Oireachtas Joint and Select Committees
Wednesday, 6 December 2017
Select Committee on Foreign Affairs and Trade, and Defence
Permanent Structured Cooperation: Motion
He said it was joining pending approval by the parliament.
The Minister of State keeps referring to the provisions of the Lisbon treaty. That allows us, as I understand, to join whenever we want. I have been looking to find where it says we must join by a certain date or we will be locked out but I found nothing. One of the real concerns today is that this is being rushed. The public has no knowledge of what is going on. This is not an insignificant issue in respect of our strategy as a country or our relationship with the European Union, and we are rushing it through with one committee meeting now and a Dáil vote tomorrow. I would like to invite the head of the armed forces here to hear his views on what benefits this would bring. I would like to invite the Peace and Neutrality Alliance, PANA, to explain its concerns. If, as the Minister of State says, this has been in train since June I do not agree that he had to wait until he had the final document. We should have discussed this in detail in committee so that the advantages and disadvantages could be set out. It is disgraceful that is not happening.
This is very serious because our armed forces have brought so much to the European Union. They have been a shining light of participation in international affairs and that has been good for the country. The strength of their contribution is added to by the fact that we have been taking a neutral position. However, we are exceeding our neutrality with this decision. The Minister of State is shaking his head, and maybe we are not doing so fully but it is a step towards integration and, as Deputy Boyd Barrett says, the wording of the documents could not be clearer in that they refer to raising expenditure, binding commitments, co-ordinating with NATO, affecting the political framework in looking to streamline political decision making and the delivery of a ull-spectrum force package. It is a strong step towards enhanced security co-operation and joint mission, as well as investment in armaments and research and development. All the documents say that but when we put the questions here the Minister of State says it is all concerned with peacekeeping and the United Nations. It is not, it is a case of complementing NATO and building a European armaments industry to compete with the Americans.
I am not too sure that will bring security to the world, in fact I am convinced it will not. What would bring security to the world are some of the skills our Army has built up over the years in different approaches to peacekeeping, not relying on drone and satellite technology, which we funded last week, to zap people from distance, or having a wealthy developed bloc imposing military control through investment in technology and armaments. That is what I see when I read all this.
It is strategically a mistake. At our entry into the European Union we were under pressure to abandon our neutrality and join NATO. However, at the last minute we did not have to do that and we were still able to join. We have benefited from that and so has Europe.
I was involved briefly in the Chad mission, which was an example of how our armed forces do a fantastic job in overseas missions. There were difficulties in respect of interoperability, we had to get helicopters from the Ukraine but they did a brilliant job. When I went to the headquarters of the mission, where 32 countries were involved, they all said it was great the Irish were leading the mission because we did not bring what the French bring. I mean no disrespect to the French but they bring a colonialist militarist tradition and the effect of how it is seen and typically operates is unavoidable. We do not come from that tradition and Europe benefits from us, as it does from the involvement of Denmark. I do not see the Danish military services collapsing or not being properly funded. We could have taken the same route as Denmark and really provided for our military while maintaining independence because that gives more security to everyone, by having voices outside this strongly enhanced co-operation, which calls for ramping up spending and capability and integrating into NATO. This is the wrong strategic call and we are making it in the week before Christmas with minimal debate and no public discussion. That is a terrible mistake.