right, so far as we are concerned, to the United Kingdom?

Dr. FitzGerald: I have said that we are adamant in resisting any British claim to exercise jurisdiction over the adjoining seas and have made our views known on that to the British Government.

Mr. O'Kennedy: Will the Minister go further and ensure that our interests will be protected?

Mr. O'Malley: Is this island closer to Ireland than it is to Scotland, for example?

Dr. FitzGerald: I think in terms of geographical distance it is closer to the mainland of Ireland than to the mainland of Scotland, but closer to islands off the coast of Scotland than to islands off the coast of Ireland.

Mr. O'Malley: Does the Minister appreciate that apart from the fishing rights which may be involved here, very important mineral rights may be involved.

Dr. FitzGerald: I fully appreciate this and have appreciated it for a very [1200] long time. I do not think it is to our advantage to pursue it along these lines any further here.

Mr. O'Malley: Will the Minister pursue it in the appropriate place?

Dr. FitzGerald: I have told the Deputy that I have already done so.

Mr. O'Kennedy: Will the Minister keep us informed, in confidence or otherwise?

Dr. FitzGerald: Certainly.

Mr. O'Malley: Could you land a helicopter on it?

Dr. FitzGerald: I believe somebody once did.

Mr. O'Malley: We seem to have them to spare nowadays.

Dr. FitzGerald: They can land in unusual places apparently.