Tánaiste denies Irish military neutrality undermined by Triple Lock move

Sinn Féin’s Pearse Doherty calls for referendum on issue of neutrality

The Government is “certainly not” in “any shape or form” setting out to undermine Irish military neutrality by seeking to get rid of the Triple Lock mechanism, Tánaiste Micheál Martin has said.

Mr Martin has told the Dáil the mechanism does not “critically underpin” Ireland’s policy of military neutrality and accused Sinn Féin of “dishonest debate” and “active disinformation”.

Under the Triple Lock system, 12 or more Defence Forces troops cannot be deployed on an active overseas mission without approval from the Dáil, the Government and authorisation from the UN.

The Tánaiste, who is also the Minister for Foreign Affairs, announced plans on Wednesday to scrap the Triple Lock.


Mr Martin said he wants Ireland to be able to respond to crises without waiting for approval from the UN Security Council, which has not authorised a new peacekeeping mission since 2014.

Speaking during Leaders’ Questions on Thursday, Sinn Féin deputy leader Pearse Doherty said that instead of addressing problems within the Defence Forces, the Tánaiste wanted to “abandon decades of Irish foreign policy and military neutrality by abolishing the Triple Lock”.

Mr Doherty questioned what the move would mean for Ireland’s international standing “if we were to send troops abroad on a military mission that does not have the legitimacy of a UN mandate”.

He added: “The Triple Lock is a core protection of Irish neutrality. It’s there to address the real and legitimate concerns of the Irish people regarding the drag into an EU military framework.”

The Donegal TD accused the Government of undermining Irish neutrality by ending the Triple Lock and asked Mr Martin would he do the “honorable” and “democratic thing” and put the change to Irish people in a referendum.

In response, Mr Martin said what Sinn Féin was doing and did all the time in terms of foreign policy was “create straw men all over the place, create false premises, dishonest debate, active disinformation”.

“You [Deputy Doherty] start your presentation by saying we are out to undermine Irish military neutrality, we’re certainly not…We are not in any shape, or form,” he said.

Mr Martin said there would be no legislative proposal to undermine Ireland’s policy of military neutrality.

“We have made that crystal clear,” he said. “We are not members of a military alliance. We’re not joining Nato. There is no proposal to join Nato.”

The Tánaiste said the Triple Lock did not critically underpin Ireland’s policy of military neutrality and was essentially about the deployment of troops overseas.

“I do not believe that Russia, China, the United Kingdom, or for that matter the United States or France should dictate Irish foreign policy or should dictate when or when we do not deploy troops,” he said.

Mr Martin added that he believed there was “something morally wrong” with the fact that “an authoritarian and aggressive neo imperialist power” has a de facto veto on elements of “how we as an independent Republic react to any given situation”.

Labour leader Ivana Bacik said the Tánaiste’s announcement did represent “a creeping drift” in Government away from Ireland’s “long standing policy of military neutrality”.

Ms Bacik said she had no time for the Russian regime but moving away from the Triple Lock was “the answer to the wrong question”.

The Dublin Bay South TD said her party was calling on the Government to abandon its plans to end the Triple Lock and instead enshrine Ireland’s neutrality in the Constitution.

Sarah Burns

Sarah Burns

Sarah Burns is a reporter for The Irish Times