Government motion will compromise navy’s humanitarian mission in the Mediterranean – Ó Snodaigh
Sinn Féin Defence Spokesperson Aengus Ó Snodaigh TD has said a Government motion that was debated in the final week of Dáil business would completely alter the Irish navy’s role in the Mediterranean.The Dublin South Central TD was commenting on a motion that would commit the Permanent Defence Forces to participate in 'Operation Sophia' which has the stated objective of targeting gangs and vessels involved in the ferrying of refugees from war torn Libya.Teachta Ó Snodaigh said;
“Operation Pontus is the name under which Irish naval missions in the Mediterranean currently operate as part of a bilateral arrangement with the Italian Government.
"They are purely humanitarian search and rescue operations that over the past two years have seen Irish Navy personnel rescuing almost 16,000 people in the southern Mediterranean.
“The Government’s motion will deploy the Irish Navy to serve in a UN mandated mission – Operation Sophia - that in reality is a EU military operation carried out under the guise of the European Commission's Common Security and Defence Policy.
“It will significantly alter the role of the Irish Naval Service in the Mediterranean to that of a more offensive operation that may possibly mean intercepting and arresting people traffickers and militias and destroying their boats.
“The Government has rushed through this motion because it requires the backing of the Dáil under the terms of the Triple Lock Agreement that has to be triggered when, with the exception of UN mandated missions, the Irish military are deployed on overseas operations.
“Sinn Féin’s view is that Operation Sophia is a military response that will only worsen the humanitarian crisis in that war torn region.
“It involves training the Libyan coastguard that has been found abusing many of the people it catches on boats by threatening their safety and it will assist them in their efforts to forcibly return fleeing refugees to so-called ‘migrant detention centres’.
“It is not surprising that this proposal has the support of Fianna Fail and Fine Gael, the two parties primarily responsible for eroding Irish neutrality. Operation Sophia is yet another breach of Irish neutrality, as it sanctions the deployment of our Naval Service to participate in an offensive military alliance.
“Sinn Féin believes that Ireland’s foreign policy should be based on active neutrality meaning our naval services must be allowed to continue its humanitarian mission unhindered.
“We have been unequivocal in our support for the Irish Navy and have lauded the very important role they are playing in rescuing rescue migrants from the Mediterranean.
"Our fear is that by participating in Operation Sophia the role of the Navy may be jeopardised and degenerate into military confrontations with potentially disastrous consequences."