Defence Forces chief of staff will stand down if elected to EU body, Dáil told

Independent TD Clare Daly questions timing and neutrality implications

Vice Admiral Mark Mellett will stand down as chief of staff of the Defence Forces if he is appointed chairman of the EU Military Committee (EUMC) the Dáil has been told.

Minister of State for Defence Paul Kehoe said Vice Admiral Mellett had been formally nominated by the Government for election to the post which would become vacant next month.

He said it was the highest military body in the EU, having been established in 2001.

"It is composed of the chiefs of defence of member states who, on a day-to-day basis, are represented in Brussels by the military representatives from the permanent representatives of the member states,'' Mr Kehoe added.


He was replying to Independent TD Clare Daly who said the nomination had been made on September 18th, two days before the Dáil resumed after the summer break. There had been no consultation with the House, she said.

‘Military neutrality’

“There is an arrogance in that type of timing and the fact that the House was not consulted,’’ Ms Daly added. “No doubt the Minister of State will tell me that, strictly speaking, no rules were broken but it is, as far as I am concerned, an affront to our longstanding policy of military neutrality.’’

Mr Kehoe said the Defence (Amendment) Act 2006 provided that a contingent or member of the Defence Forces may, with the prior approval of and on the authority of the Government, be despatched for service outside the State.

The Government had decided to nominate Vice Admiral Mellett to the post consistent with the defence acts, he added.

Common security

He said the nomination demonstrated Ireland’s ongoing commitment to remaining at the core of the EU’s common security and defence policy.

Ms Daly said she had no problem whatever with the individual involved.

"There are implications for Irish neutrality in this nomination to one of the EU's permanent political and military structures, which sits snugly beside the European Defence Agency, '' she added.

Ms Daly said the EUMC was a military committee.

"Its recent chairman indicated that for Europe, soft power and hard power go hand in hand,'' she added.

Mr Kehoe said the timing of the decision coincided with the opening of the nominations for the position.

“This does not call into question our policy of neutrality,’’ he added.

He said Ireland remained fully supportive of EU efforts to respond to all challenges in the security environment.

Michael O'Regan

Michael O'Regan

Michael O’Regan is a former parliamentary correspondent of The Irish Times