Photo credit: Department of Health

Donnelly won’t commit to referendum on Pandemic Treaty

Health Minister Stephen Donnelly has refused to commit to a referendum on the World Health Organisation Pandemic Treaty.

According to the EU, the proposed “Pandemic Treaty” is a “legally-binding framework, aiming to ensure that the world can better respond to global health threats in the future.”

Earlier this month, Health Minister Stephen Donnelly said that “Ireland strongly supports a multilateral approach to global health issues with the WHO in a central leadership role.”

“Therefore,” the Minister had said, “Ireland supports the WHO led process to negotiate a binding legal instrument on pandemic preparedness and response.”

In response to this revelation, Deputy Mattie McGrath asked if Donnelly intended to request a referendum before signing up to the Treaty, and inform the WHO that Ireland could not sign on without a referendum.

Donnelly replied that “the aim of such an instrument is to protect public health and to help save lives in the event of future pandemics.” He went on to say that the Constitution allows the government to ratify such treaties and international agreements without a referendum.

“As provided for in the Constitution, the conclusion of an international agreement is an exercise of the executive power of the State in connection with its external relations and is therefore concluded by or on the authority of the Government,” he said.

“In practice this means that Government approval must be sought for the signature, ratification or approval of every international agreement.”

The Minister added that the treaty was still in “very early stages of negotiation,” and that “it is not possible at this time to determine the precise legal ramifications.”

He concluded that “the requirements of the Irish Constitution will, of course, be respected.”

Notably, the WHO says that the Treaty will carry with it sanctions against countries which fail to comply with its diktats.

As reported by Politico, World Health Organisation Director General, Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, said that the treaty would “have all the incentives, or the carrots” to encourage the enforcement of the rules, including around issues like transparency into pandemic investigations.

“But maybe exploring the sanctions may be important,” he added.

This week Senator Sharon Keogan called for a debate “on the World Health Organisation pandemic treaty and its implications for Ireland’s future freedoms and autonomy in responding to a health crisis.”

Many lawmakers around the world have expressed concern over the treaty, including Canadian Conservative Party MP Dr. Leslyn Lewis, who claimed that it was a “global encroachment on our sovereignty” and would threaten “the independence of our healthcare systems.”

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