Remarks by Ambassador Seán Hoy on Presentation of Credentials to CARICOM,
28th April 2021.
Your Excellency Ambassador Irwin La Roque,
Secretary General of the Caribbean Community, CARICOM,
It is a great honour for me to present to you today my Letters of Credentials; my country’s first ever accredited Ambassador to CARICOM. This signifies Ireland’s commitment to building closer and deeper relations with the Community and its Member States. I should also note that I am Ireland’s first Ambassador to two CARICOM Member States, Guyana and Suriname.
It is regrettable that I cannot join you in person today in Georgetown. I pledge however, that once we are able to travel again in the region, I will travel to Guyana to discuss how we can further develop our shared interests.
In recent years, we have worked to deepen our relationships with CARICOM Member States at political and diplomatic level in capitals and also in Brussels and New York and through your accredited Embassies to Ireland. Ireland’s participation in the CARICOM Foreign Ministers meeting in Grenada in May 2019, represented by the then Minister for European Affairs, Helen McEntee, T.D. was an important milestone in our relations. The Minister for Foreign Affairs and Minister for Defence, Simon Coveney T.D., who signed my letters of Credentials, has engaged with CARICOM Foreign Ministers in 2019 and 2020 in New York. There is also regular dialogue between Minister for Finance, Paschal Donohue, T.D. with Caribbean countries through our shared constituency at the IMF and World Bank, where we have been vocal in our support for our Caribbean partners. My appointment as Ireland’s first Ambassador to CARICOM is a further sign of Ireland’s commitment to the Caribbean.
As the European Union has grown, it has brought peace and stability to a continent once torn apart by conflict. As a committed EU Member State, we look forward to continued close collaboration in the context of your relationship with the EU. We are well aware that the EU can be a complex place in which to operate. Ireland sees itself as a country that is a good listener and one that is happy to provide insights and connect you with relevant contacts across a range of policy areas. We will continue to seek to bring your concerns to the attention of our EU partners.
Ireland, like CARICOM member states, is a member too of an even bigger family. For sixty-five years, we have made the United Nations a core pillar of our foreign policy.
We are proud of our contribution to the UN. Not a single day has passed since the first Irish deployment to UN peacekeeping missions in 1958 where there have not been Irish men or women wearing the blue helmet overseas. Ireland was the first State to sign and ratify the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons (NPT) in 1968 and has played a leading role in the disarmament work of the UN for decades. The 2030 Agenda and the SDGs, agreed by 193 Heads of State and Government in 2015 and which seeks to transform our world and leave no one behind, was facilitated by Ireland, on behalf of the UN, with our close friends Kenya.
Ireland has empathy for the vulnerable and marginalised. Ireland respects and protects our and others’ independence, as we lived without it for centuries. Ireland values and nurtures partnership, as we know cooperation makes us stronger rather than weaker. Ireland knows that our determination to protect and defend the multilateral system is shared by our CARICOM friends. We know that instability, in weather patterns and arising from the COVID-19 pandemic, has made it an uncertain time in the Caribbean. Sustained solutions to these challenges will not emerge from narrow bilateral engagement, rather these shared challenges must have shared and common solutions.
In 2019, thirty representatives of Small Island Developing States (SIDS) (including representatives from 13 CARICOM Members) travelled to Ireland to participate in a SeaFest celebration. The theme of the Festival was Shared Island Voices, and it was based around conversations and discussions about our common but differentiated relationships with the ocean and our marine environment. The events also saw the launch of Ireland’s new Strategy for Partnership with SIDS, a long-term plan that is fully integrated into Ireland’s foreign policy and builds on many years of multilateral cooperation. The strategy was developed through dialogue with your representatives in New York, and through engagement in many of your Capitals. The new Strategy is now being implemented in a range of policy areas. We have already awarded four Fellowships to candidates from the Caribbean to undertake post-graduate study in Ireland, with more to be announced shortly. We have also deepened our support for the Caribbean Catastrophe Risk Insurance Facility building on our longstanding commitment to the Fund since becoming a founding partner in 2007.
Ireland places huge value on our relationship with the Caribbean. We look forward to collaboration on a range of areas of mutual interest
We are very grateful to the global community for having entrusted us with a seat as non-permanent members of the UN Security Council for the period 2021-2022. We commenced our tenure in January this year and we are especially pleased to be serving alongside St. Vincent and the Grenadines during 2021.
Our approach is based on three themes: Building Peace, Strengthening Prevention, and Ensuring Accountability. These themes are at the core of what we believe the Council should be doing.
Building peace means ensuring that we promote sustainable, durable solutions to conflict situations. Strengthening prevention means investing in efforts to ensure conflict does not occur. Ensuring accountability means making sure those responsible for grievous breaches of human rights and other crimes cannot act with impunity.
We maintain a strong focus on peacekeeping, and making sure the mandates under which our peacekeepers serve are fit for purpose, and appropriate to local needs.
We will continue to draw on our experience of conflict on our own island to promote the peacebuilding and sustaining peace agenda.
We emphasise the need for an inclusive approach to peace, central to which must be the voices of women, young people and civil society.
We will continue with a particular focus on addressing some of the underlying drivers of conflict including climate change, hunger, environmental degradation and conflicts over natural resources.
I am also acutely conscious of the enormous economic and social cost caused by the Covid pandemic to your countries. The impact on economies is severe, including in terms of supply chains, tourism and remittances. We are determined to make the most of our existing partnerships to seek to ensure that our support helps Caribbean states respond to COVID-19.
Ireland is a proud member of Team Europe that has been one of the largest contributors to the COVAX Facility, providing over $3 billion USD in direct contributions and guarantees.
Fifteen Caribbean countries that will receive just over 2.1 million doses of COVAX vaccines by May. Six of these countries will receive the vaccines free of charge.
As vaccine supply constraints remain an issue, particularly for low-income countries, Irish Aid’s allocation to global health in 2021 will exceed €50 million and include support for global equitable access to vaccines through WHO and the COVAX facility.
In 2020, Ireland launched its first ever SIDS-specific humanitarian response – to the COVID-19 pandemic – totalling €3.4m. Ireland provided €1.3m through the International Federation of the Red Cross for pandemic preparedness in SIDS. €350,000 of this was earmarked for the Caribbean
Perhaps, I may end my brief remarks on a cultural note and highlight the very warm friendship that prevailed between two Nobel laureates, Seamus Heaney from Ireland and Derek Walcott from Saint Lucia. Walcott visited Heaney in Ireland and travelled with him to his home area, the inspiration of many of his poems. Heaney later travelled to Castries and Gros Islet which be described as rich and rare, roads full of minivans flogging along at full speed, the people in full cry, the patois fast and furious, the en bas gorge music, fiddle and shak-shak and bongos, and rum shops and the roadside stalls, it was like walking into a Walcott poem.
Your Excellency, I mention this as one small bridge between our people in the past as we now look forward to building many more.