Oireachtas Joint and Select Committees
Thursday, 3 November 2016
Joint Oireachtas Committee on Foreign Affairs and Trade, and Defence
Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade Statement of Strategy: Motion
The second item is a motion submitted by Senator Mark Daly that the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade's statement of strategy 2015 to 2017 would include Ireland's position of neutrality as a strong core value of the State and of the Irish people. Does the Senator wish to make a statement?
I am proposing: "That the Department of Foreign and Trade's Statement of Strategy 2015-2017 will include Ireland's position of neutrality as a strong core value of the State and of the Irish people." This relates to the statement of strategy, which members will have gone through. It makes no reference to Ireland's position of neutrality. I got a reply from the Department before I thought of putting down a motion and I wanted to see its view on it. The reply makes absolutely no sense and it does not give a reason for neutrality not being mentioned. For the record, it states:
I wish to acknowledge receipt of your submission on our forthcoming statement of strategy. As you know, the statement of strategy is not solely a policy document but an articulation of how we intend to implement our Programme for Partnership Government commitments. The Global Island, which influences the statement of strategy and is referenced as a key guide, does of course have a reference to the relevant legislation.
Sir Humphrey would be agog. That is straight out of the top drawer when it comes to a reply on why neutrality is not mentioned in our entire statement of strategy. I am asking for the support of members for the line to be included that it is a strong core value of the State and the Irish people.
I agree with my colleague and I second his proposal. At issue is a statement of strategy, and a core part of the Irish position has been a clear statement of the country's neutrality. I realise this came up during the defence part of the meeting earlier but it is important that it is restated. I do not understand why the word is not even included in the strategy statement. It makes no sense for it not to be included, and the committee could have a role in proposing that it be included. The suggestion Senator Daly has put forward is entirely reasonable and it will leave no doubt around the issue.
I think the proposal is entirely reasonable. The Green Paper on Defence wrongly states that Ireland's traditional policy of military neutrality has its origins in the country's declared neutrality during the Second World War. Many of us from a republican tradition argue that the Irish impulse to neutrality far predates that. We maintain it goes back to the time of Wolfe Tone. He produced a pamphlet on Britain and Spain in 1790. Our neutrality has been very much part of that tradition.
My party is rather critical of the response of the State in respect of neutrality issues. We should recommend forcefully to the Department that it should include this reference. There has been an attempt in recent years to try to undermine Irish neutrality. Clearly, the fact that it has been left out of a policy statement from the Department sends a signal that this is not central to the policy of the State. I agree wholeheartedly with the proposal.
It makes sense to include it. I am looking at the strategy to see where it could best be inserted. That is a consideration. Obviously, it is a matter for the Department of Defence. There is a reference under the values part of the strategy to a secure world and a stable and secure rules-based international environment. Specific reference is made to cross-departmental work, defence and the Defence Forces. Perhaps it is not for us to say where the reference should be placed in the document, but that seems to me to be a sensible place to include it.