Irish politician warned against engaging with Taiwan ahead of January trip to Taipei

The Irish lawmaker is planning to head a delegation to Taipei in January to develop trade relations between Ireland and Taiwan

Flag of the Republic of Ireland

Flag of the Republic of Ireland (Wikimedia Commons photo)

TAIPEI (Taiwan News) – A dispute is brewing in Ireland over trade with Taiwan, as the current chairman of the Committee on Finance, Public Expenditure and Reform, John McGuinness, has been reprimanded by the Speaker of the Lower House, Sean O Fearghail, because of McGuinness’s regular trips to Taiwan.

Fearghail issued a letter to McGuinness urging him to abandon his plans for a trip to Taiwan in January, and warned him about establishing further relations with Taiwan.

McGuinness was the former Minister of Trade and Commerce for the Republic of Ireland from 2007 to 2009, and he still seeks to build constructive trade relations with Taiwan in his position as the Chairman of the Taiwan Ireland Parliamentary Friendship Association.

Speaker Fearghail, speaking on behalf of Chinese interests, has said that members of the Irish government should not engage with Taiwan.

In the letter reprimanding McGuinness, Fearghail reportedly said that engaging with Taiwan could “cause serious offense and grave concern to our Chinese friends and has the potential to cause serious damage to Ireland’s developing relationship with China as well as being a danger to Ireland’s national interest.”

McGuinness has reportedly dismissed the concerns of Beijing, parroted as they were by the Irish Speaker of the Lower House, while defending the mutually beneficial relationship Ireland has cultivated with Taiwan during his years in government.

Calling the speaker's letter "bizarre," he emphasized that he is interested in developing and maintaining business links with Taiwan, as opposed to political relations.

McGuinness was quoted by local media, the Kilkinney People, as saying:

“The relationship is like any other relationship that countries have. And it’s true to say that America has a sizeable relationship with Taiwan and so have many other countries. Who is to dictate who we should speak to and who we should trade with?”

Both McGuinness and Fearghail are members of the Fianna Fail Republican Party in Ireland.