Wednesday, 11 October 2006
Overseas Missions: Motion.
Finian McGrath (Dublin North Central, Independent)
I thank the Ceann Comhairle for the opportunity to speak on this important motion regarding the deployment of a contingent of the Permanent Defence Force for service with UNIFIL. I support the deployment, and I do not say that lightly. We all have family and friends in the Defence Forces and we all know the serious consequences of the proposal before the House. It is not easy but it is essential if we are to make a considerable contribution to resolving the situation in the Middle East, particularly as it relates to Lebanon and Palestine. Ireland needs to be in a position to act as an honest broker and create space for a peaceful resolution of the horrific conflict in the region.
Let us take time to remember all of those who were slaughtered during the summer. The nightmare that cost over 1,000 lives in a few weeks was a disgrace and those in Britain and America who either sat on the fence or acted as cheerleaders for the slaughter of innocent civilians should be challenged. As far as I am concerned, Bush and Blair have blood on their hands. There is no getting away from that. This is somewhat rich when Bush and Blair lecture us on violence and ways of ending the Irish conflict. Did it ever dawn on them and their colonial friends that they are also a huge part of the problem? Colonialism or imperialism, whether in the 1700s, 1800s or 2006, never works.
My loyalty in this debate is to Ireland, in the first instance, and to the United Nations. Major reforms of the United Nations are needed in order to ensure that it is owned and run by the people and not just a few major powers that have no respect for the rule of international law. Such law should be based on respect for each other and a deep sense of respect for human rights regardless of whether one lives in Chechnya, Palestine or south Armagh.
On the subject of human rights, I take this opportunity to pay tribute to the wonderful and brave journalist, Anna Politkovskaya, who was murdered in recent days in Russia by dark forces that are opposed to truth, justice and human rights. To her family and friends, I offer our deepest sympathy. Her work, like that of Pat Finucane in this country, will never be forgotten.
It is important to acknowledge the major contribution of Irish troops to United Nations missions in the past. I commend them and thank them for their dedication, service and commitment. From a political perspective, I am concerned that some politicians want to change that independence and integrity by slowly sucking us into military alliances. I reject such behaviour and stress the need for caution and wise decision-making. We should retain our independence and neutrality and we will thereby continue to enjoy the respect of the rest of the world.
I wish our troops well and ask them to act in a caring, professional and impartial manner. They must remember that not only are they representing the Irish people, they are also serving the interests of peace, justice and respect for human rights.