Irish involvement in Afghan war 'foolish'


RETIRED ARMY commandant Edward Horgan has criticised the wide media coverage given recently to the funeral of Royal Marine Robert McKibben, the Co Mayo man who was killed while serving with British forces in Afghanistan last month.

Speaking at the Peace and Neutrality Alliance (Pana) annual conference in Dublin on Saturday, he said it was "foolish" for Irish people to participate in such conflicts. He claimed media outlets which described Mr McKibben as a peacekeeper were wrong. "Clearly he wasn't peacekeeping in Afghanistan. He shouldn't have been there in the first place.

"It is foolish for Irish people to join foreign armies at a time when they are doing their fighting in places like Afghanistan," he said.

Comdt Horgan, who is Pana's international secretary, said he was deeply sympathetic with the late soldier's family. He had been worried for months when two of his own nephews were serving in Iraq, one with the US forces and the other with the British.

"While I consider them to be friends of mine, I disagree with the fact that they were both in Iraq."

About 25 people were present at the Pana conference by lunchtime on Saturday. Apart from those at the top table, four identified themselves as Pana members. There were two Republican Sinn Féin members, and one National Platform member. Pana's financial statement showed it raised €7,841 through affiliation fees in 2007/8.

Pana chairman Roger Cole said the Government was under strong pressure from the EU to hold another referendum on the Lisbon Treaty. "Even though they know it might be defeated, it looks like they will agree to hold one in 2009, so we need to be ready."

He said the No side could only win if it was supported by the peace movement in Europe and throughout the world. He claimed the Yes side would fight "the dirtiest, most vicious" campaign ever seen in Ireland.

Mr Cole said Pana would organise a conference near Shannon airport in March, inviting peace movements in cities with direct flights to Shannon to attend. He claimed The Irish Times and advocates of the Lisbon Treaty wanted "Home Rule within a centralised, militarised, neo-liberal Superstate called the European Union".

The Dutch Socialist Party's general secretary, Hans van Heijningen, said his party had adopted a strategy of regarding European Parliament elections as an opportunity for voters to express their opposition to the treaty. "Your task will clearly be to demand that whatever 'concessions' are offered to Ireland, the people must be given the chance to approve or disapprove them in a further referendum. In The Netherlands this course has been closed to us."