Latest: Taoiseach refuses to reveal how Ireland voted on Saudi Arabia issue

LATEST: Taoiseach Enda Kenny has defended the Government's decision not to disclose whether Ireland voted to elect for Saudi Arabia to a major body on human rights.

Latest: Taoiseach refuses to reveal how Ireland voted on Saudi Arabia issue

Update 8.24pm: Taoiseach Enda Kenny has defended the Government's decision not to disclose whether Ireland voted to elect for Saudi Arabia to a major body on human rights, writes Daniel McConnell.

Mr Kenny was responding to the controversy around the vote on the UN Commission on the Status of Women, but said it is not the convention to disclose how countries voted.

Speaking in Montreal, Mr Kenny made it clear he would not reveal how Ireland voted.

“This is an issue which concerns us greatly, he said.

"It has always been the convention not to indicate the nature of the vote at the United Nations.

"I am sure Geraldine Byrne Nason will do a superb job of persusing the issue of women's rights when she becomes our Ambassador to the United Nations."

Earlier:

The Government is defending its refusal to say whether Ireland supported Saudi Arabia to join a UN body for women's rights.

At least three EU countries voted in favour of the Saudi bid to join the UN Commission on the Status of Women.

Foreign Affairs Minister Charlie Flanagan said it was better for Ireland's diplomatic efforts if its ballots were kept secret. He issued a statement saying he will not be disclosing how Ireland voted on the matter.

In a statement this afternoon, Mr Flanagan said: "It is my strong view that it would be very damaging to Ireland's ability to conduct international relations successfully if we moved away from this established practice.

"It would be irresponsible of me to abandon a practice that has been in place for over six decades, observed by all previous governments and is grounded on protecting and promoting the values of small countries on the world stage."

Tánaiste Frances Fitzgerald said she agreed it was better that Ireland's votes on UN appointments remained secret.

"That has been the practise by previous governments and by this Government," she said.

"This is the procedure that has been adopted in the UN in order to facilitate the business of the UN. The Government do not disclose (the votes)."

However, the Independent Alliance said the public should be told whether Ireland voted for Saudi Arabia's inclusion in the group.

The five TDs say they expect the issue to be raised at next week's cabinet meeting.

Junior minister John Halligan said: "It would be essential for me that Saudi Arabia and other countries sign up to the UN Convention for Human Rights.

"It would be remiss of any of us not to condemn any country that would violate women's rights and stand as strong as we can against (those countries)."

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