Green Party backs move from ‘triple-lock’ towards ‘double-lock’ policy on neutrality

FG and FF have signalled support to change triple lock as it gives veto to Russia over Irish military deployments

The Green Party has agreed significant shifts in its defence policy, changing position on the so-called “triple lock” mechanism governing overseas troop deployments and calling for the publication of any defence agreements the State is involved in.

The party published a policy statement on neutrality on its website, dated May 2023, amid renewed focus on Irish defence and security policy ahead of a forum on international security policy focused on threats faced by the State.

The “triple lock” is a key part of Ireland’s neutrality stance, requiring a mandate from the United Nations, a Government decision and a Dáil vote to send more than 12 troops overseas.

As recently as November, Green Party leader Eamon Ryan defended the triple-lock system and said it “supports our country well”, adding that “the triple lock doesn’t stop us engaging where we do have to engage”.


However, the policy statement outlines the party’s new view that the triple lock is a mechanism which “has no legal effect and is not a solid basis on which to provide legal decision making”.

According to the updated Green Party policy, the party now “supports an amendment of the ‘double lock’ as described in the amended Defence Act (2006)”. The party’s policy is now that deployments are approved by the Dáil, reviewed by the Seanad and supported either by a UN vote or, failing that, a “decision of a regional organisation and/or regional arrangements” which are authorised under the UN charter.

It also outlines a “request” that the State “make public any extant defence agreements”. The Irish Times earlier this month reported on the existence of a cold war-era deal with the UK which allows the RAF to police Irish airspace, including intercepting threats like nuclear armed bombers or hijacked airliners.

The policy goes on to call on the State to make budget provision to fill “defence credibility gaps” if it pulls out of any agreement which includes “defence guarantees proffered by other states”.

It also notes that domestic investment in defence capacity will “always be predicated on a non-provocative posture”, but “necessarily pro-active for state or non-state actors engaged, for example, in cyberattacks or hybrid non-conventional warfare”.

Fine Gael and Fianna Fáil have both indicated support for changing the triple lock on the basis that it hands a de facto veto over Irish deployments overseas to Russia, due to its status as a permanent member of the UN Security Council.

The Green Party’s policy outlines there would be no obligation on Irish personnel to join a multilateral mission, “thus maintaining Ireland’s foreign policy independence”. The policy reaffirms the Greens’ opposition to joining Nato, and outlines that it is “opposed to and will resist any activities not compatible with the State’s non-aligned and peacekeeping defence tradition”.

It states that the party will call for a citizens’ assembly and a children and young people’s assembly in the event of any change to the State’s neutrality stance or a bilateral defence agreement.

People Before Profit TD Paul Murphy said it was “disappointing if not surprising to see the Green Party abandon yet another of its so-called principles. Without the triple lock, Irish governments could have sent Irish troops to participate in the US-led invasions of Iraq and Afghanistan.”

It is understood that party officials were working on the new policy for over a year. It has been approved by the policy council of the Green Party, which also briefed the parliamentary party and members on it.

A Green Party spokesman said the party had “a democratic, detailed and comprehensive method of introducing and/or updating policy that involves both the grassroots and the party’s policy council. The policy council recently voted unanimously to update the party policy in respect of the triple lock”.

Jack Horgan-Jones

Jack Horgan-Jones

Jack Horgan-Jones is a Political Correspondent with The Irish Times