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Government ratify Columbian Trade Agreement despite poor human rights protections – Tóibín

28 January, 2015

Speaking in the Dáil today Sinn Féin TD Peadar Tóibín criticised the Jobs Minister Richard Bruton for his government’s decision to sign Ireland up to an EU Free Trade Agreement with Colombia that does not have adequate and appropriate human rights monitoring mechanism’s attached.

The Jobs Spokesperson said:

“In December the Joint Oireachtas Jobs committee issued a considered opinion of the EU Colombia Free Trade Agreement to the Presidents of the EU institutions. Members stated that the agreement does not provide a monitoring mechanism sufficient for the protection of human rights.

“Far from upholding Ireland’s reputation as a champion of human rights the Jobs Minister has stood submissively by as the Commission has ploughed ahead with an agreement that will deepen poverty, inequality and violence in Colombia.  

“Colombia’s violent treatment of trade unionists, community activists, indigenous and afro-descendant leaders is well documented with 30 human rights defenders killed in the first half of last year alone, despite the EU agreement being in place provisionally since August 2013.

“Central to the human rights abuses are the large-scale extractive industries and agribusinesses opportunities attached to free trade agreements.  As it stands, 80% of the land in Colombia is in the hands of 14% of landowners.

“Approximately six million people have been displaced across Colombia over the last three decades and the government’s delivery on land restitution is painfully slow. Small farmers make up 34% of the populations and their land rights continue to be usurped by the multinationals and the expansion of large scale industry arising from free trade agreements.

“NGO’s and trade unions from Ireland and Colombia have provided a wealth of evidence to the Jobs committee and indeed to the Minister setting out the violence communities continue to endure as a direct result of land grabs associated with FTAs, coupled with deepening poverty and pollution of their environment.

“Today was an opportunity for the government to listen to their party colleagues on the Jobs committee, vote against ratification of the EU Colombia Free Trade Agreement enabling the Jobs Minister go back to the Commission with a strong mandate to secure strengthened human rights provisions.

“Ireland is an equal member of the European Union and has a strong role to play in shaping trade policy. Instead it appears Richard Bruton and his cabinet colleagues see their role in Europe as nothing more than a rubber stamping of whatever comes their way from the institutions.” 

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