Dáil Éireann - Volume 407 - 17 April, 1991
European Council Meeting: Statements.
The Taoiseach Charles J. Haughey
The Taoiseach: I attended the meeting of the European Council with the Minister for Foreign Affairs, Deputy Gerard Collins, in Luxembourg on 8 April last. Since the meeting was informal, there were no formal conclusions. The purpose of the meeting was to discuss the Gulf War and its consequences for the Twelve. The situation of the Kurdish minority in Iraq became critical in the days immediately before the meeting. As a result it was this aspect of the consequences of the Gulf War which became the major topic at the meeting.
The meeting condemned the brutal Iraqi repression of large sections of its own population, in particular the Kurds, and considered that the resultant situation might be considered a threat to international peace and security. This view of the European Council is a reflection of the seriousness with which the 12 Heads of State or Government view the repression of millions of its own population by the Iraqi leadership. Once it is determined by the Security Council that a threat to international peace and security exists, the UN Charter provides for a number of means which will enable international peace and security to be restored. For their part, the Twelve consider sanctions imposed on Iraq because of its invasion and annexation of Kuwait should be maintained if the Iraqi repression continued. Since the 8 April meeting, the Twelve have agreed at Foreign Minister level to investigate the personal responsibility of the Iraqi leadership for possible breach of the Fourth Geneva Convention and of the  Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide in connection with their treatment of their own population, and the Twelve will be in touch with the UN Secretary-General in this regard.
There was a unanimous determination by the European Council on 8 April to act rapidly in order to provide humanitarian aid to the refugees, of whom it is estimated now that there are a total of up to two million, resulting in human suffering of truly appalling dimensions. The European Council decided that a total of 150 million ECUs should be provided for immediate aid, 100 million ECUs from the Community budget and 50 million ECUs by the member states. This means that, between our share of the Community budget contribution and our own national contribution to the Community programme, the Irish Government will be providing aid worth £1 million to help the Kurds. In addition to the Government's contribution, a further £550,000 has been raised by the Irish Red Cross, and further very significant amounts are being generously provided by other charitable agencies. These further sums are composed of gifts by the public. In addition, there is significant aid in kind both from the State and from private sources.
The Heads of State and Government were determined to get food aid to the Kurds immediately. Ministers for Foreign Affairs of the nine countries which are members of the Western European Union held a brief meeting in the margins of the European Council and decided to avail of the logistical support of that organisation to supply aid to the Kurds. At my proposal, it was agreed that those countries which are not members of the Western European Union, including Ireland, could use civil aircraft to transport aid; and Deputies will have noted that an Irish Government-Red Cross plane with substantial quantities of shelter items, clothing, medical supplies and food has already flown to the area. As my colleague, the Minister for Foreign Affairs has pointed out, the plane arrived safely on schedule and was met by our  Ambassador in Teheran. The cargo was unloaded immediately and put onto trucks to be sent to the refugee areas in the north-west of Iran.
It was the clear view of the European Council that the provision of humanitarian aid to the Kurds is not a sufficient reponse to the situation they are now facing. The meeting considered the establishment in Iraq of safe havens or zones where refugees could feel secure from repression so that humanitarian aid could effectively be supplied to them. But against the background of numerous deaths of innocent people exposed to extreme conditions in which delivery of adequate assistance is very difficult, the Heads of State or Government were convinced of the need to provide refugees with adequate security in which they could benefit from the aid now being massively supplied.
I welcome the news of the most recent development in this desperate and unprecedented situation, the establishment in a purely humanitarian spirit of about half a dozen encampments in Northern Iraq for the orderly distribution of supplies to Kurdish refugees. I believe it is legitimate to take such measures, which might not in more normal circumstances be contemplated. The idea of such enclaves received the unanimous support in Luxembourg of the European Council.
So far there is no specific proposal as to how this will be arranged but the question will be pursued through the United Nations. It will be for the United Nations to determine the precise modalities of its implementation. The Secretary-General has sent a representative to Iraq, Turkey and Iran in pursuit of his humanitarian efforts. This representative is to report forthwith on the plight of the Iraqi civilian population, and in particular the Kurdish population, suffering from the repression in all its forms inflicted by the Iraqi authorities. The Secretary-General's representative arrived in the region last weekend. It is anticipated that more than 50 relief workers will be in position by the end of this week, thus providing a UN presence on the ground.
