Dáil debates

Thursday, 2 June 2005

Priority Questions.

Common Foreign and Security Policy.

3:00 pm

Photo of Finian McGrathFinian McGrath (Dublin North Central, Independent)
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Question 3: To ask the Minister for Foreign Affairs if Ireland will pursue a neutrality and independent foreign policy position and not join or form an association with any military alliance such as WEU and NATO; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [18781/05]

Photo of Noel TreacyNoel Treacy (Minister of State, Department of Foreign Affairs; Minister of State, Department of An Taoiseach; Galway East, Fianna Fail)
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Ireland's traditional policy of military neutrality, as followed by successive Governments, is fully respected and protected. The central and defining characteristics of policy in this area are our non-participation in military alliances and our commitment to the United Nations as the guarantor of international peace and security. Ireland's approach, embodied by this non-membership of military alliances, such as NATO or the WEU, continues to remain viable in the current security environment where the emerging defence and security challenges have moved away from traditional defence towards crisis management and dealing with threats from international terrorism.

Successive Governments have made a political commitment not to join a military alliance without consulting the people first. This commitment was given concrete form in October 2002 when, at the same time as giving their approval for the Treaty of Nice, the Irish people backed a Government proposal to amend the Constitution so as to make it impossible for Ireland to take part in an EU defence without obtaining public approval in a further referendum. This constitutional ban on Ireland's participation in a common defence is carried over in the amendment published by the Government last week on ratification of the European constitution.

The provisions of the European constitution in the security and defence area are fully consistent with Ireland's traditional policy of military neutrality. We will not assume any binding mutual defence commitment. Where the European constitution provides for mutual assistance, Ireland will determine its own response in conformity with our traditional approach of military neutrality.

The Government also takes the view that military neutrality on its own is not enough to maintain conditions of peace and security internationally and that it is also desirable to play an active and constructive role internationally. Through the United Nations, and now through regional organisations such as the European Union, Ireland has sought to play a proactive role in preventing and managing conflicts and maintaining peace throughout the world.

The Government will continue to uphold Ireland's traditional policy of military neutrality. Ireland will not join a military alliance, but will remain fully and actively engaged in the pursuit of international peace and security, both through the United Nations and the European Union.

Photo of Finian McGrathFinian McGrath (Dublin North Central, Independent)
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With regard to militarisation, is the Minister of State aware that the majority of our citizens are totally opposed to the idea of a European superstate that could become more centralised and more militarised? What is the Minister of State's response to the recent remarks of EU Ambassador to the United States, John Bruton, that the EU constitution would help the European Union become a more effective partner of the United States? What did Mr. Bruton mean by this? Does the Minister of State agree that Ireland should pursue its security concerns within the OSCE and the reformed United Nations rather than through the European Union as he stated?

Should Ireland seek to promote European and international security through a policy of disarmament and demilitarisation and therefore oppose the militarisation of the European Union? I urge the Minister of State to refuse to co-operate with or condone policies or military groupings that maintain nuclear weapons. Does he not see a contradiction in complaining regularly in this House about Sellafield and how dangerous it is for Ireland while at the same time getting closer to nuclear powers in the European Union? Does he agree that many citizens feel we are moving in that direction and that the Government is basically joining this group by stealth?

The debate on the European constitution could fall or stand on this issue. The people want to play a part in the United Nations, but not in any other alliances. Will the Minister of State accept that there is widespread concern among many of our citizens on this issue?

Photo of Noel TreacyNoel Treacy (Minister of State, Department of Foreign Affairs; Minister of State, Department of An Taoiseach; Galway East, Fianna Fail)
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There is no reason for this widespread concern as there is no proposal to have a military superstate in the European Union. With regard to the nuclear situation, we are no closer to any nuclear power in Europe today than we were in 1972 when our people ratified our membership of the European Union, which included the EURATOM Treaty. That treaty has not been amended since. It is part of the European constitution, it has been in existence since the 1950s and still stands without change.

It is alarming to talk about a military superpower. The Deputy referred to what ambassador John Bruton said about the European constitution. It is not for me to interpret what he said but the basic meaning is that once the European Union has ratified its constitution, it will be in a better position to make a contribution to conflict resolution, reducing poverty and assisting crisis management in various parts of the world, whether in cross-border situations vis-À-vis drugs, trafficking in humans or whatever. It will balance the contribution of the United States and ensure that it is not a lone power making a contribution in this field.

As a result of the new constitution which will be ratified in due course, the European Union will be in a better position to make a more professional, focused and quicker contribution to conflict resolution and the resolution of other tragedies that have bedevilled mankind for centuries. In the past, people stood idly by and were not able to do anything, even within Europe. We have a moral and political responsibility to ensure we do not stand idly by in the future and allow innocent people be the victims of such situations.

Photo of Finian McGrathFinian McGrath (Dublin North Central, Independent)
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This is a typical example of the attitude to people like me who question the remit of the United Nations. There is no question of us wanting to stand idly by. We want to use our resources, through the United Nations, and have radical reforms and priorities. That is the issue. We respect the United Nations and many of our people have given their lives to it. That is not sitting on the fence. One of the reasons the people do not trust the Government is that they think it is joining a military alliance or moving towards militarisation by stealth. The Government is not facing up to that.

Photo of Noel TreacyNoel Treacy (Minister of State, Department of Foreign Affairs; Minister of State, Department of An Taoiseach; Galway East, Fianna Fail)
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As I said in response to Question No. 2, Ireland's position has been absolutely clear since the Government clarified this country's position on neutrality during the campaign that preceded the second referendum on the Nice treaty. Ireland cannot become involved in any military activity without meeting the terms of the triple lock system — a request for such participation has to be received from the UN, a decision has to be made by the sovereign Government of the people of Ireland and that decision has to be ratified by the Parliament of the Republic of Ireland. That position, which is in the proposed EU constitution, is internationally respected. There is no threat to Ireland's position.