TD to address conference set up by terror group

A Fine Gael TD will speak at a conference in Paris on Saturday organised by an Iranian opposition group still classified as a terrorist organisation by the US.

Cork North Central TD Dara Murphy will speak about the Northern Ireland peace process at the conference of the Mujahedeen-e-Khalq.

Also known as the People’s Mujahedin of Iran, the group is committed to the overthrow of the Iranian theocratic regime.

It says it is now focused on solely peaceful means of opposition, and has an array of prominent political supporters, including former New York mayor Rudolph Giuliani.

The group is seeking to be removed from the US state department’s list of foreign terrorist organisations but concerns remain about its violent past.

It was placed on the terrorist list in 1997 because of its involvement in a guerrilla campaign against the US-backed Shah of Iran in the 1970s and subsequent violence.

The group co-ordinated its terrorist activities in exile from bases in Iraq and one of those bases, Camp Ashraf, remains open with 1,200 people still living there.

The Iraqi government is seeking to shut the camp and the US has indicated that the group must co-operate if it wants to be removed from the terrorist list.

Mr Murphy, a member of the Oireachtas committee on foreign affairs, said two members of the group had visited Leinster House recently and issued an invitation to the conference.

The group is funding the trip and Mr Murphy said no cost would be imposed on the exchequer.

"I’m down to speak at it briefly on Saturday. I think I’m the only Irish politician speaking at it, to give I suppose just a brief enough assessment of our own struggle in Ireland — how the peaceful strategy trumped the violent struggle of other groups on the island.

"It is part of the remit of foreign affairs committees to meet groups. It doesn’t mean obviously that... we endorse them. And in saying that, I’m not saying that we wouldn’t endorse them either, but certainly I think there is merit in informing ourselves.

"When they asked me to come and speak and give our perspective, I was happy to do so, particularly because there is no expense to the exchequer in it, and we will be providing a report."

It is understood that Labour senator Lorraine Higgins will also attend the conference.

"Pat Breen, the chairman of the Oireachtas committee, is unavailable to attend it himself… and he asked that we would do a report for the foreign affairs committee and that then we would consider on the basis of the report perhaps inviting them to come and address the Oireachtas committee at a later date."

Mr Murphy said the signs appeared to be that the US would remove the group from the terrorist list in time.

"I don’t think anybody would want to engage with any group that some of our closest international friends such as the British or the Americans have strong difficulties with, and in this case, it appears that they don’t, but I suppose that’s what we’re going to try and establish."