 The meeting also discussed the situation in the Middle East in the aftermath of the Gulf War. The European Council paid tribute to the irreplaceable role which the United Nations had played throughout the crisis. It was agreed that the three conditions for peace in the Middle East are, first, a solution to the Arab-Israeli conflict and the Palestinian issue; second, greater democratic legitimacy of Governments in the region; and, third, economic development as well as the reduction of the great inequalities of income there. There is now, perhaps, an opportunity to promote a definitive peace settlement in the long running Arab-Israeli dispute. The Community is prepared to play its full part in promoting such a settlement and the Twelve are operating in close co-ordination with the United States to this end.
The European Council, therefore, confirmed that it is important that the Community should have a role in the search for peace in the region and expressed support for the efforts currently being undertaken by President Bush. It is essential that now, in the aftermath of the war, there should be political progress. The principles which must be observed are incorporated in the UN Security Council Resolutions 242 and 338, concerning the Arab-Israeli conflict and the principle of territory being exchanged for peace; the right of Israel to secure and recognised frontiers and the right of the Palestinian people to self-determination. There was also emphasis on respect for human rights and the improvement of living conditions in the Occupied Territories.
The meeting considered that, as regards security after the war, this is principally a matter for the states concerned. The importance of a check on the accumulation of conventional armaments was underlined. Ministers for Foreign Affairs are to be asked to formulate proposals concerning the non-proliferation of weapons of mass destruction in the region. We are all conscious now of the fact that an important contributory factor to the outbreak of war in the Gulf on 2  August last was the massive arms buildup over the last year by Iraq. Far from promoting stability in the region, this build-up was a very significant element in the instability which finally resulted in war. It will be necessary to make a special effort to reduce the level of armaments, especially of weapons of mass destruction, in the region as a whole.
The European Community will be contributing to the economic development of the area and in particular to the emergency efforts at reconstruction and at responding to the grave pollution problems in the Gulf.
There was a discussion of the long term implications of the Gulf War for the common foreign and security policy of the Community, and it was agreed that it was important to pursue actively the negotiations on this subject in the Inter-governmental Conference on Political Union. These negotiations are going ahead according to the time-table laid down at the European Council in Dublin in June of last year.
I also had a brief meeting in Luxembourg with the British Prime Minister, Mr. Major, at which we discussed matters of interest to our two countries in the Community and bilaterally. We agreed in principle to meet again in the near future for a more substantial discussion on Community issues.
Mr. J. O'Keeffe Mr. J. O'Keeffe
Mr. J. O'Keeffe: The Summit in Luxembourg was important in that it gave the necessary impetus and EC backing to the British proposal for the establishment of safe havens in Iraq for the displaced Kurdish refugees living — and unfortunately dying — in appalling conditions on the Turkish border. It also approved an aid package of 150 million ECU, of which two-thirds will come from the European Community budget, and the balance from the national budgets of the Twelve.
I am delighted that safe havens for the Kurds are now being established in northern Iraq. I am thrilled with the generosity of the Irish people in their magnificent response to the appeal for funds. However, I am ashamed of the  contribution of the Irish Government by way of official aid which has been so meagre and miserable.
The Taoiseach Charles J. Haughey
The Taoiseach: It is exactly in proportion.
Mr. J. O'Keeffe Mr. J. O'Keeffe
Mr. J. O'Keeffe: I will come to that in a moment. All civilised people are utterly appalled at the situation of the Kurds of whom at present upwards of 1,000 per day, mostly babies and the elderly, are dying. Every humanitarian instinct cries out for support to be given to them and the generosity of the Irish people has resulted in very substantial sums flowing to the aid agencies, in particular to the Irish Red Cross, Concern and Trócaire. Unfortunately, it must be said that the generosity of the Irish people has not been matched by the Government whose official contribution at national level has been pretty miserable.
I accept that a contribution has been — or will be — made because of our share of the European Community contribution. In relation to that, the Taoiseach's statement is somewhat confusing — two-thirds of the Community contribution will come from the existing EC budget and I am interested in what element of additionality there may be. I now find that the £1 million which has been talked about at Government level includes taking credit for the existing EC budget contribution, the additional sum which is being paid because of the inter-governmental agreement, which is one-third of the EC contribution and it is not clear whether the £200,000 contributed at home is also included. The position of the sum of £100,000 mentioned by the Minister for Foreign Affairs is also not clear. The situation is very confused indeed.
The point I want to make is that in relation to the funds made available at home — as opposed to taking credit for what may go through the EC budget — which would probably go to the Sudan if it did not go to the Kurds, the amount pledged so far at official level is £200,000 to the Irish Red Cross. By comparison with the sums of money generously  donated by individuals and companies all over the country — and even taking into account our EC contribution — this is a very meagre sum. Putting it in perspective, the £200,000 is less than the amount spent from the Exchequer to cover one hour's social welfare which costs £7 million per day.
