Halligan’s North Korean peace bid gets the red light

Justine Dwyer

Minister of State John Halligan was subject to widespread criticism last week after he announced that he was planning to lead a group of cabinet colleagues on a diplomatic mission to North Korea.N3S1PicB
Social media erupted following an interview which Minister Halligan gave to The Irish Daily Mail, in which he said he intended to head up a peace mission with his Independent Alliance colleagues, Transport Minister Shane Ross and fellow Minister of State, Finian McGrath.
Minister Halligan stated he wanted the opportunity to talk to Kim Jong-un to try and broker a peace deal.
“This is the choice: there will be war or there will be peace,” he said. “Someone has to initiate talks. We are a neutral country and we are highly respected for our neutrality.”
In the interview published on Friday last, Minister Halligan said he hadn’t informed the Taoiseach of his plans but insisted that the trip would go ahead sometime in January or February.
“We may not be able to go as members of the Government, but we can go as parliamentarians from the Dáil. My view is that it could help to lower tensions.”
Minister Halligan said contact had already been made with the North Korean embassy. “We could talk about culture and not conflict. I don’t think it is good enough that all we have from the West at present is Donald Trump threatening to obliterate North Korea.

North Korean Dictator Kin Jong-un

North Korean Dictator Kin Jong-un

He described his plans as a peace initiative. “We in Ireland are well placed to talk to them in a friendly way. Somebody has to re-engage with them…I don’t believe we should just cut them off. We’d like to go and talk and help – Shane, Finian and myself.”
Comments on social media disparaged Minister Halligan, with one posting: “He can’t even get a Cath lab for Waterford but he feels qualified to negotiate for global peace.
The National Bus and Rail Union (NBRU) said they were appalled at the suggestion that the three politicians would go to North Korea to talk to Kim Jong-un yet refuse to work towards sorting a major rail dispute.
Said NBRU General Secretary Dermot O’Leary: “I thought, listening to the radio that I had fallen into a deep sleep and woken up on the first of April. The suggestion, in the middle of a major rail
dispute, that Shane Ross, Minister for Transport, would go off to North Korea in a bizarre attempt to establish relations with a regime that has an appalling record on human rights, where the word democracy is banned, is nothing short of dumbfounding, and is a clear demonstration of how much Mr Ross and his Independent Alliance colleagues are out of touch with what is happening on their own doorstep.”
Dermot O’Leary said the Irish taxpayer would be far better served “if those with
notions of grandeur, with desires to, as it were, become international statesmen, actually performed the task for which they were democratically elected to carry out, in the case of Minister Ross to work night and day to create the environment by which our members in Irish Rail can receive a credible pay offer and the commuters that they serve, can have surety with regard to their vital rail service.”
Taoiseach Leo Varadkar poured cold water on the peace mission proposal, voicing his concern that something “beastly” might befall his cabinet colleagues if they crossed north of the 38th parallel on the Korean Peninsula.

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