SF TD accuses Government of ‘running scared’ on neutrality referendum

Paul Kehoe says Ireland’s neutrality as strong as it was during second World War

 Paul Kehoe: said Sinn Féin’s  Bill was “unnecessary and would impact negatively on Ireland’s ability to contribute positively in the international community”. Photograph: Alan Betson

Paul Kehoe: said Sinn Féin’s Bill was “unnecessary and would impact negatively on Ireland’s ability to contribute positively in the international community”. Photograph: Alan Betson

 

Sinn Féin has accused the Government of “running scared” of allowing the public a vote in a referendum that would enshrine Irish neutrality in the Constitution.The party’s spokesman on defence Aengus Ó Snodaigh introduced a Bill in the Dáil to specifically state in the Constitution that “Ireland is prevented from aiding in any way a foreign power in preparation for or during a war unless it has the assent of the Dáil”.

The 35th Amendment of the Constitution (Neutrality) Bill was the subject of robust debate in Cabinet as members of the Independent Alliance sought a free vote, but agreement was reached on an amendment which will allow all Government members oppose a second reading of the Bill.

Mr Ó Snodaigh described the move as “cynical attempt to hide the fact that it is running scared” of allowing a referendum. He said both Fine Gael and Fianna Fáil claimed that neutrality was allowed for in the Constitution but “the opposite is the case”.

A 2003 High Court ruling stated that neutrality was not mentioned but was effectively solely a matter of Government policy, to which considerable importance was attached.

“Ireland’s neutrality should be cherished, protected and enhanced,” Mr Ó Snodaigh said, “so that we can reaffirm our commitment to a different type of international politics focused on peace, justice, equality and human rights.”

The Dublin South Central TD introduced the Bill to reaffirm support for a policy of non-membership of military alliances at a time “when Ireland, like other neutral countries such as Sweden and Finland, are being pressurised to join Nato or to support and be part of ever-growing EU military architecture”.

Minister of State for Defence Paul Kehoe said, however, that the Government was clear in its policy on military neutrality, which dated back to the second World War. “Over subsequent decades, successive governments have restated their commitment to the policy and it remains as strong as ever under the current Government.”

Mr Kehoe said the Bill was “unnecessary and would impact negatively on Ireland’s ability to contribute positively in the international community”. He added that protocols in the Lisbon treaty specifically recognised Ireland’s policy of military neutrality and the treaty did not “affect or prejudice” that policy.