Ambassador Irwin LaRocque
The CARIBBEAN COMMUNITY (CARICOM)
on the occasion of
THE PRESENTATION OF CREDENTIALS BY
HIS EXCELLENCY SEÁN HOY,
PLENIPOTENTIARY REPRESENTIVE DESIGNATE
OF IRELAND TO THE CARIBBEAN COMMUNITY
Wednesday, 28 APRIL 2021
- Your Excellency Seán Hoy, Plenipotentiary Representative of Ireland to the Caribbean Community (CARICOM);
- Ambassador Colin Granderson, Assistant Secretary-General for Foreign and Community Relations, and other Members of Staff of the CARICOM Secretariat
Ambassador, I am indeed honoured to accept your Letter of Credence, and to extend congratulations on your appointment as the first Plenipotentiary Representative of the Republic of Ireland to the Caribbean Community (CARICOM).
The COVID-19 pandemic has placed many constraints on us. I regret that we are unable to meet in person today. Despite the many constraints arising from the effects of the pandemic, the Community continues to place great importance on maintaining relations with friendly countries and international partners.
I welcome your appointment as an affirmation of Ireland’s growing interest in strengthening relations with our Community. It is a meaningful step towards greater understanding and cooperation between our countries and follows a series of high-level interactions over the last few years.
I recall, in particular, the delegation led by your former Prime Minister Enda Kenny, which was present at the opening of the 31st Inter-Sessional Meeting of the Conference of Heads of Government in Barbados last year.
Also, the Honourable Simon Coveney, the Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for Foreign Affairs of Ireland, met with our Foreign Ministers on two occasions. Among the issues discussed was the blacklisting by the European Union of some CARICOM Member States who have been labelled as non-cooperative tax jurisdictions.
In particular, your support is needed on this issue. Being blacklisted is causing severe reputational damage to those Member States and results among other things in adversely affecting correspondent banking relationships.
As a member of the EU, we urge that you advocate on our behalf to end this unjust and unfair listing of those states who have been certified by the relevant global authorities in keeping with their standards.
Attention was also paid to the specific priorities and interests of Small Island and Low-lying Coastal Developing States (SIDS), financing for development, and trade and investment. We appreciate Ireland’s supportive position on these issues.
In that regard, we look forward to working together at the bilateral level, at the bi-regional level within the framework of CARICOM-European Union relations, and within multilateral fora.
Excellency, the COVID-19 pandemic has wrought havoc across the globe, destroying lives and livelihoods. For CARICOM, the most travel and tourism-dependent Region in the world, it has devastated our small and vulnerable economies, resulting in high unemployment and significantly reduced revenues.
Our recovery from the pandemic will only begin in earnest when we have access to adequate amounts of vaccines. The matter of availability and equitable access to those vaccines is therefore of the utmost importance for CARICOM countries. While we highly appreciate the EU’s contribution to the COVAX Facility, we believe that more can be done by the developed countries to provide access to vaccines for developing countries.
Such an eventuality will be a major element in assisting our countries to achieve a sustainable, inclusive and resilient recovery from the economic devastation caused by the pandemic.
Ireland’s efforts to support developing countries in this struggle to gain access to adequate vaccines is welcomed. Your country’s contributions to the COVAX Facility is much appreciated.
Allied with vaccines, our economic recovery will be bolstered by access to concessional financing. At present, this is denied to many of our countries due to the criterion of GDP per capita. Indeed, it hindered some of our countries, categorised as middle income, from benefitting under the COVAX Facility om a concessional basis.
Our Community strongly believes that vulnerability must be the major factor in determining access to concessional financing. We envision Ireland as an important partner in supporting the development of a universal vulnerability index, which would replace the criterion of GDP per capita.
Ireland’s voice to the International Financial Institutions and the European Union as an advocate for such an index, will lend great weight to our cause.
Ambassador, your country has been a vocal advocate for the interests of SIDS. As we in this Region combat the existential threat of climate change, we note that the latest scientific report indicates that global warming is increasing to a dangerous level.
Global temperature has already risen 1.2 degrees Celsius. As the UN Secretary-General said last Thursday, “we are at the verge of the abyss.”
Our countries are among the smallest emitters of greenhouse gases, but amongst the most adversely affected by this phenomenon. This has manifested itself, for example, through the greater devastation wrought by the increased frequency and heightened intensity of hurricanes, as well as periods of severe drought and unseasonal weather events.
The Community has noted that, in recognising the effects of this phenomenon, the Government of Ireland has scaled up its allocations to climate action interventions, including contributions to the Green Climate Fund. CARICOM is deeply appreciative of these actions.
We look forward to Ireland’s continuing support in advocating for the concerns of SIDS in international fora, particularly at the upcoming UN Climate Change Conference (COP 26) hosted by the United Kingdom later this year.
As our countries brace for yet another hurricane season, the La Soufrière volcano in Saint Vincent and the Grenadines has uprooted one fifth of the population, made one-third of the country uninhabitable and destroyed a significant percentage of its agriculture. Neighbouring countries, particularly Barbados, have been severely affected by ashfall, which, apart from straining disaster management capacity, has had an adverse effect on the economy.
We welcome Ireland’s contribution to the Red Cross’ emergency appeal to address the situation in St. Vincent and the Grenadines. This is a further demonstration of Ireland’s commitment to our Community.
It is clear that CARICOM and Ireland have much to collaborate on. I can assure you of my support and that of the staff of the Secretariat during your tenure, as we work together to strengthen our ties.