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Dáil Éireann debate -
Wednesday, 23 Jul 1969

Vol. 241 No. 8

Ceisteanna—Questions. Oral Answers. - Membership of EEC.


asked the Taoiseach whether (a) membership of or (b) association with EEC involves membership or any other commitment to NATO or any other military alliance.

The Treaty of Rome in itself does not require members of the European Economic Community or associates to join any military alliance. We recognise, however, that those who wish to become members must accept the political implications of membership.

Does the Taoiseach not agree that Mr. de Valera, when Taoiseach, made it quite clear that there could be no question of any military alliance whatever while the nation is divided; that his predecessor, Mr. Costello, reiterated this decision that there could be no military alliance while the country is divided and, as he says, that Mr. Lemass made it quite clear that there was no military commitment whatever involved in joining EEC or in acceding to the Treaty of Rome? Could the Taoiseach now say whether there has been or is intended to be any fundamental change in this attitude to neutrality which was observed by the three previous Taoisigh of three previous Governments here?

I do not think that the word "neutrality" is relevant in the context of our membership of EEC. Neutrality would not be relevant in the context of our being attacked by anybody: we would defend ourselves. We applied for membership of these communities because we believed in their aims and objects and because we believed it would be in our best interests to do so. Being members of that community, we would naturally be interested in the defence of the territories embraced by the communities. There is no question of neutrality there.

Arising out of the Taoiseach's statement that we must accept the political implications of the Rome Treaty, would the Taoiseach agree that these political implications do, in fact, include defence?

The political implications have not yet been developed. As the Deputy is aware, there was no reference at all to the word "political" in the Rome Treaty. So far as there was, it was contained in the preamble which was as follows: "... that the countries forming the Community were determined to establish the foundation of an early closer union amongst the European peoples". When we made our application for membership to the community we made it quite clear that we would accept the political obligations of the member countries as these obligations developed. Immediately after our application was made and our situation was made clear, there was a general election—that was in 1961— which was followed by two general elections. In the last general election I indicated, on the day of the dissolution of the Dáil, that an incoming Government would have to look to the early opening of negotiations. Therefore, I think we can accept as reasonably clear that the people have endorsed our application for membership of the communities and have endorsed whatever obligations we will have to undertake.

Mr. Desmond rose.

There are 125 questions on the Order Paper.

When we put questions to the Taoiseach yesterday on this he complained that we did not sufficiently press the supplementary questions.

I am willing to answer as many questions as are put to me.

Deputy Desmond.

In view of the Taoiseach's statement——

We have asked about these things before and got the same unsatisfactory answers.

——this afternoon that the political obligations of EEC membership have not as yet been defined, how then can he possibly assure the Dáil that he has already committed the country to accept the political obligations of EEC membership? In view of the fact that there have been so many questions raised in Dáil Éireann could he please inform the House in clear and unambiguous terms, possibly in a white paper or a further Government statement, of the precise intentions of the Government in relation to the military commitments arising from EEC membership or from any association with NATO, especially when so many replies have been so utterly ambiguous?

Is it not a fact that the Taoiseach's three predecessors, mentioned by me, did not envisage any military commitments at all arising out of the political commitments and does the Taoiseach think that this position has changed in any way?

The military commitments in the context of NATO, I think, were perhaps not fully or properly stated in the inter-Party Government time. We have undertaken membership of organisations—the United Nations, for example—with certain charters much akin to the charter of NATO. My predecessor and his predecessor, Mr. John A. Costello, said that we were not members of NATO, that we did not intend to become members of NATO, nor indeed were we invited, but that we shared the views of the countries which took part in the NATO agreement.

As far as Deputy Desmond's supplementary is concerned we have committed ourselves——

Not military commitment.

Not military commitment, no. We have committed ourselves to reopening negotiations for our entry to the EEC as early as these negotiations can be reopened and as soon as the existing member countries agree to do so. The terms of our accession to the community will then be brought before this House for debate and for confirmation. Thereafter, in so far as the political developments take place, we will be party to these developments and we will have a say in them as they emerge.

Is it not a fact that up to date, other than our peace keeping commitments under UN auspices, we have entered into no military alliances or arrangements of any sort?

That is quite true and, in fact, our non-membership of NATO contributes to our acceptability in this respect.

Is it still our policy not to apply or seek membership of NATO according to the policy of one of the Taoiseach's predecessors, Mr. de Valera?

It is. We have not applied for membership of NATO nor is it necessary for us to become a member if we become a member of the EEC.

Is it correct to assume that the Fianna Fáil Government with regard to NATO have the same policy as they had in 1947?

That is right.

Question No. 3.

Does the Taoiseach imply that we could enter into military commitments otherwise than by joining NATO?

We can, of course, but it is not our policy to do so.

On a point of order, in view of the fact that there seems to be considerable difference of opinion as to what exactly is meant by the terms under which the Minister for External Affairs now says we are prepared to accept every commitment which we have to accept and the Taoiseach is prepared to back this up, would the Taoiseach consider having a full debate in this House so that all these matters could be ironed out satisfactorily before we go any further?

No, we had a very full debate. As I indicated, as soon as our terms of entry have been negotiated, then it will be a matter for this House to approve them.

Question No. 3. That is not a point of order.

This is a point of order. In view of the fact that, as recently as two days ago, the Minister for External Affairs said that we were committed to joining the EEC under the terms which they are offering and the Front Bench of Fianna Fáil say that we have already debated it sufficiently, does the Taoiseach not consider that the matter should be clarified once and for all in the House now that we have plenty of time to do it?

We have, as a Government, committed ourselves to application for membership and to the opening of negotiations as soon as this can be done. That commitment has been endorsed by this House. It will depend on the terms that will emerge from the negotiations whether this House will approve our ultimate entry.

The Taoiseach has already said he is prepared to accept them.