Irish troops to Liberia is positive neutrality in action under the UN
November 12, 2003
Speaking during a debate on the deployment of Irish troops to Liberia Sinn Féin spokesperson on International Affairs and Defence, Aengus Ó Snodaigh, said the motion to send the troops was "in keeping with Sinn Féin's commitment to positive neutrality in action". He also called for the UN to be reformed and strengthened. Deputy Ó Snodaigh said:
"The Government originally planned to take this motion without debate. I am glad they have since recognised that any decision to deploy Irish troops in the service of international peace deserves proper time for both debate and solemn reflection in the House. We have the duty not to take such decisions lightly and not to play toy soldiers with the lives of our citizens.
"I welcomed the establishment in September of the UN Peacekeeping Mission in Liberia. I understand that its role is to monitor compliance with the Accra Peace Accord signed by Liberian Government, Movement for Democracy in Liberia and Liberians United for Reconciliation and Democracy in August of this year, and to support the Liberian Peace Process which has the potential to end more than 15 years of continuous conflict in Liberia and contribute positively to stabilisation of the region.
"In Liberia the Irish Defence Forces will be serving as UN troops with olleagues from Nigeria, Kenya and Bangladesh, and under West African command. Since UNMIL was deployed on October 1 good progress has been made. It has already succeeded in establishing a National Transitional Government and the disarmament process has also begun: the capital Monrovia is now a weapons-free zone. This initial progress is welcome, and I hope it will continue apace. "In keeping with Sinn Féin's commitment to positive neutrality in action, Sinn Féin supports this motion and Irish participation in the UN-led force UNMIL. We take this position having full regard to the available facts and to the potential dangers to the people who will make up the Irish contingent. On behalf of my party I would express our appreciation to the men and women who will be representing Ireland by serving in Liberia. It is a worthwhile endeavour in which they have the full support of the Irish people. It is intended that the troops depart for Monrovia very soon, on November 19. I wish these volunteers every success in their mission, and that each one of them will return safely home to this island.
One thing that sets this peacekeeping mission apart from many others at present and what further commends it for our support is the very fact of it being UN-led, not merely UN-mandated or UN-authorised, but UN-led. Such a mission is increasingly rare and worthy of strong support in principle. Sinn Féin would prefer to see a situation where the UN is reformed and strengthened and given the support it deserves so that so-called outsourcing of peacekeeping operations to regional military alliances such as the EU Rapid Reaction Force and NATO will end.
"Sinn Féin remains committed to this vision. We all must redouble our efforts to make the UN system work in the way it was intended, and not accept its gradual sidelining and marginalisation in favour of less inclusive and more elitist multilateral organisations such as the EU or NATO. The UN must have the capacity to play a more vigorous role - particularly in the prevention of genocide, which is really the ultimate duty of the international community acting as one. But the UN is suffering the death of a thousand cuts. The fact that the UN is so often now prevented from taking up its rightful role represents a totally unacceptable situation about which many in the international community - including the Irish Government and others in this House - have grown complacent. The progressive marginalisation of the UN has surely fed the resurgent unilateralism that so appals us in the Iraq case. Let all of us also commit to heed the call of the UN Secretary General and help lead the campaign for UN reform and capacity-building, a campaign that has been far too long in coming." ENDS