The Taoiseach Charles J. Haughey
The Taoiseach: It is £300,000.
Mr. J. O'Keeffe Mr. J. O'Keeffe
Mr. J. O'Keeffe: That is the perspective of what we are prepared to do and my criticism of the Government in that regard is well merited. The implication that further money is not needed would be laughable if it was not for the seriousness of the problem. The Minister for Foreign Affairs, Deputy Collins, said on “Morning Ireland” on Tuesday: “If there is a further need we will play our part in it”. The needs are so enormous and the requirements so urgent that it is difficult to understand how the Minister could make such a statement. The Irish Government should match, pound for pound, the contribution of the Irish people which would provide additional encouragement to those contributing who would then know that £2 worth of food and blankets would be available to the Kurdish refugees for every £1 they give.
Following Question Time today, it now appears that a sum not exceeding a further £100,000 will be made available by way of official aid here. I am not satisfied with this; I know there are a number of applications before the Department for assistance, the total of which is more than £100,000. For instance, Trócaire have an application to the Department at present for an immediate contribution of £50,000 and Concern have an application to the Department for a contribution of £100,000. Those two agencies alone have applications for immediate contributions which are greater than the amount which will be donated from official sources by way of aid.
There may be difficulties for the Government in the light of the savage cuts which have been inflicted over the  last three years in the official aid budget. I invite the Government to submit to the House immediately a Supplementary Estimate — I guarantee support on the Opposition benches — which will enable the Government to provide a reasonable sum by way of support for the Kurdish people. I emphasise that any such support should be for those not just on the Turkish border but for those on the border of Iran. It is fair to say that in the past Iran attracted a fair amount of international criticism but it is also fair to say that it has shown enormous generosity in the way in which it opened its borders to a huge number of refugees and attempted to cope with the almost overwhelming problems which confronted them.
Needs are absolutely enormous and urgent. The Irish people are speaking with their contributions which are mounting by the hour and by the day. Let us all follow that lead given by the Irish people and ensure that the moneys contributed so generously and voluntarily will be matched at official level pound for pound.
I do accept that as pointed out at the summit, there are enormous problems at the political end in providing security for the Kurds. I notice that the usual propaganda mills are now churning out views and comments seeking to blame the United States, the United Kingdom and even the United Nations for the awful situation in which the Kurds now find themselves. Some of those comments are from those who a month ago criticised the allies for enforcing the UN writ in the liberation of Kuwait and claimed at that time that they were exceeding the scope of the UN resolution; they are now blaming them for not going as far as Baghdad to depose Saddam Hussein.
Let us be blunt about the situation. The 100 per cent cause of the problem is the brutal ruler of Iraq, Saddam Hussein. It is not the first time he has shown such savagery to the Kurds. I note the latest proposal in the European Community to have him tried for war crimes, but who will arrest him and bring him before an international court? The principles of the 1945 London Charter that established that court were unanimously confirmed  by the UN General Assembly in 1946 and they were than spelled out by the UN International Law Commission in 1950.
The 1948 Assembly also adopted an international convention pledging all signatories to prosecute and punish all persons guilty of genocide” whether they are constitutionally responsible rulers, public officials or private individuals”. It did not, however, say how they should do it. Thus the concept of international crime and universal jurisdiction exists, but there is no mechanism to implement it. Despite massive violations of international law the principles have never been applied since Nuremberg.
I would be quite happy to see Saddam Hussein tried for war crimes but I do not want this proposal to distract in any way from the 100 per cent effort that must be given to providing an immediate solution to the problem of Kurdish refugees. In many ways, even though the numbers are greater on the Iran border, political problems there are somewhat easier. The difficulty there is aid and support for the efforts of Teheran. These efforts must be fully supported particularly bearing in mind the enormous numbers involved.
Political problems have been more difficult on the Turkish border. These difficulties arise because Turkey has not opened its borders. Before we rush to condemn Turkey we must bear in mind that this country did so three years ago and took in 68,000 refugees who are still there, with little or no assistance from the rest of the world.
