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 Header Item Aftercare Services Provision (Continued)
 Header Item Medical Practitioners (Amendment) Bill 2014 [Seanad]: Order for Report Stage
 Header Item Medical Practitioners (Amendment) Bill 2014 [Seanad]: Report and Final Stages
 Header Item Protection of Cultural Property in the Event of Armed Conflict (Hague Convention) Bill 2016 [Seanad]: Second Stage

Tuesday, 28 March 2017

Dáil Éireann Debate
Vol. 944 No. 2

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Deputy Katherine Zappone: Information on Katherine Zappone Zoom on Katherine Zappone To give a more specific timeline, it is anticipated that the relevant provisions of the Act will be commenced in the third quarter of this year between June and September 2017. I acknowledge the Deputy's statement about his own Bill. I look forward to considering it. As part of this process, what I have been identifying is the extensive consultation process that Tusla has been engaged in. I have indicated that we hope that will be completed in time for the commencement of those sections of the Act. I also acknowledge what the Deputy said about the implementation of the entitlement to an aftercare plan. The commencement of that entitlement does not necessarily mean that we have all that we need in terms of aftercare provisions, but entitlement helps us to move in that direction.

Written Answers are published on the Oireachtas website.

Medical Practitioners (Amendment) Bill 2014 [Seanad]: Order for Report Stage

Minister of State at the Department of Health (Deputy Marcella Corcoran Kennedy): Information on Marcella Corcoran Kennedy Zoom on Marcella Corcoran Kennedy I move: "That Report Stage be taken now."

  Question put and agreed to.

Medical Practitioners (Amendment) Bill 2014 [Seanad]: Report and Final Stages

  Bill received for final consideration and passed.

An Leas-Cheann Comhairle: Information on Pat the Cope Gallagher Zoom on Pat the Cope Gallagher The Bill, which is considered to be a Dáil Bill under Article 20.2.2° of the Constitution, will be sent to the Seanad.

Protection of Cultural Property in the Event of Armed Conflict (Hague Convention) Bill 2016 [Seanad]: Second Stage

Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade (Deputy Charles Flanagan): Information on Charles Flanagan Zoom on Charles Flanagan I move: "That the Bill be now read a Second Time."

The purpose of this Bill is to make the necessary provision in Irish law to enable the State to ratify the 1954 Hague Convention on the Protection of Cultural Property in the event of Armed Conflict and the 1999 protocol that supplements it. The 1954 convention and the 1999 protocol are instruments of international humanitarian law, which is the branch of international law that regulates armed conflict in the interests of humanity. It has been developed over a period of more than 150 years and its principal rules are currently set out in the four 1949 Geneva Conventions and their 1977 additional protocols. It is supplemented by a range of other instruments on specific issues such as anti-personnel mines, the International Criminal Court and the protection of cultural property.

International humanitarian law does not determine whether war or armed conflict in any particular case is lawful - that is a question of general international law. Instead, it recognises that armed conflicts take place, whether lawful or not, and it has developed rules to limit the consequences of armed conflict on its victims. Without international humanitarian law, the barbarity of war would be unmitigated. Although humanitarian law has developed a very large and detailed body of rules, these rules can be reduced in summary to two basic concepts. First, the means and methods that parties to armed conflict may employ are not unlimited. Indiscriminate attacks are prohibited, for instance, and certain weapon systems are unlawful. Second, parties to conflicts are required to protect civilians, the sick and wounded, prisoners of war and civilian property.

There are regularly calls for the development of new rules imposing greater restrictions on parties to armed conflicts and Ireland has of course been prepared to join with others to develop the law where necessary. For instance, Ireland took a leading role in the development of new rules prohibiting the use of cluster munitions, hosting and chairing the diplomatic conference in 2008 in Croke Park at which the convention on cluster munitions was adopted. Some 100 countries are now parties to that convention and such is its success that even for those states that have refused to become parties to it, the use of cluster munitions has been so stigmatised that they will avoid or deny using them. However, notwithstanding the need to develop new rules from time to time, the greatest challenge to protecting human life in modern armed conflicts is the frequent and often shocking failure by both the armed forces of states and non-state armed groups to respect the existing rules. We need only look at the appalling behaviour of all sides in the conflict in Syria.

Failure to respect the rules of international humanitarian law may occur for a number of reasons: a lack of knowledge of the law, an absence of political will to ensure respect for the law or, indeed, a promotion or tolerance of a culture of impunity. In the case of Daesh, there has been a clear rejection of the law. In addition to destroying ancient and important cultural heritage in Palmyra and elsewhere, it has been responsible for rape, enslavement and murder of civilians amongst other deplorable acts. I share the dismay and disgust of all Members of this House at the flagrant violations of the international humanitarian law committed in Syria, in particular, and elsewhere. Needless to say if the existing rules were respected, much of the dreadful human suffering in contemporary armed conflicts would not occur. However, where the rules are not respected, there must also be accountability. Successive Irish Governments have sought to ensure effective investigation and prosecution of violations of international humanitarian law. Ireland has been a leading supporter of the International Criminal Court, ICC, and indeed the Government has consistently supported the referral of the situation in Syria to the ICC.

The 1954 convention was negotiated to prevent the type of extensive destruction and loss of cultural property during the Second World War that resulted from bombardment, looting and vandalism. Countless historic buildings and monuments were destroyed and artefacts were either lost and stolen. This convention imposes a number of obligations on states: to make preparations in time of peace to safeguard cultural property against the foreseeable effects of armed conflict; not to use cultural property for purposes likely to expose it to destruction or damage during armed conflict; and to refrain from any hostile act against cultural property, except in cases of "imperative military necessity". In addition, states are obliged to prohibit, prevent and stop theft and pillage of cultural property during armed conflict. The convention also establishes a system allowing states to nominate specific monuments for a type of enhanced protection called "special protection", although in practice the system was essentially unworkable. The Blue Shield is recognised as a distinctive emblem that can be used to identify cultural property in the event of armed conflict.

Ireland signed the convention in 1954 but did not proceed to ratify it immediately. Although the convention was regarded as a welcome development in international law at the time, it is broadly recognised as having failed to provide effective protection for cultural property during the time of armed conflict. Ultimately, this is because the key obligations it imposes on states could be set aside in circumstances of "imperative military necessity". It did not act as an effective restraint on the extensive damage to cultural property that took place during conflicts, particularly in south-east Asia in the 1960s and 1970s, or in subsequent international conflicts around the world. The 1954 negotiations took place not long after the end of the Second World War at a time when blanket bombing of cities was still regarded as a legitimate military tactic. It was not until much later in 1977 that humanitarian concerns were given greater weight and agreement was reached in the First Protocol Additional to the Geneva Conventions that only military objectives could be attacked during the course of an armed conflict. Military objectives must be more clearly defined and more carefully selected. Parties to armed conflict were now required to take precautions in attack. Indiscriminate attacks were prohibited and attacks against civilian property, including schools, hospitals, places of worship and cultural property, were prohibited unless they were being used for military purposes by the other side in a conflict.

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