Government says it does not support 'North Korea peace mission'

Update 5.10pm: The Government says it does not support any visit to North Korea by a parliamentary delegation.

Earlier today Minister of State John Halligan said he wants to meet with the leader of the secretive state - Kim Jong-un - in a bid to calm nuclear tensions.

The Waterford TD has written to the North Korean embassy in London requesting a visit - but has yet to hear back.

In a statement the Department of Foreign Affairs has said Minister Coveney has spoken with Minister Halligan and officials will provide him with a full briefing on North Korea next week.

Update 4pm: 'North Korea peace mission' proves divisive 

Revelations that three ’independent’ government ministers wish to lead a peace mission to North Korea have proved divisive.

On radio and social media many have lauded the attempts as a valid and worthwhile attempt to kick start dialogue in an increasingly dangerous stand off.

Others have responded to the news with derision and described the move as self serving.

This afternoon Fianna Fáil Spokesperson on Science, Technology, Research and Development, James Lawless has said that Minister Halligan’s pilgrimage to his former Workers’ Party paradise, North Korea is an embarrassing act of self-importance.

“Minister Halligan may have shed his Workers’ Party label for that of Independent, but it’s abundantly clear that despite his public transformation, his heart still pines for the 1980s fundraising trips members of his former party enjoyed to the failed communist dictatorship.

“The Independent Alliance Ministers have a habit of going off on tangents and ignoring their roles and duties as Ministers.

“Minister Halligan should be using his office and platform to advocate for research and development funding for higher education institutions.

“How is he happy with a situation where just one Irish institution ranked in the Top 200 in the world this year, when Scotland with broadly the same population had five in the Top 200?

“His colleague, Minister Shane Ross is also clearly undergoing a public transformation in his own right. It wasn’t that long ago when he was the most high profile cheerleader of the capitalist right in this country. Yet, he is now joining in on the pilgrimage to Halligan’s communist paradise.

“Shane Ross should stay put in Ireland, and do his job. Only this week, Ireland’s Rugby World Cup bid suffered a major setback, and we have had the first in a series of Irish Rail strikes that will severely hamper Irish commuters.

“The Independent Alliance has long attempted to portray itself as both a political party and as a group of independents. Now it seems its Ministers are now attempting to pretend they aren’t Government ministers, even though they clearly are, and must follow normal protocols.

“My advice to Ministers Halligan, Ross and McGrath is: do the job the Irish people have entrusted you to do, and leave international diplomacy to the likes of the UN and the EU,” concluded Lawless.

Earlier: Government Minister wants to lead a peace mission to North Korea.

John Halligan has written to the North Korean Embassy in London seeking to visit the state.

Independent Alliance ministers want to meet with Kim Jong-un in January or February, in a bid to calm nuclear tensions.

Mr Halligan has said it is not good enough that the only dialogue towards Korea from the west has been Donald Trump threatening to blow them up.

Minister Halligan told RTÉ Radio One’s Today with Sean O’Rourke about his plans to go to North Korea with Minister Shane Ross and Finian McGrath.

"This isn’t new, we’ve had relations with North Korea in the past through Ceoltas. The greatest threat to peace at present in the world is on the Korean peninsula," he said.

He said that their trip, if successful, will be of no cost to the State and that they will pay their own way.

"Both have agreed to go if we can arrange it. We’ve already contacted the North Korean embassy in London through friends of mine and we’re waiting for a reply," he added.

"What is there to lose by attempting to talk peace with North Korea?"

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