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Ó Snodaigh calls for comprehensive Neutrality Audit

1 April, 2003

Sinn Féin spokesperson on International Affairs and Defence Aengus Ó Snodaigh TD has called for a comprehensive audit of Irish neutrality since the foundation of the state. Speaking after tabling a series of probing questions on the issue to the Minister for Foreign Affairs and Minister for Defence, Deputy Ó Snodaigh said:

"Based on the evidence to date, we have concluded that this Government is pursuing a covert policy to incrementally abandon neutrality without making itself accountable to the Dáil or to the people for this decision. But the fact remains that we still don't really know exactly how far the Government has gone down the road of compromising Irish neutrality. This information has not been made available to the public in a comprehensive fashion.

"Over the past months in particular, there has been an exclusive focus on the role that Shannon has played as a pit-stop on the way to war. But judging from the Defence Minister's answer to my question about the American military's use of Casement Aerodrome Baldonnel during the recent American war on Afghanistan, and the Taoiseach's casual comments about Irish complicity in the Vietnam War, we now know that neutrality violations are neither exclusive to Shannon, nor to this war. What we need now is full public disclosure, not ad-hoc information squeezed out of a secretive Government. Sinn Féin is therefore calling for a public audit on the state of Irish neutrality.

"A neutrality audit should be comprehensive, and include the following information in respect of the use of Irish airspace, airports, and seaports since the foundation of the state: in each case of foreign military overflight or landing, or of the overflight or landing of chartered civilian aircraft carrying troops, munitions, or supplies of a foreign military, or of foreign naval navigation of territorial waters or docking, the country afforded the privilege;

the Irish facility used; the specific date/s; the specific purpose;

the number of personnel on board; the number and type of armaments on board;

the duration of stay, if applicable; whether overflight, landing, or other charges were levied, and, if not, the cost to the Exchequer;

if related to a 'training exercise' what number and rank of Irish military personnel were involved, and

whether the exercise was under the auspices of NATO, the Partnership for Peace, the EU Rapid Reaction Force, or some other military configuration; whether notice was given to the Government;

whether it was on request, on the basis of invitation by the Government, or whether it was an emergency;

whether the Minister was advised and aware in advance;

whether prior Ministerial authorisation was given;

whether the flight or ship was inspected by Irish authorities for breaches of the Defence Acts, Air Navigation and Transport Act, or other applicable Acts or Orders;

whether civil aviation or harbour authorities were made aware of the overflight, landing, traversing, or docking before, during, or after it took place; the path approaching and leaving Irish airspace or territorial waters and the departure base and destination base.

"The Irish public need this disclosure to come to a fully informed conclusion as to the status of Irish neutrality ? whether it ever existed in fact or was a fiction all along, and the extent of successive governments' violation of or adherence to this policy. The demand for this information is there, the Irish people have a right to know, and the Government must respond." ENDS

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