Turkey is not a wealthy nation; in fact quite the contrary. I would hope that financial indemnities could be given to Turkey by the wealthy nations to cover the cost of refugees allowed into that country. Turkey has, of course, also internal political problems because of its own indigenous Kurdish population. One way or the other, there is no future for the refugees up in the mountains where such enormous numbers are dying at present. If they are not to go in to Turkey, the only place for them to go is back to Iraq. Needless to say, they are terrified of the vengeance and brutality of Saddam Hussein and this is the background to  the safe haven proposal of British Prime Minister John Major.
I am glad the European Community, and now the United States, supported this proposal for the creation of safe havens in northern Iraq. Part of the difficulty has been the international law aspect of providing such safe havens even on a temporary basis, but many experts will argue that the rule of law flowing from the enforcement of the 1948 Convention against Genocide is sufficient to justify their establishment. The present proposals are, in any event, regarded as being within the terms of United Nations Security Council Resolution 688.
In any event, it was clear that the civilised world was crying out for a solution. Shakespeare's comment that desperate situations require desperate remedies was never more appropriate. I believe that Baghdad's condemnation of the proposal must be ignored. In so far as Ireland can play any role in helping to implement a solution, it must be in the forefront of so doing.
In the medium term I believe there is need for development of international law and an amendment of the UN Charter. At the moment the undue emphasis on national sovereignty has resulted in the Pol Pots, the Idi Amins and the Saddam Husseins of the world having free rein to commit appalling crimes against humanity within their own borders. Ireland could and should take a lead in proposing changes that will allow international action to be taken against the worst of these excesses in the future.
Dealing with other aspects of the Summit in Luxembourg it originally was to have a three part agenda, all of which was to deal with the lessons to be learned and action to be taken in the wake of the Gulf War. In fact, the Summit was initially called because of the fractured and divided response by the European Community to the crisis in the Gulf. The agenda was to include the future of the Middle East and the maintenance of security in the region; a solution to the political problems there and the extent of the backing to be given to the initiative set in motion by the United States.
 Because of the focus on the problem of the Kurds, the broader problems of the Middle East were not dealt with. That has not meant that these problems have been resolved and it will be necessary for the European Community to get back to these problems and establish a coherent and positive role in the search for solutions in the region. I agree with the Taoiseach that this should be along the lines suggested in the UN Security Council's Resolutions 242 and 338.
It is also to be noted that at the same time as the Summit meeting Foreign Ministers of the nine EC countries that make up the Western European Union held a meeting that included the Turkish Ambassador with the aim of co-ordinating military and logistical help to distribute the aid to the Kurds. For the first time a member of the Commission, Frans Andriessen, also attended the meeting. Greece and Denmark who are outside the Western European Union agreed to send their Foreign Ministers as observers. The only country not represented was Ireland. The only excuse given by the Taoiseach was that it would not at this stage be appropriate for us to be present.
This kind of situation where we were not even able to attend the meeting which was for the purpose of co-ordinating help and distributing aid to the Kurds shows how ridiculous our present stance is. It further highlights the need for a clear sighted approach on our part to the questions of European Political Union, the need for clarification of the various options, the need for a full examination of our present policy of neutrality and the need for a White Paper setting out policy options for the future. At the moment we are groping in the dark on an ad hoc basis which is no benefit whatever to the country. The case for a White Paper on Europe becomes more urgent by the day.
We now know what the Government are against on the question of political union in Europe, but we have no idea what the Government are for.
We have no idea why the Government consider that European defence should not be considered at this stage and “is  one of the areas that should be left for a further stage” in the words of Foreign Affairs Minister Deputy Gerry Collins. Why it will be in order at a further stage and cannot be considered now is not explained.
The ambiguous position of the Government is similar in proposals to increase the powers of the European Parliament. The Minister resisted these proposals at the Foreign Affairs Council meeting on Monday. However, he has not specified why or indeed what additional powers, if any, this Government would like given to the European Parliament.
It is time for the Government to clearly establish their policy on these and other issues of European Political union. In that situation there might be some hope that a clearly established and well argued Irish viewpoint would be taken into account in the negotiations at the Inter-governmental Conference.
Finally, there was, I understand, a ten minute meeting between the Taoiseach and the British Prime Minister on the margins of the Council meeting at which it was agreed in principle to meet again. To be honest, it is difficult to see how much more could be agreed at such a brief meeting. The point I would make at this stage is that it highlights the need for a top level meeting between our two countries. It was interesting that the meeting between Deputy John Bruton, the Leader of the Fine Gael Party, and John Major, the British Prime Minister, last week was the first meeting in Downing Street between leaders from our two countries since 1986. I think the present Taoiseach will find that there is a lot in common both in relation to Northern Ireland and the future of Europe which would warrant the elected leaders of the two countries having a full and detailed discussion. I would recommend that there be no further delay in arranging such a meeting.
