An Irish lawmaker has apologised for delivering an address to a “cult-like” Iranian dissident organisation that has been linked to terrorism.
Fine Gael TD Jennifer Carroll MacNeill addressed an online event hosted by the People’s Mujahedin of Iran on March 8 to mark International Women’s Day (IWD).
The People’s Mujahedin of Iran, or MEK (Mujahedin-e Khalq), which is committed to overthrowing Iran’s Islamic Republic, has been described as a cult by disaffected former members and was once designated as a terrorist organisation by the US and UK.
The UN’s Committee Against Torture has previously said the MEK has been “involved in terrorist activities and is therefore a less legitimate replacement for the current regime”. Ms Carroll MacNeill spoke at the event on the issue of human rights and expressed solidarity with “brave, brave Iranian women who have been actively taking part in and standing at the forefront of the anti-regime protests”.
Speaking to the Sunday Independent, Ms Carroll MacNeill said she had been asked by a constituent to speak at an online parliamentary conference to celebrate IWD.
“The event was attended by many other European parliamentarians and was in recognition of Iranian women’s fight for gender equality,” she said.
“The invitation and correspondence I received in relation to the event did not make any reference to the [MEK], nor was I ever aware or made aware of any link between the event and this organisation.
“I apologise for any link, no matter how remote, unwitting or inadvertent, to any such organisation. The invitation made no such reference and my motivation was entirely about the advancement of women’s rights on International Women’s Day in a country where women’s rights are very considerably behind where we would hope they would be.”
In her address to the conference, the Dún Laoghaire TD also referenced Foreign Affairs Minister Simon Coveney’s engagement with the Iranian government in recent months as part of Ireland’s membership of the UN Security Council. She said Mr Coveney had asked her to inform the conference that in a meeting with his Iranian counterpart Javad Zarif in Tehran in March he raised “a whole range of human rights issues, issues [that are] anathema to our foreign minister and to our Irish parliament, that there is, for example, no law on domestic violence and that the age of maturity of criminal responsibility for girls in Iran is nine, whereas it’s 15 for boys”.
Mr Coveney was last week criticised by one of his own colleagues, backbencher John Paul Phelan, for “cosying up” up to the Iranian regime having twice met with the foreign minister in recent months. Mr Phelan said Mr Coveney appeared to be “fawning” over Mr Zarif when he visited Dublin earlier this month and questioned how his Fine Gael colleague could “justify soft-soaping the Iranians in the midst of what’s going on in Palestine and Israel” and given Hamas’s stated goal of destroying the state of Israel.