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McDonald accepts challenge from Michael Smyth to publicly debate neutrality

21 January, 2004

Sinn Féin Dublin EU candidate Mary Lou McDonald has said that she is ready and willing to take up Defence Minister Michael Smyth's challenge to publicly debate the issue of neutrality. She described such a debate as 'long over due' and said it was time that the government came clean and told the Irish people that they no longer supported neutrality.

Ms. McDonald said:

"Sinn Féin has long warned that the EU is becoming progressively militarised, and that developments in recent years have brought us ever closer to the establishment of an EU army. Some, such as Minister Smyth, have dismissed this as exaggeration, but the provisions in the draft EU Constitution -- to which the government have now consented - confirm our prediction.

"Article 1-40(1) states that the EU shall frame a Common Defence Policy leading to a Common Defence whenever the EU so decides.

"Article 1-40(2) states that EU defence policies shall respect and be compatible with the obligations of NATO States. The special rights and duties of the militarily neutral member states are not explicitly acknowledged.

"Article 1-40(3) directs that member states improve their military capabilities and contribute forces for the implementation of the Common Security and Defence policy. It also establishes a European Armaments Agency, the basis of a European military industrial complex.

"These facts make clear that the new EU Constitution will cede most of our remaining independence in foreign policy to the EU. While this is deeply worrying it should be a shock to nobody as it has been clear for some time now that this government has been supporting such a policy move.

  • 1997 Joined NATOs Partnership for Peace without the promised referendum
  • 1998 Signed Amsterdam Treaty
  • 1999 Described the NATO bombing of Kosovo as warranted
  • 2001 Supported the Nice Treaty, which sets up a political and security committee.
  • 2002 Allowed US military to use Irish airports on their way to the Gulf
  • 2003 Actively supported the US and British war in Iraq without a UN second resolution or support of the Dáil
  • 2004 Support for a draft EU Constitution, which fundamentally undermines our neutrality.

"I want to assure Minister Smyth that Sinn Féin's position on neutrality is very clear. We oppose any abandoning of our neutrality. We want to see neutrality enshrined in the Irish Constitution and codified in legislation and an independent progressive foreign policy pursued. We demand from the EU equal recognition of the rights and duties of the neutral states and parity of esteem between the neutral states and the NATO states.

"I believe that there needs to be a fully inclusive public debate on this issue and I want to accept Minister Smyth's challenge this evening and look forward to debating this issue with him.

"It is important that this debate takes place prior to the next Council meeting in March, given indications from the Irish Presidency that they want to close on the draft EU Constitution at that stage. "ENDS

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