Archive for Ireland
The Government has decided to reopen the Irish Embassy to the Vatican as part of a wider expansion of the embassy and consulate network. Tánaiste Eamon Gilmore received approval from his ministerial colleagues to open new embassies and consulates at the weekly Cabinet meeting. The list includes reopening the Vatican Embassy, as well as new Embassies in Bangkok, Jakarta, Nairobi and Zagreb and Consulates in Austin in Texas in the US, as well as in Sao Paulo in Brazil, and Hong Kong, China.
A South African diplomat in Ireland has landed herself in hot water after her former domestic worker filed charges of slave labour against her, according to reports. The Irish Independent reported that Thobeka Dlamini, charge d’affaires at the South African Embassy in Dublin, is accused of paying her former employee R24.64 an hour and allegedly forcing her to work 17-hour days. The domestic worker, who was employed by Dlamini and did not work for the embassy, reportedly worked as the diplomat’s housekeeper and looked after her three children. She moved to Dublin with the family from Pretoria in 2012. The woman had filed the complaint a year after arriving in Ireland, after being hospitalised last summer. Dlamini has reportedly denied the 17-hour work day, but refused to clarify the wages, saying it was three times more than what women were paid in South Africa. Minimum wages for a domestic worker in SA is R11.27 per hour, compared to the minimum wage in Ireland which is R120.64 per hour. According to the Irish Independent, Dlamini had supplied the department of foreign affairs with a copy of the domestic worker’s contract detailing wages and working hours. She said at no stage did department officials raise concerns about the salary and had approved the visa. Dlamini was surprised by the charge, claiming that the woman had never complained about her working conditions.
Foreign embassies have been instructed by Irish authorities not to conduct marriages on their premises because they will no longer be recognised here. Internal Government briefing material states that marriages of foreign nationals at embassies have been taking place here for some time. It is estimated that as many as 3,000 weddings have taken places in embassies in recent years. However, an internal document prepared for the secretary general of the Department of Social Protection states that while it is legal, in many instances, for foreign embassy marriages to take place under the law of the sending country, such marriages are not legal in Ireland. “Foreign embassies in Ireland have been instructed not to conduct such marriage ceremonies,” it states.
Diplomats fretted about allowing Iran to open an embassy in Dublin because of its backing for the IRA as well as Fianna Fail links with high-profile personalities in Iraq, State files reveal. Papers released in the National Archives show Iranian officials in Tehran in 1981 approached Ireland’s Charge d’Affaires in Tehran about the possibility of opening an embassy. Dublin’s Foreign Affairs department was ordered to draw up a report on the possible ramifications. One of the main causes of concern, according to the documents, was Iranian support for the IRA. Iran opened an embassy in Ireland in 1983.
Revelations that the gardai are investigating serious allegations of abuse and even domestic ‘slavery’ in some foreign embassies in Dublin again throws light on the protected world of national embassies, and on the antiquated but still very powerful concept of ‘diplomatic immunity’. The revelations, in the Irish Independent, are a very serious discovery by the gardai and files have been sent to Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP). The cases involve foreign ambassadors and lower-level diplomats bringing domestic workers with them from their home countries and keeping them in slave-like conditions here. One woman was brought to look after the children of a diplomat in his private residence. She was promised payment and told she would be able to further her education. But the woman worked a 17-hour day without wages, was not allowed to study, and rarely left the house. Her ordeal lasted three years and she only told gardai of her ordeal after her escape. This is because, for the police to intervene, the countries of the Embassies would have to revoke the diplomatic immunity that their staff, and thus the alleged offenders, operate under. This ancient privilege makes them immune to the law of their host country and is there to allow the embassy operate as a sovereign outpost and thus be immune to the often precarious and oppressive laws of whatever country they are set up in. It is a cornerstone of international diplomacy but it is an outdated concept and has certainly been controversial. It means that someone can get away with murder – and, literally, murder – behind the doors of an embassy or in a senior diplomat’s residence. The latter is where much of the domestic abuse occurs. But immunity also applies to a diplomat, when they are out and about.
‘Somebody on the Israeli foreign-ministry staff in Ireland has a lot of explaining to do,” began the report in the Jewish Press. The article went on to explain how followers of the Twitter account of the Israeli embassy in Dublin had been upset by a tweet: “It’s from 2011: The UN has itself become a tool against Israel. Hitler couldn’t have been made happier”. The tweet was quoting Simon Deng, a South Sudan refugee, and contained a link to a speech Deng made protesting the Durban II conference. The event, sponsored by the United Nations, was boycotted by the United States and Israel, because of criticisms of Israel at a previous conference. The tweet was deleted hours later, after complaints. Several Israeli media outlets reported on the episode. A headline in the Haaretz newspaper read: “Israel’s Ireland embassy: Hitler would have liked the UN.” The “tweet and delete incident” was not the first time the digital-diplomacy output of Israel’s embassy in Dublin has drawn controversy. Last December, the embassy posted an image of Jesus and Mary on its Facebook page, accompanied by the following text: “A thought for Christmas . . . If Jesus and mother Mary were alive today, they would, as Jews without security, probably end up being lynched in Bethlehem by hostile Palestinians.” The post was deleted within hours, but not before it had gone viral on social media and attracted international media attention.
The only son of the former Kenyan ambassador to Ireland was among dozens killed by terrorists in a Nairobi shopping mall at the weekend. Mbugua Mwangi, the son of Catherine Muigai Mwangi who recently returned home following a six-year posting here, was killed with his fiancee, Rosemary Wahito, during the attack on Saturday morning. Mr Mwangi is also the nephew of Kenyan president Uhuru Kenyatta, and was the person he referred to when he said he had lost family in the attack at the Westgate shopping mall that killed dozens and left more than 150 injured. The Kenyan embassy in Dublin last night said a book of condolences would be opened over the coming days.