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Sinn Féin opposes sending Irish troops to Golan Heights- Crowe and MacLochlainn

18 July, 2013 - by Seán Crowe TD, Pádraig Mac Lochlainn

Sinn Féin’s spokespersons on Foreign Affairs, Seán Crowe TD, and Defence, Pádraig MacLochlainn, have stated that the party opposes the government’s plan to send Irish Defence Force soldiers to the Golan Heights.
The government's proposal would see up to 150 Irish troops being sent to serve on the UNDOF (United Nations Disengagement Observer Force) mission in the Golan Heights. Although they would serve on an UN mission, Sinn Féin opposes the move because the EU recently lifted its arms embargo on Syria, and this has effectively robbed Irish troops of their neutrality in a Syrian conflict that has already seen foreign peacekeepers come under fire and some even held hostage.
Deputy Seán Crowe said:
“Sinn Féin is committed to positive Irish neutrality and independent foreign policy. We believe Ireland should actively work to promote conflict resolution, peaceful democratic settlements and self-determination throughout the world.
“This state’s history of serving in UN Blue Helmet peace-keeping missions is a matter of pride and enhances our standing as a neutral state.
“However sending troops to the UNDOF mission is not a simple or straightforward decision.
“The government has been asked to send troops to the UNDOF mission to help fill a short fall in troops caused by the Austrian government’s decision to withdraw their troops due to safety concerns over the deteriorating security situation due to the on-going war in Syria and because the EU failed to renew its weapons embargo on Syria in May.
“We share the concerns of the Austrian government.
“The lifting of the EU arms embargo has robbed Irish troops of their neutrality in a Syrian conflict that has already seen foreign peacekeepers come under fire and some even held hostage. In essence the EU’s decision, led by Britain and France, means the impartiality of the peace mission is no longer maintained.
“Although no EU state has formally sent weapons to the rebel groups in Syria, they could conceivably do so while Irish troops are there and this would seriously threaten the lives of our defence force personnel.
“If the EU renewed its arms embargo Sinn Féin would support this deployment of troops to the UNDOF mission, but unfortunately that is not the case and therefore we are against this deployment.”
Deputy Pádraig MacLochlainn said:
“For Sinn Féin the safety of Irish Defence Force troops is the most important thing in this context. We fear they will come under intense risk due to the failure of the EU to maintain a neutral stance in the Syrian war.
“Sinn Féin whole heartily supports the government’s humanitarian support to the vulnerable and impoverished Syrian population and refugees, and we would support government initiatives to increase the humanitarian aid and support this state is supplying.
“We continue to believe that the all sides in the Syrian conflict need to immediately begin a negotiated cessation of violence and to enter into inclusive peace talks.
“Although Sinn Féin is against this deployment, the government got Dáil approval today, so we will use all opportunities to ensure that the government provides all the resources and support needed to carry out their mission safely.”

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