Sinn Féin bill on Irish neutrality set to be rejected

A spokesperson for Fianna Fáil said the constitution already enshrines Ireland’s dedication to the peaceful resolution of international disputes.

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Irish Defence Forces soldiers from the 53rd Infantry Group undergoing mission readiness training in Glen of Imaal, 19-4-2016. Image: Niall Carson PA Archive/PA Images

18:24 22 Nov 2016 Michael Staines 18:24 Tuesday 22 November 2016

Fianna Fáil will refuse to support a bill calling for a referendum on Irish neutrality when it comes before the Dáil this week.

The proposal was put forward by Sinn Féin defence spokesperson, Aengus Ó Snodaigh and will be debated in the house on Thursday afternoon.

A spokesperson for Fianna Fáil said the party is dedicated to Ireland’s policy of military neutrality - however he warned the policy goes “hand in hand” with a strategy of international co-operation to ensure peace and stability - which includes Irish peacekeeping operations with the UN.

The Sinn Féin bill aims to amend the constitution and ensure the state is prevented from declaring war or participating in any armed conflict without the agreement of the Dáil.

Dáil agreement would also be required for the state to aid any foreign power in the preparation or conduct of an armed conflict.

Deputy Ó Snodaigh said he introduced the bill in response to “a growing drive” on the continent to enhance the EU’s military capabilities.

France, Germany, Italy and Spain have all called for a common European defence policy following Britain's vote to quit the bloc - an initiative that marks the EU's biggest push since the 1990s.

Proposals include increasing European spending on military missions, jointly developing assets such as helicopters and drones, expanding peacekeeping abroad and building stronger defences against state-sponsored hackers.

In addition, EU Foreign Affairs chief, Federrica Mogherini recently called for EU member states to work together with the “full potential of a super power, in the field of security and defence.”

Deputy Ó Snodaigh said the Sinn Féin bill could ensure the state will, “strictly abide by a policy of non-membership of military alliances.”

“It is against this alarming backdrop of military expansionism that we need to maintain and enhance Irish neutrality,” he said.

“It also empowers Irish citizens by giving them the opportunity to reaffirm the State’s neutrality in a referendum,” he said. “In so doing, it reflects the majority view of Irish people who support and value our neutrality.”

“Now more than ever, we need to protect our neutrality from those who want to expand the continent’s military capacity under the guise of peace building.”

Fianna Fáil said the constitution already enshrines Ireland’s dedication to the peaceful resolution of international disputes.

A party spokesperson pointed out that “various Defence Acts” mean Ireland only takes part in UN authorised missions and, under the Nice Treaty, Ireland is not party to any mutual defence commitment or plan to develop a European army. 

He said the government decides on a case-by-case basis whether the country’s defence forces can take part in humanitarian or crisis management tasks undertaken by the European Union.

“With this in mind, Fianna Fáil does not see a case to amend the Constitution,” he said.

The government's position on the bill was due to be discussed at this morning's cabinet meeting.

A Fine Gael spokesperson told Newstalk.com that she understands the government will not be accepting the bill.

In a statement, the party said: "Our policy of military neutrality remains a core element of Irish foreign policy

"It is unnecessary to insert a Constitutional lock of this kind as the existing policy is already clearly articulated and accepted as a matter of consistent longstanding policy. Furthermore, Ireland is not a member of, and does not intend to join a military alliance."