The Taoiseach Charles J. Haughey
The Taoiseach: I had lunch with the British Prime Minister in Downing Street last year.
Mr. J. O'Keeffe Mr. J. O'Keeffe
Mr. J. O'Keeffe: I stand corrected.  The Taoiseach confirms that historically the point made is not correct but I do believe that issues in relation to Northern Ireland, in relation to the future of Europe on which we have so much in common and in which there are areas to be teased out where there are differences between us make it the most absolute sense that there should be full and regular meetings between the Taoiseach and the Prime Minister.
The Dáil should be able to keep the awful plight of the Kurds under review. The Taoiseach saw the frustration of both back-benchers and frontbenchers in the House today at their inability to pursue the issue at Question Time. Therefore, I urge the Taoiseach to agree to a full debate on the issue as it unfolds.
Mr. Spring Mr. Spring
Mr. Spring: We discussed the Gulf War in this House on 18 January last before the land war had started and when the number of casualties was small. On that occasion I said I believed that before the debate would be over upwards of 20,000 people would be dead, thousands would be maimed and injured in the Gulf, that the dead and injured would include soldiers, civilians, men, women and children, that one in ten would have died from extensive burns, that up to half would have died from brain damage and that many of those injured would suffer from psychiatric conditions for the rest of their lives. I predicted that the statistics in relation to death and suffering would grow and they would be compounded by the abject horrible terror with which hundreds of thousands of families in the Gulf would have to cope. I said that we were debating the Gulf War in the relative comfort of this House and from a distance and we could have no real concept of the suffering the war and causing and would cause for years to come.
One of the points I made in that contribution in January was wrong because it is now clear that when the casualties of this war are counted, if they are ever counted, they will run to many tens of thousands of people, perhaps even to 250,000 people. The fact that most of the  casualties will be on one side does not alter the horror of the carnage now visible in the Middle East. Those casualties include tens of thousands of unwilling conscripts, many of them killed in retreat, and perhaps tens of thousands of civilians. That, of course, is only part of the story.
The ecological damage has been immense and it will last for many years. Hundreds of thousands of families will be homeless and hungry and the cost of rebuilding will run to billions of pounds. Perhaps the most ironic twist in this unfortunate saga is that this war to protect the oil supplies of the West has led to billions of barrels of oil being burned off into the atmosphere on an hourly basis. As the construction companies jostle for contracts and as armament suppliers wonder how they can get in on the act the world has to count what may be the greatest cost of all, the arrival of a new world order which was shepherded into being by Cruise and Scud missiles.
The greatest tragedy has been that the new world order has been so far largely incapable of dealing with the catastrophe which has befallen the Kurdish people. Until the television and newspaper reporters and cameramen of the world began to show the true horror of the genocidal war against the Kurds — I want to take this opportunity in passing to pay tribute to our newspaper reporters and, in particular, RTE whose reports have been both moving and accurate — it seemed that the great powers of the world were willing to let the whole issue be swept under the carpet. I have to say that I cannot understand how the greatest and most sophisticated nations in history in terms of the technology available to them can mount an incredibly complex operation to ensure military success in respect of the rescue of Kuwait and yet dither for weeks in respect of the rescue of the Kurdish people. The truth is that the cost of continuing the Gulf War for one day more would have done a great deal to minimise the agony being suffered by the Kurds at present. History will harshly judge the failure of the world to respond to their most pressing need with the same  sense of urgency as was applied in the case of Kuwait. If the world continues to fail to act meaningfully history will conclude that it was only when the economic interests of the West were involved that the West was capable of moving quickly and that humanitarian considerations were always, sadly, secondary considerations.
The Kurdish issue raises all sorts of fundamental questions of principle for us. In the last Dáil debate I argued that I would be prepared to offer landing rights and refuelling facilities to any aircraft of any nation which wants to use such facilities for humanitarian purposes. If those aircraft are carrying medical supplies or personnel to a war zone or carrying wounded personnel away from that zone they should be made welcome here. We do not need to know in whose cause they were hurt. All we need to know is that people who are wounded or dying must never be turned away. Let there be no misunderstanding about this. In view of the announcement by President Bush last night, if there is any question of facilities being required in Ireland for over-flights or landings in carrying rescue to the Kurds they must be granted immediately and without question. I would go further. If it is necessary for reasons of saving the Kurdish people for a United Nations military force to be interposed between the Kurds and the Iraqi army I would urge strongly that such a role is entirely in keeping with the United Nations peace-keeping mandate and that we should be prepared to support any such mission and participate in it.
