Secretary-General's Press Encounter with the Prime Minister of Ireland [scroll down for Q&A]
Dublin, Ireland, 26 May 2015
Your Excellency Mr. Enda Kenny, Prime Minister of Ireland, the Taoiseach,
Ladies and Gentlemen,
It is a great pleasure and honour for me to pay an official visit to Ireland. I thank the Irish Government and people for their warm welcome.
I was deeply honoured to have travelled to Ireland to receive the Tipperary International Peace Award. It was equally a privilege to deliver the Iveagh Lecture at Dublin Castle yesterday.
I would like to reiterate my congratulations to the Government and people for 60 years of dynamic membership in the United Nations.
Ireland has been a steadfast supporter of peacekeeping and an important contributor across the global agenda, from development and disarmament to human rights and conflict prevention.
Today, Ireland’s support is more needed than ever.
During this visit I have had good meetings with the President, the Deputy Prime Minister, the Minister for Foreign Affairs, the Defence Minister and the Justice Minister. I saw some of the outstanding training that Irish peacekeepers receive, as well as the support that Ireland provides in resettling people who have fled some of the world’s conflict areas, including Syria and Afghanistan.
Taoiseach Kenny and I just had a constructive meeting, as was explained by the Prime Minister.
We had an in-depth discussion on the post-2015 development agenda negotiation process that Ireland is so effectively co-facilitating by Ambassador David Donoghue of Ireland, together with his counterpart from Kenya.
2015 is a crucially important year for action on development and climate change. Ireland is a valuable partner in our efforts to eradicate poverty, hunger and inequality. I especially appreciate the tremendous efforts made by Ireland to continue official development assistance, despite the difficult economic situation.
Taoiseach Kenny and I also talked about peacekeeping, human rights, and the growing challenge of migration and refugee protection. I highly commend such compassionate leadership of Taoiseach Kenny with regard to the resettlement of many refugees who are in need of such help. We need a comprehensive approach to this challenge that looks at the roots and protects human rights.
Let me also congratulate the people of Ireland on the result of the marriage equality referendum, which was taken last week. The United Nations, through its Free & Equal campaign, will continue its efforts to promote human dignity for all.
Thank you again for Ireland’s wide-ranging support. The ties between Ireland and the United Nations remain fruitful and strong. I look forward to our continued partnership in seizing the opportunities of this important year and in building a better future for all.
Q: Secretary-General, I was just going to ask you, you have been here for three days now, just what your highlights have been? And also if I could ask you, you spoke about the Mediterranean crisis with refugees and migrants. Is Ireland doing enough, do you think, to help there?
SG: First of all, there are so many highlights, for me to pinpoint one or two…
I am deeply honoured to have received the Tipperary International Peace Award. I received that Award, not for me, I received it knowing that this is a tribute and recognition to the United Nations and many dedicated staff, including Irish peacekeepers who have been working day and night for peace and development and human rights around the world, sometimes in very dangerous circumstances. I humbly accepted it. That also motivated me to work even harder for human rights and peace around the world.
Now about migration issues, it is not only in the European continent, but it is happening all around the world, most seriously now in Southeast Asia, in the Andaman Sea and the Straits of Malacca. Coming to European issues, I am urging European leaders to address this issue in a more comprehensive way and collective way, and as I said in my earlier remarks, I highly commend the compassionate leadership. Without compassion, we cannot do this. We have to, first of all, do our best to save lives, [those] who do not have any means to protect even their lives. Search-and-rescue operations should be further strengthened. I know that the Irish Government has dispatched a naval vessel and that I really appreciate, and this should be shared collectively by European countries. It should not be borne by just one or two countries who are affected, and with that, I highly commend this European Agenda on Migration. From here, I am going to visit Brussels. [I] will engage with the European Union leadership and Commissioners to discuss in more depth on this. The United Nations, led by the UN High Commissioner for Refugees, and also the High Commissioner for Human Rights and myself, are deeply engaged to work closely with the European Union and Asian leaders. Thank you.
Q: You have been very complimentary of Ireland during your visit here, but are there any areas in which you could see Ireland doing better? Would you press the Administration to do more in any particular area?
SG: When it comes to Ireland, without any evidence, my feeling and the people’s feeling is that Ireland is very peaceful, beautiful, and very clean, and very committed, [with] very friendly people. And there are some lessons and examples which we would like to emulate and I hope that other countries emulate such good examples. At the same time, it is true that every country should do more because 2015 is a crucially important year for humanity. It is not for Europeans, it is not for United Nations, [but] it is for humanity and the world – seven billion people and our planet earth. We are very seriously negotiating to adopt a very ambitious and visionary development agenda, post-2015 development agenda, with a set of Sustainable Development Goals, and we are accelerating our negotiations to adopt a universal, meaningful and ambitious climate change agreement in December in Paris. To enable our two twin priorities – sustainable development and climate change – we are meeting in Addis Ababa in July to talk about, and to have a framework for, financing for development. Without financial and technological support, the Sustainable Development Goals and climate change [action] cannot be fully implemented, and therefore we have three priorities this year. I urge world leaders, including Ireland and European leaders, to show visionary leadership. I have asked the Prime Minister to come to the General Assembly Special Session [in September] to lead this very ambitious development agenda.
Q: Just to return to the migrant issue, in terms of intake of refugees from that crisis in North Africa, is Ireland doing enough specifically on that, and then when you turn to the boat sinking operations by the EU, does that risk inflaming the situation in what is already a very volatile region?
SG: It’s unfair that you are asking all the questions to me – the Taoiseach is here! I will give half of this question to you.
Yesterday afternoon, I had an opportunity, together with Justice Minister Francis Fitzgerald, to meet some 30 or 40 individuals who came to this country and were resettled by the help of the Irish Government and people. They are coming from Syria, Afghanistan, even Myanmar, and [the Democratic Republic of the Congo], and elsewhere. From their faces, I was able to see a sense of a bright future. They seemed to think that they are okay, but they were clearly expressing their concern about their families and friends in their own home countries. I really appreciate and commend such compassionate leadership and generosity of the Irish Government to have resettled them in this country and I understand that you have a resettlement programme of accommodating around 300 more people. When I said that this should be borne collectively and shared by other countries, the European Union is a group of 28 countries, I think [they are among the] most well-to-do, richest, in the developed world, so they can provide some more help. We are seeing hundreds of thousands of people who are risking their lives because they know that whether they stay in their country or not, there is no future for them. They risk their lives [by going] out to the sea which is very dangerous, but we should address the root causes of that, by providing live-saving search and rescue and life-saving humanitarian assistance. At the same time, we should look at what are the problems, why are they risking their lives, the root causes. The United Nations is accelerating [efforts] to promote political resolution in Libya and Mali, Central African Republic and many other areas, of course, in Myanmar too, where people are risking [their lives in] the Andaman Sea.
Off-the-Cuff on 26 May 2015