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O'Dea U-turn an affront to neutrality - Mary Lou McDonald

15 August, 2005

Sinn Féin National Chairperson Mary Lou McDonald MEP has today accused Defence Minister Willie O'Dea of 'making a mockery of the principle of neutrality'.

Ms McDonald made her comments after it emerged that the Minister will bring proposals to the Cabinet allowing Irish troops to serve in 'EU Battle Groups' which could be deployed throughout the world. It is understood that they could go into battle on notice of between five and 10 days.

Speaking today Ms McDonald said:

"It will be interesting to see how Minister O'Dea squares the circle of Irish neutrality on the one hand and Irish participation in EU Battle Groups on the other. In January of this year he was telling us that due to legal and constitutional difficulties we would not proceed with such a venture. What has changed? I am calling upon the government to state whether or not it has any plans to alter the constitution to allow for such a radical departure. Minister O'Dea must also tell us what has brought him to this decision when just over six months ago he was telling us that it would not be possible.

"Minister O' Dea's desire for Irish participation in EU Battle Groups is founded upon a false premise. Whilst the Government are at pains to point out that participation will strengthen UN peacekeeping powers, in reality the opposite will be the case. 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, and Minister O' Dea must surely be aware of this.

"If the Government allow for Irish participation in this regional force then there are surely serious implications for Irish neutrality. Taken with the use of Shannon Airport by the American military, it is clear that the Irish Government is making a mockery of the concept of neutrality". ENDS

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