Varadkar believes Ireland should join new EU military structure

Opposition TDs say further debate is required on whether State should sign up to Pesco

A new EU military structure that the Government supports is the start of Europe taking control of its own defence, the Taoiseach has said.

A new EU military structure that the Government supports is the start of Europe taking control of its own defence, the Taoiseach has said.

 

A new EU military structure that the Government supports is the start of Europe taking control of its own defence and not depending on the United States, Taoiseach Leo Varadkar has said.

“I’ve a very clear view on this. A Europe worth building is a Europe worth defending,” he told the Dáil as he expressed his support for Ireland joining the Pesco (Permanent Structured Co-operation Agreement).

The new military structure would allow the Defence Forces to co-operate with other armies in military missions around the world.

Mr Varadkar said Ireland would take a particular “non-aligned and neutral” approach to Pesco, along with three other neutral EU states which have signed up – Sweden, Austria and Finland.

Opposition TDs objected to a vote being taken on Thursday to decide whether Ireland should sign up to Pesco, amid heated exchanges about further debate being required on an issue some claimed would affect Ireland’s military neutrality.

Decision

The Government hopes to have a decision to join in time for the EU Council meeting next week.

Sinn Féin defence spokesman Aengus Ó Snodaigh called for a full hearing and said there had been “no proper notice”. He claimed it was “an attempt to ram it through the House tomorrow”.

Labour leader Brendan Howlin said he had proposed witnesses and the Army could be called to speak on the issue but “a joke is being made of that proposal”.

Green party leader Eamon Ryan said it was “not a small issue to be decided in such a rushed way. It is a critical strategic issue in terms of our relationship with the EU and it deserves time, debate and consideration”, and it could be decided in January, he said.

But the Taoiseach insisted “the time for a decision is now. Let’s make it”. He said Pesco was included in the Lisbon Treaty in 2009 and there had been “ample time for a debate since then”.