The Irish Republic may take in prisoners from Guantanamo Bay if it gets EU backing for the move, Justice Minister Dermot Ahern has said.
New US President Barack Obama, who has previously called for the detention camp in Cuba to be shut down, signed an executive order today calling for the closure of Guantanamo Bay.
Mr Ahern said the Irish government may be willing to resettle some of the remaining 245 Guantanamo detainees in Ireland.
As Irish Foreign Affairs Minister in 2005, Mr Ahern was the first EU minister to call for the closure of the prison and also lobbied then US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice on the issue.
The Republic turned down informal requests in the past to resettle detainees because it was opposed to the Guantanamo facility.
"I believe that there should be a united and positive response at EU level to any request made by the new US administration for help in bringing about the closure of Guantanamo.
"Ireland will participate fully in discussions at European level on this matter," the Minister said.
"While all countries will have to have regard to difficult security issues which arise, Ireland would, of course, be prepared to play its full part in any common action being taken by the EU in responding to a US request for assistance in achieving the objective of closing down Guantanamo," said Ahern
"The priority which President Obama has given to closing Guantanamo is very welcome and creates a new context in which this matter can be addressed.
"While all countries will have to have regard to difficult security issues which arise, Ireland would, of course, be prepared to play its full part."
Amnesty International Ireland welcomed Ahern’s comments.
Executive director Colm O’Gorman said: "Around 50 prisoners have been cleared for release from Guantanamo Bay Detention Centre but cannot be returned home because they are at risk of torture or death.
"For months Amnesty has been lobbying the Irish government to assist in the closure by accepting some prisoners, one of whom, Oybek Jabbarov, is an Uzbek national who has been held for over seven years."