Considerations of national sovereignty are always vital. The United Nations would not survive very long if we were to adopt a cavalier attitude to these considerations. However, it is both absurd and immoral in the face of a campaign of total genocide by Saddam Hussein to argue that consideration of national sovereignty must outweigh the rescuing and protection of a threatened people. I repeat that these views are entirely in keeping with our vision of Ireland as a military neutral country, honouring its  international and moral obligation to those who are oppressed.
This brings me to our other obligation, to contribute effectively and meaningfully to the relief of the suffering of the Kurdish refugees. The Government have shamed our country in recent years by their attitude to international relief which has resulted in cut after cut in the overseas aid budget. I say to the Taoiseach that this has to stop. The least we are entitled to is that our Government are willing to reflect the generosity of the Irish people who have contributed in such large amounts not only to this cause but to many other causes over the past number of years.
We should distinguish between what we have to do and what we want to do. There is no point in the Government boasting about the extent to which they meet their mandatory obligations as a member of the European Community. The Government should be prepared to announce here and how that they will match pound for pound the voluntary contributions of the Irish people. Indeed, I would go further and say that the Government should introduce a positive incentive in the Finance Bill by way of tax relief to encourage people to give to the Third World and the crisis in the Middle East. It is entirely arguable that charitable contributions are not the appropriate way to enable people to secure their rights at home but giving to charitable organisations is often the only way in which people can help to alleviate the suffering which we are witnessing in the Third World. The cost of such an incentive would be very small to the Government and, if nothing else, would enable the Government to meet some of their obligations in this regard, obligations, which regrettably, have been shamefully neglected.
In conclusion I want to come back to the fundamental question of principle which the Gulf War threw up. I have never had any interest in defending the tyrant of Iraq or his activities in invading Kuwait. I have always accepted that he would have to be stopped in his expansionist ambitions but the new world order  in rejecting a patient step by step approach to increasing pressure on him by economic sanctions has made the wrong choice and that it is a choice whose consequences will only be clear after years of bitterness and conflict in that troubled part of the world. Furthermore, I believe that the world order has compounded that error by having turned its back for so long on the tragedy of the Kurdish people. I would like to think that arising from the war there will be a new determination to address all of the problems and flashpoints of the region in the round, not by imposing solutions from the West but by the slower and more painful process of encouraging people to come together. If there is a role in that process for us we should play it. The only way we can do that is by committing ourselves afresh to the process of peace, including the peace-keeping role which we have always been prepared to play in the United Nations.
Proinsias De Rossa Proinsias De Rossa
Proinsias De Rossa: I want to concentrate primarily on the issue of the Kurdish refugees. I regret very much that the Government have decided to use what is a fairly restricted format of debate in the House, the procedure under Standing Orders for statements, in relation to the informal EC Summit in Luxembourg and the crisis now facing more than one million Kurdish refugees on the Turkish and Iranian borders with Iraq. The format restricts participation to the Taoiseach and one speaker from each of the Opposition groups. The Taoiseach indicated on the Order of Business this morning that he was prepared to consider a wider debate. I hope he will initiate such a debate as soon as possible. It will give all of the Members who are anxious to contribute on this matter an opportunity to do so.
The difficulties experienced by me and other Deputies in raising issues relating to the Gulf War illustrated very clearly the extremely restrictive nature of our procedures in this House and our inability to respond speedily to matters of great importance. The fact that we are discussing a Summit that took place ten  days ago has already been referred to. In relation to the Gulf War, apart from the initial special sitting, we failed to discuss the matter in any substantive way until the conflict was over. I hope the House will not be similarly restricted in regard to the Kurdish crisis.
The exodus of the Kurdish people from Iraq is on a scale virtually unprecedented in modern times. Nobody is quite sure how many people have fled, but it is certainly believed to be in excess of one million. While much of the public attention in the West has focused on those refugees on the Turkish/Iraqi border, there has been a similar influx of Kurds into Iran and that country has also had to cope with a huge number of Shi'ite refugees from the south of Iraq.
Turkey and Iran are, by European standards, relatively poor and under-developed countries and cannot be expected to cope alone and out of their own resources with this influx of refugees. This is a problem for the world and there is a responsibility on all members of the international community, including Ireland, to respond in a responsible and generous manner to this crisis. So far, the response of the international community has been too slow and too little. The response of our own Government has been most disappointing and, once again they seem to be relying on voluntary organisations and the generosity of the Irish people to save our face.
