Sinn Féin MEP Lynn Boylan has reiterated arguments that Ireland needs a legally binding protocol on neutrality.
“An Taoiseach Enda Kenny indicated yesterday that the Irish Government is prepared to send a small number of Defence Force personnel to Mali or Lebanon to relieve their French counterparts, freeing them up to participate in conflict elsewhere.
“An Taoiseach made this announcement in the wake of an EU wide meeting of defence ministers, where the French Minister of Defence Jean Yves Le Drian received unanimous support for the use of the Mutual Defence Clause of the Lisbon Treaty. A clause which Sinn Féin consistently argued undermined our neutrality.
Irish neutrality is being systematically eroded by current and previous Governments. Irish participation and financial support for the European Defence Agency, our involvement in the Rapid Reaction Force and the continued use of Shannon airport by US warplanes involved in several conflicts combine to show that Fine Gael, Labour and Fianna Fáil have at best, a flippant attitude to neutrality.
The suggestion that Irish soldiers may be sent to Mali to relieve French soldiers is indirectly involving the state in conflict and is the most recent example of an undermining of our position of neutrality.
Sinn Féin has consistently argued that Ireland needs a legally binding protocol on neutrality. The Danish Government secured an opt-out clause from the European Defence Agency and Ireland should move to mirror this model.
The Irish Defence Forces are incredibly active and play an admirable, humanitarian role internationally. Irish troops have been deployed in a peace-keeping capacity for decades in several conflict areas across the world. The Irish Naval Service has been instrumental in coordinating and participating in search and rescue missions in the Mediterranean. Between them, the crews of LÉ Eithne, LÉ Samuel Beckett and LÉ Niamh have rescued thousands of lives.
This is the type of work our Defence Forces should be doing – they should not be involved, directly or indirectly, in conflict or in the facilitation of conflict.”