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Sinn Féin launches 'Positive Neutrality in Action' proposals

28 May, 2004

Sinn Féin today launched its policy document 'Positive Neutrality in Action' today. Sinn Féin President Gerry Adams was joined by Sinn Féin International Affairs Spokesperson Aengus Ó Snodaigh TD, Dublin EU candidate Mary Lou McDonald, and local Dublin candidate Killian Forde at the launch.


Sinn Féin proposes an independent and progressive Irish international relations policy that opposes military alliances and works for international co-operation

and conflict negotiation leading to democratic social change and respect for human rights, universal demilitarisation and nuclear disarmament.

Such a policy of 'Positive Neutrality in Action" would require:

  • Neutrality to be enshrined in the Irish Constitution and codified in legislation;
  • Withdrawal from the EU Rapid Reaction Force and NATO's Partnership for Peace;
  • Irish troops to train and serve abroad only under the auspices and leadership of the United Nations, and only with prior Dáil approval;
  • No use of Irish airports, airspace, seaports, or territorial waters for preparation for war or other armed conflict by foreign powers;
  • An end to Irish involvement in the arms trade and profit from war;
  • Clear recognition and legal protection through a binding Protocol of Irish neutrality in any new EU Treaty;
  • Active promotion of demilitarisation of the EU;
  • Formation of alliances with other progressive, neutral states to promote a Human Security approach to international relation;
  • Active promotion of UN primacy, UN reform and capacity-building to create a revitalised UN which is capable of fulfilling the promise of the Charter and Universal Declaration of Human Rights, and of upholding international law.

Positive neutrality should form basis of international relations policy

Speaking at the launch of a neutality policy document this morning, Mr. Gerry Adams said: "Support for Irish neutrality is a core republican value. It has never been more relevant than at this time of great volatility in international relations.

"Today we are launching our policy document 'Positive Neutrality in Action', as our contribution to the debate on the future of Irish neutrality. Despite what Fianna Fáil, Fine Gael or the PDs may think or want people to believe, neutrality is not about isolationism, or sitting idly by as a disinterested observer. Rather it is about active engagement in the global community, and the relentless pursuit of global justice through peaceful means.

"Sinn Féin does not support Irish involvement in NATO or any other standing military alliance of any kind. However, for us neutrality does not stop with non-membership of military alliances. It goes further. It means taking fuller responsibility by refusing to facilitate international conflict in any way. It means working for international cooperation and conflict negotiation, democratic social change and respect for human rights. It means working for universal demilitarisation and nuclear disarmament.

"Our policy assert Ireland's rights and responsibilities as a neutral state as outlined in the Hague Convention. By definition this precludes direct collusion with belligerents. It also involves taking the necessary steps to ensure that Human Security is achieved for all people, everywhere.

"This Government has pursued a policy of abandoning Irish neutrality.

"The so-called 'Caring Coalition' does not offer a clear alternative. Fine Gael is to abandon neutrality in favour of an EU Common Defence. While Labour, the Green Party and others supported Sinn Féin's Constitutional Neutrality Bill last year Labour also supports building an EU Common Defence.

"Sinn Féin offers a clear policy alternative. 'Positive Neutrality in Action' is about insuring that Ireland not only maintains its neutrality, but strengthens its engagement in global affairs. This reflects our broad commitment to the demilitarisation of conflict, on this island and beyond, and our view that 'Human Security' must be at the core of such a policy. 'Positive Neutrality in Action is a policy with immediate relevance for Ireland today and will be at the heart of an international relations policy for a future United Ireland."

EU should have no role in military and defence matters

Mary Lou McDonald added, "In contrast with the establishment parties in this state, we believe there is no legitimate role for the European Union in military and defence matters, which should be left to individual states. International peacekeeping and conflict resolution should happen under the auspices of the United Nations. In keeping with the commitment to Irish military neutrality, UN primacy, demilitarisation and nuclear disarmament, we believe the Irish Government should show leadership and work with others to actively oppose the evolution of an EU Common Defence. This is a key proposal in our policy of Positive Neutrality in Action.

"Successive EU treaties since the Single European Act in 1987, including the Nice Treaty, have eroded independent foreign policy to the point where our military neutrality, although seriously undermined, is virtually all we have left. The EU has become increasingly militarised since the first reference to EU military cooperation and common defence appeared in the Maastricht Treaty. In little more than a decade since 1992 the EU has established the EU Security and Defence Policy, the Rapid Reaction Force, EU military command and control structures, a military harmonization deadline of 2010, an agreement to create an EU Armaments Agency, an EU Security Doctrine that among other things dictates increased defence spending, and approval for enhanced cooperation on defence between the Big Three states.

