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WATCH: Mattie McGrath calls for debate on WHO Pandemic Treaty 

Independent TD, Mattie McGrath has called for a debate on the proposed Pandemic Treaty from the World Health Organisation (WHO), saying that an “unelected” body should not be able to decide for Ireland.  

“The World Health Assembly is meeting from 22 to 28 May, which is next week. If it amends the regulations, all the powers of this Parliament and other parliaments in respect of when a pandemic is called or when there is a national crisis will be signed away. If this happens, one unelected person at the World Health Organization will be able to decide there is a pandemic in a country without that country even knowing it,” he told the Dáil.

“Will the Taoiseach or other members of the Government be attending the meeting? Can we have a debate on this most serious situation in this House of Parliament, which purports to be accountable to the people who elect us? Are we going to sign away all our rights to the WHO?” he added.

In response, an Taoiseach Micheál Martin said that the WHO was the “body that calls pandemics, rather than national governments.”

“Deputy Mattie McGrath raised the issue of the World Health Organization, WHO. I am a strong supporter of the organisation and believe we should increase and enhance its capacity to deal with pandemics. The World Health Organization is the body that calls pandemics, rather than national governments,” he said. “There is a very good reason for that. Some governments in the world would never call a pandemic even if one was blowing right through their countries. I know that from previous experience. To put it another way, some are more tardy than others when it comes to admitting what is going on.”

“One risk is that during the last pandemic, the previous President of the United States, Donald Trump, made efforts to undermine the WHO. That did not serve the world well,” he said.

The proposed Treaty is now attracting significant attention, with Fianna Fáil TD Willie O’Dea saying last week that he feared the government is “ceding power” to the World Health Organisation.

“At present, a WHO global Pandemic Treaty is being negotiated,” said O’Dea.

“My understanding is that the states which become signatories to this treaty will be ceding power to deal with any future pandemics entirely to the WHO, and that the local government will be completely excluded from the situation.”

He continued: “This is a very significant development.

“Has the advice of the Attorney General been sought as to whether the Government signing up to this will require a constitutional referendum?”

Taoiseach Micheál Martin replied: “I will have to check that out in the first instance.”

He added: “In terms of a pandemic, what is required is very strong global interaction and co-ordination among all the members of the WHO, which did not quite happen at the beginning in this regard.”

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.”

Last 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.”

Donnelly has refused to commit to holding a referendum on the issue.


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