Battlegroup plans make mockery of neutrality - SF


Plans to bring proposals to Cabinet clearing the way for Irish participation in EU battlegroups are "making a mockery of the principle of neutrality", Sinn Féin claimed today.

A spokesman for Defence Minister Willie O'Dea's confirmed to ireland.comthat the minister is hoping to table proposals soon after an interdepartmental working group looking at ways Irish forces could join EU rapid reaction forces reports back.

The group is looking at ways of reconciling Ireland's neutrality, with participation with other forces.

The EU battlegoups are top be deployed as a rapid reaction force in an unstable region until a more long-term force could be deployed by the UN. But Irish particpation would be impossible under current on a number of gounds including policy, law and operational issues.

Under current legislation, it would be unconstitutional for a foreign force under its own command to train in this country with Irish forces as part of a battlegroup.

Another legislative hinderance is the "triple-lock mechanism" where any deployment abroad of Irish troops requires the approval of the UN, the Government and Oirerachtas.

It is expected the Minister will recommend to Cabinet the retention of this principle.

Reacting to the news of the Minister's proposals, Sinn Féin MEP Mary Lou McDonald said: "It will be interesting to see how Minister O'Dea squares the circle of Irish neutrality on the one hand and Irish participation in EU battle groups on the other.

"In January of this year he was telling us that due to legal and constitutional difficulties we would not proceed with such a venture. What has changed? I am calling upon the Government to state whether or not it has any plans to alter the constitution to allow for such a radical departure, " she added.

"If the Government allow for Irish participation in this regional force then there are surely serious implications for Irish neutrality. Taken with the use of Shannon Airport by the American military, it is clear that the Irish Government is making a mockery of the concept of neutrality," said Ms MacDonald.