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Government must prioritise UN-led rather than EU-led peacekeeping

12 October, 2004

Sinn Féin Spokesperson on International Affairs and Defence Aengus Ó Snodaigh TD has called on the Government to make the development of the UN's own capacity to prevent genocide a priority, describing it as the "single most urgent matter facing the international community". The Dublin South Central TD was speaking after the new Minister for Defence Willie O'Dea confirmed in response to his Priority Question in the Dáil today that the Government had not yet made their decision on whether Ireland will commit forces to the proposed new EU battle groups.

Deputy Ó Snodaigh said, "Let me state clearly that Sinn Féin believes that the UN should and must develop on an urgent basis the capacity for genocide prevention. It is the single most urgent matter facing the international community today.

"I understand that UN Secretary General Kofi Annan is a pragmatist. He wants to prevent genocide and he has been backed up against a wall. The UN has been systematically starved of resources for decades. And the EU, who are in a position to change this, have instead selfishly focused on developing the capacity of their burgeoning military alliance. Even Ireland, an avowed supporter of UN peacekeeping, has decided that it will only make one pool of 850 troops available for deployment on peacekeeping duties. As the Minister confirmed to me today, if the UN calls on us to join UN-led missions when these troops are already committed to EU-led missions, tough luck. We will not send more. We will not redeploy them. And we will not commit to prioritising UN-led missions over EU-led missions, according to the Minister.

"This situation is what has forced the UN Secretary General to favourably consider contracting out peacekeeping operations to regional military alliances such as the EU Rapid Reaction Force. It is a shame. But it was not inevitable. It is the product of policy choices by the governments concerned.

"The deliberate shift in focus from the UN to the EU in which the Irish Government is participating is ultimately not constructive. The Brahimi Report on Peacekeeping Operations found that the development of regional peacekeeping capacity has been a significant factor contributing to the UN's difficulties. So while outsourcing missions to the EU rapid deployment battle groups may appear to be a short-term solution, it will ultimately only further exacerbate the decline in the UN's in-house peacekeeping capacity. It may also risk the longer-term consequence of UN peacekeeping itself being perceived as redundant, which would be a very bad outcome indeed. I urge the Government to consider these points very carefully when making its decision.

"Given that the Government has always professed UN primacy as a central tenet of its foreign policy I have urged the new Minister for Defence to deliver need a clear and unequivocal statement from the Government that he will at the very least clearly prioritise deployment of Irish Defence Forces on UN-led operations and not with regional military alliances such as the EU Rapid Reaction Force." ENDS

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