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Irish won't go public on supporting Saudi women's rights role

By Ed Carty

The Irish government has said it would be irresponsible and damaging to confirm whether it backed Saudi Arabia's attempt to win a seat on an international body on women's rights.

Irish Foreign Affairs Minister Charlie Flanagan is facing criticism for not saying how the Republic voted in a secret UN ballot last month.

Saudi Arabia successfully secured membership of the UN's Commission on the Status of Women, which Ireland has been chair of since March.

Mr Flanagan said the Republic observes the conventions of UN participation, including secrecy around elections.

"It is my strong view that it would be very damaging to Ireland's ability to conduct international relations successfully if we moved away from this established practice," the minister said.

"It would be irresponsible of me to abandon a practice that has been in place for over six decades, observed by all previous governments and is grounded on protecting and promoting the values of small countries on the world stage."

The UN's Commission on the Status of Women was set up in 1946.

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