De Rossa's opposition lessens chance of joining Nato sponsored body


THE chances of Ireland joining the Nato sponsored Partnership for Peace has receded following the statement by the Democratic Left leader that he is "utterly sceptical" about membership.

The recent White Paper on Foreign Policy published by the Department of Foreign Affairs committed the Government "to explore further the benefits that Ireland might derive from participation in PFP and to determine the contribution that Ireland might make to the partnership".

Mr De Rossa was applauded when he told his party conference of his strong doubts that the PFP "has anything to offer Ireland - at this juncture in history, in the context of our geography and stage of political development".

But he warned it was "not enough in the context of huge changes in world politics to retreat into De Valera 1940s style isolation". European security was on the agenda: "We should not be defensive about discussing the issue of international peace, security and co operation in that context."

There was "no inevitable conflict" between maintaining a strong commitment to neutrality while participating in the debate on a common European Union security policy which was consistent with the United Nations Charter and the principles of the Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe.

The White Paper said a decision to participate in the PFP would only be taken "in the light of consultations", particularly with the relevant committees of the Oireachtas, and it would have to be approved by the Dail and Seanad.

Senior Labour Party sources said there was general scepticism in the Government about the PFP, until "we sit down and see what kind of terms would be appropriate and whether they would be negotiable". Nobody envisaged a "blanket" commitment to the PFP.

The terms of the White Paper, particularly the international security chapter, had been discussed and agreed by the three Coalition party leaders.

The issue was also addressed at the Democratic Left conference by the Cork TD, Ms Kathleen Lynch. "In recent months voices in both the political establishment and in the media have attempted to portray the Partnership for Peace - an ill disguised offshoot of Nato - as a force for stability in European to sell the benefits which Ireland would allegedly derive from PF membership.

She said this would not be in Ireland's best interests. "I do not believe that the answer to the security question in Europe is to hand it over to an American led alliance which has not yet outgrown the mentality of the Cold, War.

"Rather, we must build on the non militaristic structures of EU foreign policy and the OSCE to create a non threatening and inclusive all European security system," Ms Lynch said.

Opposition to PFP membership was expressed also in a speech by the Fianna Fail leader, Mr Ahern. He told an audience in Oxford that it would "send the wrong signals about our future intentions".