While there is of course a key role for voluntary organisations and individual contributions, the scale of the problem is such that it cannot be solved by voluntary effort alone. What is needed is a combined effort by the wealthy, developed countries, under the co-ordination of the United Nations. There is a particular obligation on President Bush, who encouraged the Kurdish people to rise up against Saddam Hussein, to now assist in the provision of the humanitarian aid necessary to cope with one of the consequences of his advice.
People want to know how it is that virtually limitless planes, helicopters, personnel and money were available to  launch the Gulf War, while only a fraction of these resources are made available to deal with this appalling human disaster. How is it that it was possible to feed and provide shelter for half a million troops in the Saudi Arabian desert without undue difficulty, yet it is beyond the capacity of the same countries to mount anything more than a token effort for those dying of hunger on the side of a Turkish mountain?
The immediate priority must be humanitarian aid; the search for a political solution must not be used as an excuse for tardiness on aid. If the world does not provide the necessary resources to feed and clothe the refugees and to attend to their medical needs, then a large section of the Kurdish poulation will be wiped out. Already there has been a substantial death toll among those on the Turkish border, and this is likely to increase as hunger, cold and lack of sanitation take their toll.
One way in which this country could help would be to make available some of the huge quantity of food held in intervention. The Minister for Agriculture and Food told me in the Dáil in December last that a total of 326,000 tonnes of meat and dairy products, with a value of more than £290 million, were held in intervention by this country. The cost of simply storing this huge hoard will, it is believed, amount to around £80 million this year. These figures put Ireland's contribution of around £1 million to the Kurdish relief operation into perspective.
Much of this food will remain in intervention until it is no longer usable and there is nothing to be lost by diverting it to the Kurdish relief operation. While the 79,000 tonnes of butter is not likely to be suitable, ways could be found of using both the 92,000 tonnes of skim milk powder and the 155,000 tonnes of beef.
When suggestions were made in the past that intervention stocks should be used for famine relief, the Government pointed to transport problems and the lack of a proper infrastructure in the African countries affected by drought. However, this situation is quite different.  Both Turkey and Iran have more developed infrastructures than the African countries, and are within easier reach. It is immoral to allow this food remain locked in warehouses, while desperate Kurdish families are fighting for scraps of bread on the side of a Turkish mountain.
I appeal to the Government to give a commitment to make these stocks available. If the political will is there, ways can be found to overcome the technical problems.
One of the factors which is exacerbating the plight of the refugees on the Turkish side is their physical location on the side of a mountain. All of the problems of feeding and clothing them and providing shelter and sanitation are made more difficult as a result. The Iranian authorities have been the subject of much international criticism in recent years, but they should be given credit for their humanitarian gesture in allowing all Kurdish and other refugees from Iraq into their country. The Turkish Government on the other hand have resolutely refused to allow anything more than a small number of refugees into their country. I deplore the fact that the Minister pointed out in the Dáil at Question Time that there were not any plans to facilitate the location of any of the Kurdish refugees in Ireland. That is a gross dereliction of our humanitarian responsibility. Part of the solution to the immediate problem of the refugees on the Turkish border must involve removing them from the mountains to a less hostile environment, where their needs can be tended to.
The main proposal which seems to have emerged from the informal EC summit on which the Taoiseach has just reported which has gathered momentum up to today was the British proposal for the establishment of a UN controlled Kurdish enclave in Northern Iraq. While the proposal was apparently supported by the other leaders, it does not seem to have been very well worked out, nor has much consideration been given as to how it could be implemented. This morning we read in our newspapers that President Bush has announced that rather small  numbers of Americans, French and British land and air forces would establish five or six encampments in northern Iraq in a purely humanitarian effort for the orderly distribution of supplies to Kurdish refugees. I have just been informed of a news item just broadcast that the US have announced that between 5,000 and 10,000 US troops are being used to set up refugee camps in northern Iraq. That can hardly be described as quite small. The main point is that once again, any question of direct United Nations control or even participation has been dispensed with.
It would be very unwise to ignore the dangers in moving non UN military personnel into northern Iraq. The Iraqi authorities have already expressed their opposition to this proposal. The worst possible development would be to restart the Gulf War with one million Kurdish civilians on the front line. This must be avoided at all costs.
