Government rejects Sinn Féin Bill on neutrality

Deenihan denies Ireland takes ‘isolationist’ approach to international affairs

Members of the Defence Forces on Bray seafront before a rehearsal for the annual Air Spectacular show. Photograph: Matt Kavanagh

Members of the Defence Forces on Bray seafront before a rehearsal for the annual Air Spectacular show. Photograph: Matt Kavanagh

 

The Government is committed to the policy of military neutrality, Minister of State for the Diaspora Jimmy Deenihan told the Dail.

“Our military neutrality does not mean that we take an isolationist approach to international affairs,’’ he added.

“On the contrary, it is part and parcel of our active and principled engagement in contributing to international peace and security.’’

Mr Deenihan said this policy enhanced the perception of Ireland as an honest broker which could be trusted to act impartially.

The Minister was replying to a Private Member’s Bill, moved by Sinn Féin TD Sean Crowe, which proposed a constitutional amendment to ensure that Ireland could not, and would not, aid foreign powers in any way in preparation for a war, except with the assent of the Dáil.

Moving the Thirty-Fourth Amendment of the Constitution (Neutrality) Bill, Mr Crowe said it would provide for a referendum on whether Irish citizens wanted Ireland to be a neutral country.

“The overwhelming evidence is that they do,’’ he added.

Mr Crowe said a referendum would bring greater clarity to the State’s neutrality policy which had become blurred, distorted and riddled with double speak, as successive governments said one thing and did the opposite.

Rejecting the Bill, Mr Deenihan said it was not necessary to incorporate such a commitment in the Constitution because military neutrality was firmly committed to by the Government.

Moreover, he said, there was a constitutional commitment under Article 29 to “the ideal of peace and friendly co-operation amongst nations’’ and to “the principle of the pacific settlement of international disputes’’.

Mr Deenihan said Ireland’s EU membership was entirely consistent with military neutrality.

He added that the common security and defence policy was focused on equipping the EU to contribute to peace and stability in accordance with the principles of the United Nations charter.

“The EU treaty makes clear that there will be no common defence without the unanimous agreement of the European Council, ” he added.

“And, furthermore, our Constitution provides that Ireland cannot participate in such a common defence.’’

Mr Deenihan said Ireland was not a member of Nato and had no intention of becoming one.

Ireland, he said, participated in the partnership for peace to ensure that its Defence Forces could co-operate more effectively and safely with contingents from partner countries in increasingly UN-operated and UN-mandated missions led by the EU and Nato.