Oireachtas Joint and Select Committees

Wednesday, 6 December 2017

Select Committee on Foreign Affairs and Trade, and Defence

Permanent Structured Cooperation: Motion

5:00 pm

Photo of Paul KehoePaul Kehoe (Wexford, Fine Gael) | Oireachtas source

The Deputy is right when he says he raised questions about PESCO in the past. This has been spoken about in the Dáil since 2016. I recall written parliamentary questions that were tabled to me on 16 December 2016. Within a month of my appointment as Minister of State in May 2016, I was asked oral parliamentary questions about Ireland's plans in respect of PESCO. I could not tell the Deputy that we were joining PESCO until we had seen the final document, which was not cleared until 7 or 8 November 2017. I attended the Council meeting of 13 November at which the final document was agreed. That document was brought to the Government on 21 November.

The Lisbon treaty is absolutely explicit in its commitments regarding what we can and cannot do. Deputy Ó Snodaigh spoke about a European army. A provision in the Lisbon treaty explicitly details that this would be a matter for the people. If the Deputy wants to change the Lisbon treaty, a referendum will be needed here. It would not be a matter for me but for the general public, to bring about such a change. As the Deputy has said, there is logic in co-operation. It makes sense. He referred to the European Defence Agency. It is important that we co-operate with other EU states.

The Deputy spoke about the spending commitments of states under PESCO. We alone will continue to decide on Ireland's defence investment and on the deployment of our Defence Forces. The PESCO notification provides that member states will remain sovereign and that commitments will be implemented fully in accordance with treaty protocols and the constitutional provisions of member states. The treaty mentions spending in that context.

I am absolutely hammered every week about further spending in our Defence Forces. I am very proud of the spending commitment we were able to make to the Irish Defence Forces during the lean years of the recession from 2011 to 2015 or 2016. We managed to give equipment and capabilities to the members of the Defence Forces. I refer, for example, to spending on ships, refurbishment of armoured personnel carriers and investment within the Air Corps. The spending commitments we have made within our Defence Forces make sense.

The Deputy spoke about the deployment of troops on a mission.

When we deploy to a mission, whether it is UN mandated, Government approved and Dáil approved, each and every Member of this House has his or her say under our triple lock policy.


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