Taoiseach moves to clarify Saudi Arabia comments

Remarks from the Taoiseach this week appeared to contradict an earlier Dáil statement

Taoiseach moves to clarify Saudi Arabia comments

Enda Kenny at the annual Fine Gael Think-In in 2016 | Image: RollingNews.ie

The Taoiseach has said that while he did not specifically discuss women's rights with Saudi authorities in 2014, the subject is 'obviously included' in the more general topic of human rights.

It came after Enda Kenny appeared to contradict his own earlier comments on the matter.

The Government has come under pressure to reveal how it voted in Saudi Arabia's successful bid to join the UN Commission on the Status of Women.

Foreign Affairs Minister Charlie Flanagan says he will "not publicly disclose" how the country voted, as is the norm for such votes.

Enda Kenny, who is in Canada, told reporters this week that he had discussed the issue of women's rights with Saudi officials during a visit to the country in January 2014.

However, he told the Dáil at the time that he had not specifically discussed the issue.

Speaking in Canada today, Enda Kenny said:  "I went to Saudi Arabia on a trade mission in 2014, and as part of that, at my own initiative, I raised the question of human rights with the Saudi authorities, which obviously includes women's rights.

"That has been followed through in Council meetings where Minister Flanagan has specifically raised the issue of women's rights, and that will continue to be Ireland's position."

A spokesperson for the Taoiseach added that the "Government's concern for women's rights is without question and has been demonstrated on many occasions".

Political editor with the Irish Examiner Daniel McConnell - who is in Canada - outlined what the Taoiseach said.

Speaking on Newstalk Drive, he explained: "Today he made it very clear that the issue of women's rights was not specifically raised, despite his comments yesterday.

"It's a u-turn, it's a correction, it's whatever you want to call it."