We should also be wary of so-called solutions which involve placing large numbers of people in refugee camps or enclaves on a temporary basis. In the past, temporary arrangements of this nature have tended to become permanent solutions. Hundreds of thousands of Palestinians, driven from their homes more than 40 years ago, remain scattered in refugee camps around the Middle East and 300,000 Cambodians have been living in refugee camps for the past ten years. We do not want one million Kurdish refugees still in miserable refugee camps ten years from now.
The only acceptable permanent solution is the return of the Kurdish people to their homes with a guarantee that they be allowed to live in peace and security, and all possible peaceful pressure must be maintained on the Iraqi authorities to allow this. I understand that the political demands of most Kurds is not for a fully independent state, but for a degree of autonomy and self government within Iraq. Clearly this is a matter to be resolved between the Iraqis and the Kurds and we should exert pressure on both sides for a cessation of all military  activity and the opening of negotiations on a political settlement.
The United Nations has faced something of a dilemma as to how it should respond to the Kurdish crisis. The principle in the Charter which prevents the United Nations from interfering in the internal affairs of any member state is basically a good one, but how can the organisation then respond when faced with the cruelty and savagery of a regime like Saddam Hussein's? The Iraqis have consistently refused to allow United Nations observers to monitor the plight of the Kurds, just as Israel refused to allow observers to monitor the plight of Palestinians in the Occupied Territories.
One amendment which should be considered to the United Nations Charter would be to allow the Secretary-General to send unarmed civilian observers to member countries, without the consent of the member state, in certain well defined circumstances, such as where there is substantial evidence of genocide or extensive human rights abuses.
The ill-treatment of the Kurds by Saddam Hussein is not a new development, although it has not received as much attention in the past. When Saddam Hussein's forces gassed some 5,000 Kurdish men, women and children at the town of Halabaja near the Iranian border in 1988 — with gas supplied by Germany — the rest of the world turned a blind eye.
Attempts have been made by right wing politicians and commentators to suggest that the treatment of the Kurds in the past few weeks has given some sort of post facto justification to the Gulf War. More bizarre, some of them have tried to suggest that those who opposed the Gulf War are in some way responsible for the plight of the Kurds.
I am appalled but not surprised at the treatment of the Kurds by Saddam Hussein. The savagery and brutality of Saddam Hussein was never in question, as far as I or my party were concerned. The only matter at issue was how the world community should respond to the illegal and immoral invasion of Kuwait. We argued very strongly that the correct  approach was the firm and consistent application of sanctions against Iraq: this course could have secured Iraqi withdrawal with little or no loss of life, either in Kuwait or Iraq.
The United States and its allies chose instead to unleash war. The Secretary-General of the United Nations stated quite clearly yesterday in the European Parliament that it was not a United Nations war. He said “that the distinguished General Schwarzkof never wore a blue helmet”. That war brought appalling suffering to the region. We warned in this House that the war would destabilise the entire region and launch an unpredictable chain of events. The Kurds are just the latest victims of that war and regrettably there will probably be many more before a full and lasting peace is secured for the region.
The two leaders who must share responsibility for the current plight of the Kurdish refugees are Saddam Hussein, whose forces have treated them with such brutality, and President Bush who encouraged them to rise and then ignored the consequences of his advice.
In conclusion, I want to refer very briefly to a concern which arises from the informal summit which the Taoiseach reported on here today, in particular the decision of the Ministers to ask the Western European Union to distribute aid. This has never happened before. As we are all aware, the Western European Union were revived a number of years ago to establish a political wing for the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation, a forum where there could be a link with the European Community with the ultimate aim of establishing the Western European Union as the co-ordinating military body for the European Community. It is unreal for the Taoiseach to come into the House to say that we can put our own interpretation on this event as we see fit but the fact is that the European Community has for the first time decided to ask the Western European Union, who have no formal connection  with the European Community whatsoever at this time, to distribute aid on behalf of the European Community.
That is a significant policy decision and it is not good enough for the Taoiseach to come into the House to say that it is of no significance and to argue that the decision was taken simply because the Western European Union have access to military planes. Could I remind the Taoiseach that his Government gave permission for numerous planes, transporting troops to and from the Gulf area, to land at Shannon? All the planes requisitioned by the military authorities for use in the war were civilian planes. There is no shortage or absence of civilian planes to transport aid to the Kurdish people. What we are seeing here is the cynical use of the crisis facing the Kurdish people to establish a de facto position where there is a link between the Western European Union and the European Community. It is time the Government put their cards on the table in this House and explained where precisely they are taking us with regard to political union, its implications for Irish neutrality and the future of the defence of the European Community.
Dáil Éireann 407 European Council Meeting: Statements.