Dáil hears claims Ireland ‘selling out’ neutrality for EU support on Brexit

Opposition TDs say no rush to sign deal and time is needed for debate

People Before Profit TD Richard Boyd-Barrett claimed  the Government wanted to ‘ram through a vote’. Photograph:  Gareth Chaney/Collins

People Before Profit TD Richard Boyd-Barrett claimed the Government wanted to ‘ram through a vote’. Photograph: Gareth Chaney/Collins

 

The EU is supporting Ireland on Brexit negotiations in exchange for the State moving to join a new European military structure, it has been claimed.

People Before Profit TD Richard Boyd-Barrett claimed there was a move by the Government to “ram through a vote to move towards joining up with an EU army and to quadruple military spending”.

He alleged that the Government proposal to join Pesco (Permanent Structured Co-operation Agreement) “would have as significant and damaging an effect on our economy and our society as Brexit”.

The Dún Laoghaire TD made the claims as a row broke out over how the House dealt with proposals to vote on the agreement, a structure which would allow the Defence Forces to co-operate with other armies in military missions around the world.

Opposition TDs expressed outrage that the issue was not discussed at a meeting of the Dáil business committee which decides the work agenda, but that a vote was expected after a two-hour debate on a “vitally important issue”.

The Government hopes the arrangement will be voted on and accepted by the Dáil in time for next week’s European Council leaders’ meeting.

“This is deeply cynical and I really wonder now is the quid pro quo for European support on the Brexit negotiations that we sell out our military neutrality and ramp up military expenditure,” Mr Boyd Barrett said.

Green Party leader Eamon Ryan said there was no requirement to sign up by next week.

Labour leader Brendan Howlin said experts should be invited to appear before a committee so that people understand the proposal “in full measure”, no matter what their view point.

Independents4Change TD Clare Daly said it was an “incredibly serious issue which does potentially sign up the Irish State to massive defence expenditure over the next number of years” and she objected “in the strongest possible terms”, to such a short debate.

Sinn Féin defence spokesman Aengus Ó Snodaigh said there had not been any public scrutiny of an issue that represented a “major shift in Irish defence policy and financial policy”. He added that the detail of the Pesco arrangement had not been circulated to members of the House.

Taoiseach Leo Varadkar, who is Minister for Defence, suggested the business committee should reconvene and agreed adequate time for a debate. Minister of State Paul Kehoe said he had answered a topical issue question on the matter last week and that he had outlined what was involved with Pesco.