Ceartas on Irish companies in Western Sahara

Ruairí McDermott has a very interesting post up on the Ceartas blog regarding the activities of Irish companies in Western Sahara, a territory occupied by Morocco for almost 40 years. The post is well worth a read, and here is a snippet:

In 2011, when acting Minister for Foreign Affairs Brian Cowen was questioned about the activities of Irish companies in Western Sahara, he stated, “any exploration and exploitation activities that proceed in disregard of the interests and wishes of the people of Western Sahara would be in violation of the principles of international law”. Despite this assertion, in 2014 Irish company San Leon Energy again expanded its oil and gas exploration programme in the long-oppressed territory, explicitly disregarding the wishes of the indigenous population. Meanwhile, Irish and European fishing vessels continue to exploit the waters off Western Sahara under the EU-Morocco Fisheries Partnership Agreement (FPA).

McDermott provides an overview of the history of the territory and the application of international law, before turning to consider Irish oil exploration activities there. He notes, with some skepticism, that the Irish government’s stated position is that “any Irish company operating abroad would have due regard to the principles of international law and the rights of the inhabitants of the territory”. As the Department of Foreign of Affairs and Trade prepares a national implementation plan on the UN Guiding Principles on business and human rights, this is one type of case which it will need to address squarely.

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