The appointment of former secretary general of the Department of Justice Seán Aylward to the Council of Europe’s Committee for the Prevention of Torture was described by the Justice for Magdalenes group as ‘a slap in the face to women who have suffered in Ireland’s Magdalene Laundries‘. This was on account of his appearance in a United Nations Committee Against Torture examination in June, when he stated that ‘the vast majority of women who went to these institutions went there voluntarily, or if they were minors, with the consent of their parents or guardians’.

There are a few mentions of Seán Aylward in the Wikileaks cables from Ireland. They are of some relevance to Aylward’s appointment.

Welcomes judicial verdict of US client state with atrocious human rights record

From an account of a meeting held between Mitchell Reiss, the then special envoy to Northern Ireland, and Irish government officials, on December 16, 2004.

During the meeting, news of the conviction of the “Colombia Three” came in; unlike later statements from the Foreign Minister, McDowell and Aylward shed no tears at the news that the three IRA members were convicted and given a 17-year sentence by Colombian courts.

Here are a couple of quotes from the Amnesty International report on Colombia from 2004, published seven months before Aylward’s meeting with Reiss:

Human rights defenders, peace activists and trade unionists who exposed abuses committed by the parties to the armed conflict were themselves killed, attacked, threatened and arbitrarily detained. Scores endured ongoing surveillance as well as raids on their offices or homes. In several instances, military intelligence information gathered by the security forces resulted in spurious criminal investigations of activities in connection with their legitimate human rights activities.


Women were victims of extrajudicial executions, arbitrary and deliberate killings, and “disappearances”. They were often targeted because of their role as activists and leaders campaigning for human rights, peace or socio-economic alternatives or because they were members of communities in conflict zones.

Tells US that Irish NGOs have interest in exaggerating human trafficking.

From a meeting held 19th June 2008 with Ambassador Thomas C. Foley

Aylward noted that Irish NGOs — from which much of the data in the TIP report was obtained — maintained a high profile, which created a institutional interest in highlighting — and sometimes even exaggerating — the TIP problem. Aylward went on to note, however, that relations between the Irish Government and the NGOs dealing with TIP isles were generally good. (Note: The Irish Government provides funds to the NGO Ruhama to provide services to victims of trafficking. End note.)

In opposing resettlement of detainees to Ireland, expresses fears that “virulently left-wing” elements would “parade” resettled Guantánamo detainees round Ireland.

From a meeting held July 15, 2008 with EUR/WE Office Director Pamela Spratlen

Taking a tough tone and more strident approach, Aylward, the chief advisor to the Minister of Justice, was much more explicit, stating that he would advise against accepting any detainees. He claimed that Dermot Gallagher, Secretary General of the Department of Foreign Affairs and Montgomery’s boss, agreed with him. Aylward‘s primary reason for opposing the request was that he feared that “virulently left-wing” elements of the media would “capture” resettled detainees and “parade” them around the country and in the media as “political theater” to showcase their fringe views of American wrongdoing. He said that such action would whip up anti-American sentiment and would be harmful for U.S.-Irish relations.

Explains change of Ireland stance on detainees in light of Obama announcement to close Guantánamo, cites fears of “hysterical anti-American reaction”

From communications with the Embassy on January 22, 2009

The President’s announced intention to close Guantanamo provided the incentive Ireland needed to re-consider whether it would accept detainees and created the cover Ireland required to defuse any “hysterical anti-American reaction” caused by the appearance of detainees in Ireland.

Opposes resettlement of Palestinian Guantánamo detainees

From meeting held February 9, 2009 with Ambassador Clint Williamson

Palestinian detainees might link up with other radical Palestinians in Ireland to plot terrorist attacks in third countries. (Note: He flatly refused to consider taking Palestinians. End note.)

Fears families of resettled detainees might become radicalised.

From a meeting held February 9, 2009 with Ambassador Clint Williamson

[Aylward argued that] the cost of social services and resettlement programs for detainees would be high. In addition, the detainees would likely be followed by family members, who would create additional welfare and resettlement costs — and could themselves become radicalized.

Fears ‘leftist’ and ‘anti-American’ reaction in Ireland to resettlement

From meeting held February 9, 2009 with Ambassador Clint Williamson

it was possible that leftist and anti-American elements in Ireland would publicly display the detainees as examples of American aggression in order to drum up anti-American sentiment, though Aylward acknowledged that much of the Ireland’s “anti-American” sentiment had been “anti-Bush administration” sentiment, which has now dissipated.

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