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Irish troops to Liberia is positive neutrality in action under the UN

12 November, 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

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