Belfast Telegraph

Kenny orders complete review of US air passengers agreement

Enda Kenny has ordered a "complete review" of a special agreement with the US for air passengers leaving Ireland amid claims Donald Trump's travel ban could be illegal.

Dublin and Shannon airports are among the few in the world that offer pre-clearance by US immigration officials, since a deal between the countries in 2008.

Airport authorities have confirmed the US president's travel ban on citizens from seven mainly-Muslim countries - Iraq, Iran, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria and Yemen - is being implemented by US officials in Ireland.

Mr Kenny said he does not agree with the ban and has ordered a review of the almost decade-old agreement.

"In respect of the policy introduced by the American government, I disagree with it," he told a press conference.

"I will obviously say that to the (US) president and vice president when I meet with them."

Mr Kenny added: "I have asked for a complete review now of the pre-clearance facilities here in Ireland, in respect of the three departments dealing with this, so we can be absolutely clear about the importance of it."

The Taoiseach's announcement follows warnings from one of his own ministers that implementing the travel ban at Irish airports could be illegal.

Katherine Zappone, children's minister, had written to Mr Kenny seeking an investigation into its operation.

She suggested it "may be unlawful" because the US-Ireland pre-clearance agreement upholds the rights of people under Irish law.

It is understood Ms Zappone is concerned that the implementation of the ban on Irish soil could amount to nationality and religion-based discrimination.

She also said Ireland has a moral obligation to "stand with our fellow human beings against discrimination of this kind".

Speculation is mounting that more independent government ministers in the Fine Gael-led coalition will back Ms Zappone's stance at a Cabinet meeting on Tuesday.

Sinn Fein leader Gerry Adams has also written to the Taoiseach urging him not to "allow Irish airports to enforce this fundamentally unjust order".

A joint statement from five human rights organisations - including Amnesty, the Irish Council of Civil Liberties and the Irish Refugee Council - said the pre-clearance agreement means gardai and immigration officials may be helping implement Mr Trump's travel ban.

They have demanded an urgent review of the system including its suspension if a person's rights under Irish and EU law are under threat.

"This executive order is a barely concealed attempt to discriminate on nationality and religious grounds, itself a gross violation of freely accepted international human rights obligations," the statement said.

Junior minister John Halligan said Mr Trump is "close to being a fascist"' and has backed calls for Mr Kenny to snub the annual invite to the White House for the traditional gifting of a bowl of shamrock to the US president on St Patrick's Day.

Labour leader Brendan Howlin and Green Party chief Eamon Ryan have also urged a boycott of the March 17 event.

But Mr Kenny said he will travel to Washington because it is "more important now than ever before to speak face-to-face to the American president."

The Taoiseach said he would be putting Ireland's case to the president on a number of issues, including his disapproval of the travel ban.


From Belfast Telegraph