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Ó Caoláin welcomes Cluster Munitions Bill 2008

9 April, 2008

Sinn Féin Dáil Leader Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin has welcomed the publication of the Cluster Munitions Bill 2008 and called on TDs from all sides of the house to support its passage through the Oireachtas. Deputy Ó Caoláin said if the Bill is enacted US military flights passing through Shannon would need to be inspected for cluster munitions.

Speaking in the Dáil during Private Members' Business this evening Deputy Ó Caoláin said, "Sinn Féin welcomes the Cluster Munitions Bill 2008 published by Fine Gael.

"Foreign Minister Dermot Ahern has personally witnessed at first hand the devastation caused by cluster munitions in Lebanon following Israel's invasion of the country in 2006. He also witnessed the role played by Irish troops in helping to clear what some reports indicate are the over one million cluster bomblets left unexploded throughout Lebanon.

"Unexploded cluster munitions are also to be found in the former Yugoslavia, all over Iraq and Afghanistan. The lengthy period of time these unexploded bomblets might lie on the ground for unwary civilians to stumble across them is one of the most appalling attributes of this weapon.

"If this Bill is enacted it is my understanding that it would be illegal for cluster munitions to be transported through Irish territory, seas or our airspace.

"If this is the case this underlines again the need for a regime of inspections to be put in place around flights going through Shannon. Similarly, I would argue that if this Bill was enacted the Government would be obliged to take proactive steps to ensure that cluster munitions were not being transported through Ireland.

"I would also suggest that the enactment of this Bill might have implications for Irish troops serving abroad as part of the EU Battle Groups.

"The French military used cluster bombs in Iraq and Kuwait in 1991 and notably in Chad in 1986. The French government does not support the Oslo Process for an outright ban on the use of these weapons. Instead the French argue that the weapons can be made more effective by being made less harmful to civilians, a position they share with Britain.

"If Irish troops were deployed abroad as part of an EU Battle Group, which included French or British forces, is it not possible that the armed forces of either of those countries might deploy with cluster munitions as part of their arsenal?

"It is therefore theoretically possible that Irish troops could end up facilitating the transport, supply or storage of these weapons for the armed forces of other countries while on active service abroad. In such cases, what would be the legal position of Irish troops?" ENDS

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