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Mary Lou McDonald challenges Irish Government over erosion of Irish neutrality

2 May, 2006

Sinn Féin National Chairperson and MEP for Dublin Mary Lou McDonald has this morning challenged the Irish Government to rethink its decision to deploy Irish troops as part of the EU's Battle Groups.

Ms McDonald made her comments after it emerged that Irish Defence Minister Willie O'Dea is to seek cabinet approval to allow Irish troops to participate in EU Battle Groups before the summer recess.

Speaking today Ms McDonald said:

"A Government decision to allow for Irish troops to participate in EU Battle Groups would effectively sound the death knell for the principle of Irish neutrality. Over the years this current government has consistently chipped away at that concept through the use of our airspace and Shannon Airport by those actively involved in occupying Iraq.

"EU Battle Groups will allow the European Union to deploy troop platoons in conflict zones around the world. The government tells us that participation in the EU Battle Groups will strengthen UN peacekeeping powers. However, 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. Minister O' Dea must surely be aware of this.

"I want to take this opportunity to call upon the Government to think again before committing itself to this endeavour. In spite of all the denials it is clear that an EU Army is evolving slowly yet steadily and Sinn Féin has consistently warned of this. In 2001, Romano Prodi, the former European Commission President stated that he wanted to "build something that can aspire to be a world power".

"From participation in the EU Rapid Reaction Force to NATO's Partnership for Peace, and now the EU Battle Groups, Ireland has clearly become associated with the concept of a fledgling EU army and military intervention, as well as committing ever increasing amounts of money on acquiring weapons of war."ENDS

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