"It is clear that the EU Treaties taken together aim to reconstruct the EU as a military and economic superpower. The draft EU Constitution accelerates this process further, particularly with the introduction of the solidarity clause at Article 40.

"The need for intervention to halt the momentum of EU militarisation has never been more urgent. Yet the Irish Government, on behalf of a supposedly neutral state, has done little if anything to oppose these developments. It has done even less to protect Irish neutrality and improve Ireland's negotiating position for a future in an EU that is even more heavily dominated by NATO states after enlargement.

"At the very least the Irish Government should demand a legally-binding neutrality protocol for Ireland. But they should also show leadership and co-ordinate with other EU neutrals in an effort to persuade the other members to drop or reduce the EU military dimension. They should promote the redirection of EU defence and peacekeeping resources towards the UN, and a reversal of the present balance between EU military and aid spending. They should join with other EU non-nuclear states to campaign to reduce the global threat of weapons of mass destruction by making the European Union a Nuclear Weapons-Free Zone. Most importantly, they should mobilise both the resources and political will of the EU 25 to ensure that UN reform and capacity-building becomes a global policy priority.

"This is the perspective that Sinn Féin will bring to the heart of Europe when elected on June 11th to the European Parliament, where we will work with all others who share our vision and our commitment." ENDS

Integrity must be restored to Irish military neutrality

Aengus Ó Snodaigh TD, the party's Spokesperson on International Affairs said, "During this Dáil, Sinn Féin was the first party to propose a motion calling for the Government to immediately withdraw overflight and landing privileges to aircraft carrying foreign troops on their way to war. Sinn Féin took a strong stance against the unjust and illegal war of aggression against Iraq, and we mobilised throughout the island in support of the anti-war movement.

"Following the massive popular opposition to the war on Iraq, including one of the largest street mobilisations in Irish history ? which emphatically demonstrated that the Irish public cares about neutrality and wants an alternative to present Irish government policy, Sinn Féin proposed a bill calling for neutrality to be enshrined in the constitution. While our Bill had support from the left in the House, the Government voted it down and in doing so showed their true intentions with respect to the future of Irish military neutrality.

"Sinn Féin will continue to show leadership on this issue. In the wake of the most recent horrific revelations about the true nature of the occupation of Iraq, we were the first party in the Dáil to propose a fresh motion calling on the Government to stop allowing Shannon to be used by US troops as a refueling base. And today we present our policy of Positive Neutrality in Action with its specific proposals on the domestic legislative and policy reforms required to restore integrity to Irish military neutrality ? which this Government has repeatedly violated since 1997.

"Since the Government's so-called 'triple lock' does not preclude other forms of assistance for war, and also allows for Defence Force deployments with non-UN forces including the Rapid Reaction Force and NATO, two immediate changes are required. We propose to close the loophole in existing legislation that allows for foreign war complicity by executive decision, and instead require Dáil approval of permission for any non-emergency or non-UN mission-related use of facilities in the state by foreign militaries. We also propose to amend the Defence Acts and defence policy to narrow the basis upon which Permanent Defence Forces can be deployed internationally to UN-led peacekeeping missions only.

"Since there is presently no clear constitutional barrier to the State joining a military alliance, we propose the Government hold a referendum to give the people the opportunity to introduce an amendment giving constitutional protection to the policy of military neutrality. We also propose withdrawal from all present commitments to proto-military alliances, the EU Rapid Reaction Force and NATO's Partnership for Peace. These actions must be complemented by a redoubling of the Irish commitment to contribute to collective action at UN level.

"In conclusion, Sinn Féin's policy of Positive Neutrality in Action goes far beyond what past or present Governments have been prepared to do. It is significantly different from what the so-called official opposition has on offer. What Sinn Féin proposes is a true policy alternative. We have translated the historic commitment to military neutrality into a concrete 21st century international relations policy reflecting the republican ethos. Our policy reflects the belief that true security is universal, and based on social justice, fully meeting human needs, and respecting human rights and human equality not on increased militarisation. If Ireland followed Sinn Féin's policy of Positive Neutrality in Action our nation could make a highly significant contribution towards the long-held global objective of international peace with justice, and towards the achievement of Human Security, to which everyone has a right."ENDS

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