`Fudging' of neutrality criticised


FIANNA Fail, the Green Party and a number of campaigning groups have strongly criticised the suggestion that Ireland may sign up for Nato's Partnership for Peace and participate in the Western European Union's so called Petersberg tasks.

Fianna Fail's foreign affairs spokesman, Mr Ray Burke, said that the issue of neutrality had been fudged. Both the WEU and PFP "have a nuclear capability which is anathema to Irish people", he said. Yet "the clear unstated inclination of the Government is to join the Nato linked PFP and WFU".

The Green Party MEP, Ms Patricia McKenna, accused the White Paper's authors of being "deceitful" and said the Government was "trying to weasel out of its commitment to hold a referendum on neutrality". The proposed involvement in PFP and WEU would compromise neutrality, yet no referendum was planned, she said.

She said that states participating in Partnership for Peace were not dedicated solely to peacekeeping. They were "allies of a military bloc which remains committed to nuclear deterrence in spite of the end of the Cold War and whose members are prepared to wage war".

She also opposed Irish involvement in peacekeeping and humanitarian missions with the Western European Union (WEU). "The Defence Forces and the Garda already have an honourable record of peacekeeping with the UN. Why can't this reputation be built on under the auspices of the UN, instead of getting into a closer relationship with Nato and the WEU?"

She also accused the Government of denying adequate debate on foreign policy, as the EU's Inter Governmental Conference opens next week.

"There is going to be no time to debate the implications of the White Paper in the thorough way that is required. The Government is bulldozing through its efforts to abandon neutrality, cheating the public of any genuine consultation or referendum on key issues of foreign policy," she said.

The Irish Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament accused the Government of pursuing a policy of "involvement by stealth in the nuclear weapons based armed forces of the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation (Nato). The proposed involvement in Nato's so called Partnership for Peace is designed to wean Ireland away from its traditional UN duties and towards eventual full integration into a nuclear army and the complete ending of our neutral status."

The Peace and Neutrality Alliance also claimed that signing up for PFP or the WEU's Petersberg tasks would mean "signing away our neutrality and our international reputation as UN peacekeepers." It said that PFP was "a mechanism for bringing new members into Nato and has an agenda far wider than that of peacekeeping".

The organisation said that in the coming years the neutral states would "be constantly compromised and edged into a common EU defence structure, complete with intervention forces and backed by the nuclear deterrent."