Overall sense that ‘triple-lock’ is inadequate, says chairwoman of Government Forum on Security

Professor Louise Richardson says it is not a black and white issue but amendments might be needed to a cornerstone of Irish foreign security policy

The chairwoman of the Government’s forum on security has said the sense of many contributors was that Ireland’s “triple-lock” is inadequate as it stands and needs to be amended.

Speaking at the Consultative Forum on International Security at the University of Galway, Professor Louise Richardson said that there was no right and wrong with the triple lock and it was not a black and white issue.

The issue dominated the second day of the four-day event, with strong divisions between speakers and contributors about its value.

“There was the sense of many that it is inadequate as it currently stands because of the limitations on numbers, and the limitations (that can prevent) efforts to evacuate our citizens.


“There was a sense that an amended triple lock would be preferable.”

Speaking to reporters at the event, Tánaiste Micheál Martin said that there are other mechanisms besides the “triple lock” that Ireland could use in future for deploying the Defence Forces overseas on peacekeeping missions.

Mr Martin, the Minister for Foreign Affairs, pointed out that there had been no UN-sanctioned peacekeeping operation since 2014, primarily because of the power of veto held by the permanent five members of the United Nations Security Council (The US, Russia, China, Britain and France).

The triple-lock is a mechanism that provides that the Defence Forces can deploy overseas on the peacekeeping mission only when it has been approved by three bodies: the United Nations, the Oireachtas and the Government itself.

“There is no point in pretending that there is not a power play going on with the Permanent Five (members of the Security Council). Russia is increasingly using the veto. So it’s an issue that, at a minimum, deserves debate and deserves discussion.”

Protests and interruptions continued outside and inside the Forum for a second day, conducted by left-wing groups and by anti-war activists. Veteran campaigner, 89-year old Margherita D’Arcy sat on the stage before the proceedings began and read a statement where she praised President Michael D Higgins for his criticism of the forum and described the forum as a “stitch-up.”

The Tánaiste was asked about what alternatives there might be to a triple-lock mechanism in future and he said there were EU-led missions and regional co-operation was also an option.

“In Africa, we go to the African Union first. And they endeavour to resolve issues within Africa, rather than having external forces coming in.”

Former army officer and defence expert, Declan Power argued for ending the triple lock saying that as an Irish citizen he could not stand over the idea that the State would abrogate its responsibility to an Irish power.

“We are giving the opportunity to totalitarian States to dictate what we do and where we go.”

Professor Ray Murphy of the University of Galway said while the UN was the essence of multilateralism and if we acted outside it we were weakening that very organisation to which we were committed.

He accepted that it was difficult but said that hard cases make bad law. He said the framework was the UN Charter and why would Ireland do something that was counterproductive to it and would damage Ireland’s long-term reputation.

Michael Higgins, a son of the President, told the forum the neutrality had been intrinsic to Ireland winning its seat on the UN Security Council. He also said many African countries were suspicious of Nato. Dr Renata Dwan, a former UN official and consultant with Chatham House, said that it was not neutrality alone that got Ireland a seat on the security council but its activeness. “It was the notion of empathy, or partnership, of independence, and of working hard on the Security Council as honest brokers.”

Harry McGee

Harry McGee

Harry McGee is a Political Correspondent with The Irish Times