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Sinn Féin rejects FG anti-neutrality Bill

10 March, 2004

Rejecting Fine Gael's neutrality Bill that sought to involve Ireland more deeply in the EU's evolving role as a military superpower, Aengus Ó Snodaigh TD, said that the "EU does not have any valid role in international security." The UN is the "only legitimate body to control and direct international peacekeeping efforts and to enforce international law," he said. Deputy Ó Snodaigh went on to describe Fine Gael's arguments, which he said were based on a number of fallacies, as "pathetic and laughable".

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Sinn Féin's support for a constitutional underpinning for military neutrality and our policy of Positive Neutrality in Action are well known. Indeed, almost exactly one year ago we introduced a Bill in this House that would have brought this issue to the people in a referendum, and I want to again thank those parties and Independent deputies who supported the Sinn Fein proposal. It will therefore come as no surprise that Sinn Féin opposes this Fine Gael Bill, which seeks to involve Ireland even more deeply in the EU's evolving role as a military superpower and as a militarised alliance acting as a NATO surrogate, with the result of further undermining the beleaguered United Nations.

The EU does not have any valid role in international security. The United Nations, as the only fully-inclusive multilateral forum, is the only legitimate body to control and direct international peacekeeping efforts and to enforce international law. The fact that the UN currently lacks the capacity to fulfil this role effectively is not in dispute, and indeed is the very reason why UN reform is urgent and must go to the very top of the international agenda. But this need for UN reform is not reflected anywhere in the Fine Gael Bill, nor is it a headline priority for the Irish Government, which has wasted the opportunity provided by the EU Presidency to show leadership on this issue.

The Fine Gael Bill before the House this evening cannot be supported as it is based on a number of fundamentally flawed premises. I have time to deal with only two of these. The first false premise is that building EU military capacity is supportive to the UN, and good for UN peacekeeping missions. The very opposite is true. The drive to increase the EU's military capacity and involvement in international security is actually having a very detrimental effect on the United Nations. Three years ago, well before the major push to enhance the EU's role in international security operations really began, the Report of the Panel on United Nations Peace Operations found that European developments had actually depleted UN peacekeeping capacity. Remember that the UN is an organisation that has been financially strangled and starved of billions in member state dues over the past two decades and its peacekeeping capacity has been deliberately diminished accordingly. That is the context for its recent failures. Effectively the UN has been held to political ransom and it is this that needs to be urgently addressed. In fact this Bill has the potential to do enormous damage to UN peacekeeping. Ireland is consistently one of the highest UN peacekeeping contributors. What will happen once Irish UN peacekeepers are siphoned off for EU Rapid Reaction Force missions? Far from enhancing capacity, the outsourcing of peacekeeping missions to regional military alliances could eventually spell the end of UN-led missions by making them redundant. If passed this Bill would mean that Ireland would contribute to this scenario. This is not what we want.

The second fallacy is that there is no problem with allowing a third organisation or state, or alliance of states such as the EU, to decide what is in keeping with the UN Charter, and to proceed without express UN authorisation.This is the very rationale that allowed the United States and Britain to circumvent the United Nations when they couldn't get their way on Iraq.

Which brings me to conclude with another Fine Gael fallacy and that is the pathetic, laughable notion that a deeper involvement in EU defence and lesser involvement at the UN level will somehow enhance independence in Irish foreign policy. To take but one example of EU developments that prove the opposite is true, the effect on this state's military spending decisions of the evolving EU Common Armaments Policy including the military harmonisation deadline of 2010 and the EU Security Doctrine's imperative that member states to spend more on their armies.

Finally, may I point out that this Bill imposes hidden costs to the state because it implies a greater participation in EU-led missions and a reduction in participation in UN-led missions. Because whereas UNSAS commitments are partially reimbursed to the contributing state, RRF commitments must be absorbed by the members, so this may also contribute to raising net defence costs.

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