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Sinn Féin MEP welcomes announcement on Irish non-participation in EU Battle Groups

10 January, 2005

Sinn Féin MEP for Dublin Mary Lou McDonald has this morning welcomed the announcement that troops from the 26 Counties will not be participating in EU battle groups for the foreseeable future. Ms McDonald said that "Sinn Féin had vehemently opposed the formation of EU battle groups, which served the purpose of Europe's military and economic elites and sidelined the United Nations in leading peacekeeping duties".

The Minister for Defence, Willie O'Dea made the announcement, citing legal and constitutional difficulties. It is understood that the battle groups would have been expected to go into action on notice of between five and 10 days. The state requires that a UN Security Council Resolution is required before it can take part in overseas military missions, and UN resolutions normally take longer to be decided upon.

Speaking from Strasbourg Ms McDonald said:

"I welcome the fact that troops from the 26 Counties will not be taking part in any EU battle groups in the short term. Sinn Féin has consistently cautioned against the deployment of EU battle groups, which we believe serve the purpose of Europe‚s military and economic elites and seek to sideline the United Nations ability to lead peacekeeping missions.

"Let me be clear, the deliberate shift in focus from the UN to the EU is both dangerous and destructive. The EU's clamour to become a regional military power has in turn led to a weakening of the UN's ability to respond to international crises effectively.

"I recognise that this decision was taken because of constitutional requirements, rather than any political decision, and therefore I am calling upon Minister O'Dea to state publicly that troops from the 26 Counties will not be deployed to EU battle groups in the longer term. I am also calling upon the government to state whether or not it has any plans to alter the constitution to allow for participation in the battle groups.

"What is required is a refocusing on the United Nations, to provide it with the resources and political support it requires to undertake peacekeeping tasks including rapid deployment and ensure it is not vying with regional alliances attempting to duplicate its work." ENDS

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