Protests planned for Australian prime minister's visit
Anti-war activists plan to protest at the visit of Australian prime minister John Howard to Ireland this month. Howard, a strong supporter of the invasion of Iraq, will be addressing the Dáil as well as meeting the Taoiseach Bertie Ahern, the President, Mary McAleese, some Government ministers and a "large gathering of influential members of the Irish business community".
Australian troops are currently stationed in Iraq and were part of the invasion force in 2003. Roger Cole of the Peace and Neutrality Alliance (PANA) said, "We would seek to talk to other anti-war groups to organise a protest to highlight the unwillingness of people like John Howard to find a diplomatic solution to conflicts."
Joe Murray of Afri said, "Given Australia's role in the war in Iraq, the visit to Ireland by the Australian prime minister can be read as further evidence of the degree to which the Irish Government is now arm in arm with governments such as those of Australia, Britain and the US in promoting war and aggression. This runs counter to the values traditionally associated with the Irish State, such as peacekeeping and disarmament."
Senator David Norris, who has campaigned against the war in Iraq, said, "I call upon the Australian prime minister to reconsider his support for the war in Iraq that has been condemned by the Irish Senate as illegal, immoral and unjustifable. One would have hoped that the Australian government would have learned a lesson from their unsavoury involvement in the exploitation of East Timor, that their people and the international community require a standard of ethics in the conduct of international relations."
The Department of the Taoiseach said the visit would "focus on strengthening the historically close and increasingly dynamic relationship between Australia and Ireland and in particular, our economic relations. The visit will provide prime minister Howard with the opportunity to meet a number of key figures from the Ireland-Australia business community ... [and] will also afford an opportunity for a discussion of current regional and international issues of interest to both countries."
Howard has been Australian prime minister for ten years. This is his first visit to Ireland and the first by an Australian prime minister since 1993.