FG calls for Ireland to end neutrality 'sham'

Fine Gael said today Ireland should move away from its traditional stance on neutrality.

Fine Gael said today Ireland should move away from its traditional stance on neutrality.

The party called for a protocol to be inserted into the next European constitution that would allow Ireland to participate in military operations on a case-by-case basis.

Speaking on the publication of the party's updated policy document Beyond Neutrality, Fine Gael leader Enda Kenny agreed that the move goes much further than the party ever has before in questioning Ireland's neutral stance on military matters.

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"Like it or not, Ireland is no longer neutral and this is crunch time"
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Fine Gael leader, Enda Kenny

"Like it or not, Ireland is no longer neutral and this is crunch time," he said.

He said the creation of a common security and defence policy was "the next logical step" in the development of the European Union, particularly when terrorism is now clearly a global threat.

"Currently, no European state has either the financial or the military resources to respond to this terror threat alone. Therefore our common security is in collective and cohesive action," Mr Kenny said."There is no logical reason as to why terror groups wishing to target American interests overseas would not strike here. If they did, the question would be to where and to whom would we turn for defence and protection?

"A common European defence would see protection by members of a trusted community of which we have long been an essential part".He added that the government's "contorted" stance on Iraq saw us sign up to "a posse that emasculated the most successful arbiter of law and order in over 50 years, namely the United Nations".

Fine Gael's spokesman on Foreign Affairs, Mr Gay Mitchell, said he believed the first role of the State is to provide for the defence and security of its people and that the time was now right to re-examine Ireland's stance.

"It is wrong for us to ignore the issue and it is wrong for us to keep our heads down," he said. He said Ireland should be involved at an early stage in managing developments rather than reacting to them and the time for action was now, during the preparatory phase of the next EU treaty.

Describing Irish neutrality as a "sham", Mr Mitchell said the Constitution now clearly had a prohibition on joining a defence position in Europe and agreed that Fine Gael's policy would require a referendum. "This would be a sea-change, it would be a very significant change," he said.