A formal request has been made to the North Korean embassy in London by an Irish politician for a peace talks visit.
Irish Minister of State for Training and Skills and Independent Alliance member John Halligan has written to the North Korean embassy in London to request a parliamentary visit to the isolated state of North Korea in attempt to engage in peace talks with its nuclear weapon wielding leader Kim Jong-un.
Halligan revealed his intent on Today with Sean O’ Rourke on RTE Radio 1 this morning, while on the show to speak about the current rail union strikes in Ireland.
“The greatest threat to peace in the world is on the Korean peninsula,” said Halligan.
“Kim Jong-un and Donald Trump are a threat to bringing the world to nuclear oblivion.”
The Minister said that both Minister for Transport Shane Ross and Minister of State for Disability Finian McGrath would join him on the ‘mission’, and stated that the visit would not be a state one, and would instead be paid out of their own pockets.
In fact, Halligan admitted that he hadn’t discussed the issue with either Taoiseach Leo Varadkar or Foreign Affairs Minister Simon Coveney: “We’re not going as members of the government, we’re going as three politicians.”
When asked what he would say to the North Korean leader Kim Jong-un if he met him, he said: “I would ask him to engage with democracy”.
Halligan claimed that he carried out a similar trip to both Israel and Palestine last year to encourage dialogue around peace, and believes the opportunity to do the same exists with North Korea, despite the countries ignorance of the input of other countries.
“We’ve nothing to lose? What is there to lose by attempting to talk peace with North Korea?”
The Waterford TD said he hoped that the Government would “come on board”, but that if the Department of Foreign Affairs advised against the visit, that he would heed that advice.
Minister of State for European Affairs Helen McEntee later said that the trip was news to her and that any mission of this kind would have to go through the Department of Foreign Affairs and run past the Taoiseach.
“Anything as sensitive as this would have to go through to the Department of Foreign Affairs [and he] would have to, at very least, talk to Minister Simon Coveney. And that’s what needs to happen now.”
She said Ireland is at the fore of peacekeeping missions but added: “This is something completely different here.”
Many people listening to the programme were in disbelief of what Halligan was saying, with one listener pointing out that the three politicians have plenty other promises they’re yet to deliver on.
John Halligan failed to deliver red-line new cath lab for Waterford but now wants to tackle North Korea?Do what you were elected to do.
— Brian Hodge (@ebhodge) November 3, 2017
Meanwhile, National Bus and Rail Union (NBRU) general secretary Dermot O'Leary has had his own say on Minister Halligan's diversion from the conversation at hand.
"I thought, listening to the radio that I had fallen into a deep sleep and woken up on the 1 April," he said.
"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."
"It 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."