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Defence Bill an infringement on Irish Neutrality - Ferris

4 July, 2006

Sinn Féin TD Martin Ferris has described the Defence (Amendment) Bill 2006 as “a gross infringement of the principle of Irish Neutrality.” Speaking at a Peace And Neutrality Alliance press conference in Dublin today Deputy Ferris said Sinn Féin has “serious reservations” about the legislation which is to be rushed through the Dáil today to enable the defence forces to participate in the controversial EU Battle Groups.  The Bill is to be passed at midnight tonight following less than 2 and a half hours debate by the Dail. 

Speaking at the press conference Deputy Ferris said, “Sinn Féin has serious reservations about this legislation.  In particular, we are opposed to the integration of the defence forces into the EU battle groups, the elimination of the triple-lock safeguard and the underhand manner by which the Bill is to be passed at midnight following less than 2 and a half hours debate by the Dail.  This in itself should raise alarm bells for the public. 

“Sinn Fein believes that the UN must have primacy in international affairs above all other regional groupings and organisations.  Yes, the UN itself is in need of radical reform and in particular the veto system which has been abused for example by the United States to prevent action being taken against Israel.  But if the UN is further sidelined as proposed by this Bill we will undoubtedly witness more illegal wars like that on Iraq and by virtue of this Bill the Irish defence forces could have an even more direct complicity in such wars.  This eventuality would irreparably tarnish the proud record held by the defence forces for international peacekeeping under the guise of the UN.

“The Irish people wholeheartedly support the ‘triple-lock safeguard’ of our neutrality.  This may be inferred without question from the Nice Treaty referendums.  The government are now attempting to circumvent the triple-lock with this legislation.

“The Bill also introduces a form of secondary conscription.  Up until now members of the defence forces volunteer to undertake services overseas.  The Bill would remove the voluntary nature of such service by requiring it from members under orders.  

“Not only does the proposed legislation imply a gross infringement of the principle of Irish neutrality but in addition they will weaken the United Nation's ability and capacity to respond to international crises effectively, since European troops will be diverted to these battle groups and other non-UN forces. 

“Sinn Féin have tabled amendments to the Bill and failing the acceptance of these we will oppose its passage tonight.” ENDS

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